Clowe, Handzus have been key in shootouts

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Clowe, Handzus have been key in shootouts

SAN JOSE Like them or not, shootouts are going to play a large role in determining which Western Conference teams end up in the playoffs and which end up on the golf course.

Thats probably why the Sharks ended their practice on Thursday with a shootout drill. Counting the 4-3 win against Phoenix on Saturday, six of the last 11 Sharks games have gone past regulation, and four of them have been decided via the skills competition. San Jose is now 2-2 in the last four, and 8-5 on the season.

After some recent odd choices for the shootout in previous games, coach Todd McLellan decided to go with his bread and butter on Saturday.

Michal Handzus and Ryane Clowe have been the Sharks most reliable shooters, both improving to 5-for-10 this year after finding daylight on Mike Smith in what was the most important extra point of the year. After Handzus was able to beat Smith to the stick side, Clowe was asked if he was trying to find that same spot on purpose before he fired in a goal where Handzus had just converted earlier.

I noticed on Handzus goal that Smith was back in his net a bit. Ive went to that move a few times this year, and Im starting to feel confident with it, said Clowe, who has had success going to his backhand in shootouts in prior seasons. If I have to go to the backhand, hopefully I can still use that, as well. I had it in my mind I was going to go there.

Clowe was pleased with the way the team was able to handle adversity for the second straight game, particularly when it surrendered a goal late in the first and then early in the second to fall behind, 3-2.

The last two games, I like how were just going, he said. If something happens, we just forget about it. Go after them. We did that.

Marleau gets one: Offense has been a struggle for the Sharks in recent weeks (months?), as the team has now gone 20 straight games without scoring more than three goals in regulation.

One big reason for that is Patrick Marleaus failure to light the lamp. The winger and sometimes center had just one goal in his last 14 games before scoring the tying goal in the first period against the Coyotes.

I finally found the back of the net, so thats good, Marleau said after the game. Ill look forward to getting some more chances and some more goals.

Is there a personal sense of relief?

Probably a little bit, but you try and play the same way whether or not youve scored, he said.

Coyotes displeased with start: Phoenix may have scored the first goal of the game, when Daymond Langkow took advantage of a Sharks turnover behind their own net, but coach Dave Tippett didnt like the way his team started the game. The Sharks seemed to have the early energy.

I thought in the first period, we didnt have everybody in, Tippett said.

Still, the Coyotes were able to make a game of it and record a point while missing captain Shane Doan (suspension), leading goal-scorer Radim Vrbata (lower body injury), and big-minute defenseman Adrian Aucoin (lower body injury).

I thought we made a couple of little mental mistakes early. Everybody does that, and it happened, but the good thing is were mature enough to believe we can come back and stay in games and brush those little mistakes off and tighten up, defenseman Derek Morris said.

We got out there and we competed hard and found a way to keep ourselves in the game, Tippett said. Unfortunately we couldnt get the two points. But, we came into a hard building here and with some injury situations like this, I thought our guys competed hard and we found a way to get a valuable point.

The Coyotes host the St. Louis Blues on Sunday night, and are off until hosting the Sharks on Thursday, March 29.

Sharks conclude 2017 NHL Draft with five more forwards in the system

Sharks conclude 2017 NHL Draft with five more forwards in the system

CHICAGO – After nabbing a center in the first round on Friday, the Sharks added four more forwards and one defenseman to conclude the second day of the annual NHL Entry Draft on Saturday, held this year at United Center.

The Sharks weren’t explicitly trying to restock their forward cabinet, according to general manager Doug Wilson and scouting director Tim Burke, although the club did make two separate moves in surrendering some later round picks to move up in the fourth round (to take center Scott Reedy) and sixth round (to take left wing Sasha Chmelevski).

First, though, it was defenseman Mario Ferraro in the second round at 49th overall. The offensive defenseman was a player that the Sharks targeted, using the pick they acquired from New Jersey last Friday as part of the trade for Mirco Mueller.

“He’s got a lot of speed, offensive guy, exciting,” Burke said. “Puck-moving type of guy.”

