Despite goal drought, Winnik settling in

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Despite goal drought, Winnik settling in

SAN JOSE Daniel Winnik isnt letting his goal-scoring drought bother him.

No, its not the first time Ive gone through something like this. I think when you do start letting it weigh on you, it compounds it even more, Winnik said on Sunday. You might restrict yourself from making plays or being nervous to shoot. I havent really thought about it too much.

Winnik scored a goal at HP Pavilion on Dec. 13, while still with the Avalanche in a 4-3 Colorado shootout win. Since then, he has yet to light the lamp, including his first 10 games since being traded to the Sharks on Feb. 27. Thats a span of 41 games half of an NHL regular season.

If he plays the way he did on Saturday against the Red Wings, though, it might not be long before he gets his first marker in a teal jersey. Winnik, along with linemates Torrey Mitchell and Dominic Moore, were outstanding for the final two periods of the Sharks 3-2 overtime win over their rivals.

Winnik came within a few inches of scoring with about four minutes to go in the second. After he set up Dominic Moore for a shot, Winnik was staring down a rebound at an open net, but the puck wouldnt cooperate.

It just kind of blew up there before I shot it. Those things happen, and hopefully you get a couple more of those chances, said Winnik, who had a career high 11 goals in 2007-08 with Phoenix, and again with Colorado in 2010-11.

Although he missed on that chance, he made several other nifty plays with the puck, particularly late. He set up Moore for a one-timer from the circle just two minutes into the third period, and later he found Mitchell for a blast from the circle with four and a half minutes remaining in regulation. Jimmy Howard stopped them both.

It wasnt a coincidence that the Sharks third line was buzzing after the opening frame. Coach Todd McLellan said after the game that he challenged that threesome to pick up its play late in the first and it responded.

Winnik said: I didnt think as a line we had a very good first period. We werent making it hard on their D, we werent making them turn and go get pucks, and I think as third and fourth line guys, thats what we have to do. Tire their D out, so we have good zone time and it gives a lot more space for Jumbo and Patty, and those two lines.

After Todd said that, I think we responded real well and had a lot of zone time in the second and third.

Winnik also had one of the biggest hits in what was a physical and intense game, typical of any Sharks-Red Wings affair, when he leveled Todd Bertuzzi with an open ice hit midway through the third. Bertuzzi lost his helmet upon impact.

Overall, Winnik is feeling better every day in his new surroundings.

I was thinking about this the other day, it almost feels like easing into it, ornot so much easing into it, but training camp-ish. Its taken couple games to really kind of feel more comfortable game-by-game, he said. These last couple games Ive felt a lot more comfortable, especially making plays in the offensive zone.

McLellan said: I think hes found his position within our team. When you get new players, youre trying to figure them out a little bit, and where they fit the best. That line of Moore, Winnik and Mitchell has been pretty effective, and I think theyre comfortable now playing with each other.

Still, the head coach would like to see Winnik chip in the odd goal here and there.

I think he keeps playing the way he is over the last four or five games hell get his opportunities, and then hes got to bury them. Everybody has to find a way to score at some point, and he has the ability to do it.

Notes: Injured Sharks Hansen, Karlsson return to practice

Notes: Injured Sharks Hansen, Karlsson return to practice

DALLAS – Injured Sharks forwards Jannik Hansen and Melker Karlsson both returned to the ice for Thursday’s practice in Dallas, in what Pete DeBoer called “a good first step” in their recoveries.

The coach left open the possibility that one or both could play against the Stars on Friday night, even though neither was skating on a set line for practice.

“We’ll have to wait and see how they feel [Friday] morning and what the recovery is,” DeBoer said. “I’m not prepared to say they’re in tomorrow, but it’s a good sign they’re on the ice and participated.”

Hansen has been out for the past two games since getting a stick in the head from defenseman Brandon Montour on Saturday against Anaheim. 

“Took a couple days [off] to make sure everything was aright,” Hansen said. “Getting better, back on the ice today.”

Officially, it’s an upper body injury. When pressed if it was a concussion issue, Hansen said: “I don’t know. It’s tough to say to begin with, but obviously you do all the precautionary things that [are] involved now.”

Although he has just one assist in his first six games with the Sharks, Hansen seemed to spark the Sharks’ top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, as the line generated one even strength goal in each of the first four games Hansen played.

Karlsson has missed the last six games with a lower body injury. He has 19 points (9g, 10a) in 60 games with a plus-nine rating.

