Despite numbers, Sharks PK has been strong

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Despite numbers, Sharks PK has been strong

NASHVILLE, Tenn. On paper, the San Jose Sharks penalty kill is nothing to brag about. A 76.0 percent success rate has them at 25th in the league, which is one spot lower than they finished last season.

This early, though, numbers can be deceiving and thats one of them.

In reality, the Sharks' penalty kill was probably the biggest reason they increased their winning streak to three games on Tuesday night with 3-1 victory in Nashville. They killed off three of four Predators chances, and opened the scoring in the first period when Logan Couture tallied their first shorthanded goal of the year on a two-on-two with Martin Havlat.

The power play goal they did surrender came at an inopportune time in the third period, but keep in mind that defenseman Brent Burns broke his stick while the team was defending in its own zone. After Michal Handzus handed off his own stick to Burns, the Sharks were essentially defending a five-on-three when Craig Smith tied the game.

Prior to that, on the previous three Predators man advantages, the Sharks were in position, getting sticks in passing lanes and blocking shots effectively.

The PK was excellent, in my opinion, said Todd McLellan. They have a dangerous power play and good set that can shoot the puck. The goal we gave up, theres nothing we can do about that. The guy has a broken stick and the puck always seems to squirt to the guy that doesnt have a stick, and in it goes. But, Nemo made some big saves there, and fortunately for us we were able to come back and score right after that.

If youre still hung up on the numbers, though, heres one. Since the Sharks surrendered three power play goals to Phoenix on opening night, with two of them coming after the game had essentially been decided, the team has given up just three power play goals in 18 opportunities. That comes out to a much more respectable 83.3 percent.

Its been real good, said Joe Thornton of the penalty kill. Its probably won us some games on this road trip, which is a good sign.

Report: Division rival interested in Joe Thornton

Report: Division rival interested in Joe Thornton

The mere thought of Joe Thornton wearing a Kings sweater may be enough to cause some Sharks fans to lose their lunch.

But it might be a possibility.

According to LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen, the Kings consider Thornton to be a “priority” should be hit the open market as a free agent. While the two sides are currently allowed to express mutual interest, NHL rules forbid them from discussing terms of any deal until Saturday at 9 a.m. PT.

Rosen points to a number of individuals in the Kings' organization that have ties to Thornton, including general manager Rob Blake, who played on the Sharks with Thornton from 2008-10. Mike O’Connell was Thornton’s general manager in Boston and currently serves as the Kings’ senior advisor to the general manager. Glen Murray, a former teammate and frequent linemate of Thornton’s with the Bruins for three-and-a-half seasons, is in Kings player development.

The Kings, under new management since replacing Dean Lombardi with Blake, and head coach Darryl Sutter with John Stevens, have put a priority on finding players this offseason that can get pucks to dangerous scoring areas. 

Adding one of the best passers in the history of the NHL would surely help in that regard. Thornton sits 13th in the NHL all-time with 1,007 assists.

Rosen writes: “Los Angeles has been a dominant possession team without being a high scoring team for the better part of the last six-plus seasons, and it was articulated earlier in the off-season that the team needed to do a better job of taking advantage of that possession discrepancy. In trying to find players with the ability to turn possession into actual production, the team has placed an emphasis on finding players capable of distributing the puck into high-danger in the attacking zone. There might not be another player in the NHL – let alone unrestricted free agents – who is as gifted of a passer of Thornton, which places the team’s needs in concert with the future Hall of Famer’s skill set.”

As reported here previously Thornton, who turns 38 on Sunday, is seeking a deal of three years. That might not be agreeable to the Sharks, who are likely to sign Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to long-term and expensive contract extensions that would kick in with the 2018-19 season.

Of course, Thornton could also be using the Kings as leverage to get a new deal in San Jose, where he would prefer to remain.

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

The Sharks have issued qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Chris Tierney, Marcus Sorensen and Barclay Goodrow, while cutting ties with three players in the system.

Tierney, 22, posted 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 80 games last season, serving primarily as the fourth line center. He has 64 points (24g, 40a) in 202 career games over three NHL seasons, all with the Sharks.

Sorensen posted one goal and three assists in 19 games with the Sharks last season, his first in the NHL. The 25-year-old played in all six playoff games against Edmonton, scoring one goal and one assist.

Goodrow, 24, skated in three games for the Sharks last season with one assist. He has 16 points (4g, 12a) in 77 games over three seasons with the Sharks, although has played in just 17 NHL games since the start of the 2015-16 season.

Forward Nikita Jevpalovs, defenseman Patrick McNally and goalie Mantas Armalis - also known for his career as a male model - were left unqualified and are now unrestricted free agents.

Earlier in the offseason, the Sharks signed pending restricted free agents Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson. Donskoi received a two-year deal at a salary cap hit of $1.9 million, while Karlsson was signed to a three-year deal at $2 million annually.