Wilson said: “We’re very pleased with the d-man. He’s a very dynamic, athletic guy, great skater. He was a guy that we moved up a little bit aggressively to get because that round, you could see people going after who they wanted. He is a guy that we identified.”

After moving up from the fifth round to the fourth round last Friday, again because of the Mueller trade, the Sharks jumped up 21 more spots in the fourth round by obtaining the Rangers pick at 102nd overall for the 123rd and 174th selections.

Center Scott Reedy is a player that Burke has high hopes for, projecting the Minnesota native as a “second line right winger [with] high-end potential.” Burke pointed out that Reedy, who is friends with first round pick Josh Norris, occasionally played on the same line with Norris for each of the last two seasons with the U.S. Under-18 team.

“He’s a big, strong forward that can play both positions (center and right wing),” Burke said.

Right wing Jacob McGrew, an Orange, CA native, went to the Sharks in the fifth round despite missing all of his first season in junior with a lower body injury suffered in training camp with Spokane (WHL).

“We knew about him before he went up there,” Burke said. “He’s a California kid. … If he was healthy he probably would have gone earlier.”

The Sharks again moved up to snag Huntington Beach native and center Chmelevski at 185 overall, and made their sixth and final pick in the 212th position by taking left wing Ivan Chekhovich in the seventh round. Both players look to have some offensive skill, based on their numbers and Youtube highlights.

Burke was surprised that both players were around so late.

“I thought they had pretty good years and they kind of slipped in the draft,” he said. “We weighed that versus some other more project-type guys, and we thought they had more offense and finish to their game. They just kept sliding, so we took a chance on them.”

Wilson said: “We moved up for the guys we wanted, and then there were some skilled guys at the end that we were surprised were still there. … We’ll go back and take a look how it all went, but we feel, I think, really good about where we ended up with this.”

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

CHICAGO – Ilya Kovalchuk is still reportedly mulling over a return to the NHL, four years after he surprisingly walked away from a monstrous contract with the New Jersey Devils to play in the KHL.

The Sharks have been linked to Kovalchuk, in large part because of Pete DeBoer, who was Kovalchuk’s most recent head coach. In 2011-12, Kovalchuk was a dangerous scoring winger under DeBoer, helping the Devils reach the Stanley Cup Final.

It was apparently a good working relationship between the player and the coach for the two seasons they were together, DeBoer said on Friday at the NHL Entry Draft at United Center.

“I loved Kovy in New Jersey,” DeBoer said. “We went to a Stanley Cup Final together. He was a huge piece for us there. I really enjoyed coaching him. I haven’t seen him in four or five years now. I’m sure there’s still a lot of game left there.”

DeBoer said he’s had no contact with the 34-year-old Kovalchuk, who would have to be traded by New Jersey before signing a new contract with any other NHL club. Still, it seems like the Sharks’ coach might welcome a reunion with Kovalchuk, who posted 78 points in 60 games with SKA Saint Petersburg last season, and has 816 points (417g, 399a) in 816 career NHL games with Atlanta and New Jersey.

“I had a really good relationship with him. I had a lot of respect for him as a player and a person,” DeBoer said.

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DeBoer seemed as uncertain as everyone else as to whether Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will return to the Sharks or move on to other clubs as free agents.

But, naturally, it’s on his mind.

“You think about it all the time,” DeBoer said. “They’re obviously important pieces in the history of the franchise, and in our group. I also understand the business side of this, and there’s always tough decisions to make. The way I approach these type of things is I’m going to go to Canada and relax, and Doug [Wilson] is going to make those decisions. I’m sure we’ll have a good group come training camp.”

“We’ve got a really good core group of guys and some tough decisions that have to be made. The one thing Doug and his group has shown over the years is their ability to stay competitive, to find a way even after making tough decisions. I have all the faith in the world in that, and I’m excited about training camp.”

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The Sharks lost David Schlemko in the expansion draft earlier in the week. Vegas then flipped him to the Canadiens for a fifth round pick in 2019.

“I think for David, it’s a great opportunity for him, especially going to Montreal,” DeBoer said. “For us, it’s an opportunity for a young guy to jump in. The one thing we have in the organization is some depth. There’s a lot of guys knocking on the door, and guys hungry to grab that job.”