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The lines remained the same for Thursday’s practice. Patrick Marleau was with Thornton and Pavelski; Logan Couture centered Joel Ward and Mikkel Boedker; Tomas Hertl was between Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen, while the fourth line sweaters were worn by Chris Tierney, Micheal Haley, Timo Meier and Danny O’Regan.

San Jose stayed over in St. Paul on Tuesday night and flew to Dallas on Wednesday morning on their day off.

The Wild game, a 3-2 loss, was the Sharks’ fourth straight. They’ve generated just four goals over that span.

That game also capped off a stretch of seven games in 11 days for the Sharks, who now have just a two-point lead on Anaheim for first place in the Pacific Division – a lead that was nine points before the losing streak began.

Was the day off good?

“Yeah. We’ve been kind of struggling scoring goals, so just to kind of relax yesterday and then kind of get back and refocus today,” Thornton said. “But sometimes you just need a little time away from the rink. I think yesterday was needed.”

DeBoer said: “I think our group is pretty mature. I don’t think we’re overeating to the situation. No one’s happy we’ve lost a few, but we also know that we’ve done enough good things that we could have won two or three of those games. We’ve just got to stick with it, clean up a couple things, and score some goals.”

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Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic skated after missing Tuesday’s game with the flu. Tierney missed Monday’s game in Dallas, also due to illness.

Is that all gone now?

“Knock on wood. Nothing today. Hope so,” DeBoer said.

Meier back with Sharks after working on his game in AHL

Meier back with Sharks after working on his game in AHL

ST. PAUL – On paper, Timo Meier’s production after he was reassigned to the AHL Barracuda on Feb. 16 was down. The former first-round pick had just six points (3g, 3a) in 14 games, and was scoreless in his last five, a far cry from what he was doing there earlier in the season and way off his numbers in juniors.

But at just 20 years old, Meier is still in the learning phase of his professional career. And as impressive as the Barracuda have been this season, they’re still playing in a developmental league, first and foremost. Meier got a chance to work on some of the aspects of his game he needed to work on.

“It was obviously hard going back,” said Meier, who has three goals and two assists in 28 games, before Tuesday’s game in Minnesota. “Sometimes you go back there and you try too much, but they told me to work on some things in my game, and I tried to do that.

“For me, going down there it was all about learning stuff on the ice, off the ice. … It’s my first year [in pro hockey], so as a young guy you want to learn and listen to the coaches, too. Just get better.”

Coach Pete DeBoer went into pretty good detail on what the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft needed to do with the Barracuda, and what he needs to show now that he’s back in the NHL.

“I think with a lot of big, talented young guys, they have to realize when they can make an extra play with the puck and when they have to chip it in,” DeBoer said. “They’re so used to dominating at the levels they’ve been at for so long, that [it’s] easier said than done. It’s habits you have to learn, and you don’t learn unless you’re doing them on a consistent basis.”

Meier’s shot selection, too, is something that needed some improvement, according to the coach. While the power winger might be generating plenty of shot attempts, no doubt pleasing the advanced stats crowd, there’s more to being an effective forward than running up numbers on the Excel spreadsheets.

“You don’t want to shoot [just] to shoot up here, or to just get shots on net. You’re not scoring on NHL goalies like you are on junior goalies from 30 or 40 feet out,” DeBoer said. “You’ve got to pick your spots. Sometimes you have to look for a better play than a shot.”

Meier said: “It’s a really tough league. As a young guy coming in, sometimes you’ve got to stay patient, too, try not [to do] too much. … Sometimes I tried [to do] a little too much.”

Meier has been in the Sharks’ lineup for each of the last two games. He started on the fourth line before getting bumped up to Tomas Hertl’s third line on Monday in Dallas, and returned to the fourth line with Chris Tierney and Micheal Haley for Tuesday’s tilt in Minnesota. He is scoreless with two shots on goal over those two games.

He could be a temporary fill in for Jannik Hansen, who remains out with an upper body injury but could potentially return before the end of the road trip this weekend. Or, perhaps Meier does enough to stick around for the stretch run and the playoffs. There would seem to be an opportunity to push someone else out of the lineup, as the Sharks’ depth scoring has been a season-long problem.

“It’s a great opportunity for me, getting that chance again later on in the season,” Meier said. “I want to put it all on the ice, leave it all out there and just make the best out of every shift I get. Play my game, play within my strengths, [do] the things that got me here, and I’m sure I’ll be successful like that.”