Doughty: Kings want to knock Sharks out

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Doughty: Kings want to knock Sharks out

EL SEGUNDO When the NHL schedule was released last July, it was hard not to notice that the Sharks and Kings would end their regular seasons against one another with a home-and-home series.

It was fairly easy to predict those games would be meaningful, too, as the parity in the NHL seems to become more and more prevalent every year, and San Jose and Los Angeles were the odds-on favorites in the Pacific Division after meeting in the first round last April.

RELATED: NHL standings

Kings defenseman Drew Doughty made a mental note early in regards to these final two.

I think even in the first game this year, we all knew we had San Jose back-to-back at the end of the year, Doughty said on Wednesday from the Kings practice facility. We didnt want it to come down to these last two games like its going to, but we knew it would be two big games. I think thats why the NHL sets it up like that, because these two games mean a lot. Its going to make these games a lot of fun to play in, and to watch.

Neither the Sharks nor the Kings have clinched a playoff spot just yet. Los Angeles needs one point while San Jose needs two, although that could change by game time on Thursday when they meet at Staples Center. Ninth place Dallas will likely be wrapping up its game in Nashville just as the Sharks and Kings drop the puck.

In other words, the Kings could have a spot clinched already as fans in the Staples Center are still settling into their seats.

Either way, the Kings would love try and prematurely end San Joses season, as unlikely as that is now after the Sharks won two straight over the Stars. The Pacific Division title is still up for grabs, too, so the Kings should be motivated regardless of what the Stars do against the Predators.

Doughty said: We definitely want to do whatever we can to knock them out of the playoff picture. We want third place, and thats what were going to play for. These two games mean a lot, not only for third place but just being able to push a team like that out of the playoffs is a big momentum boost for us.

We dont have that point yet, Jonathan Quick said. We have to prepare for tomorrow and get ready to get two points. We cant be satisfied with just getting one point and getting in, we want to keep moving up. We want to win the division, and get that home ice.

It hasnt been smooth sailing for either team this season. The Sharks' struggles have been well documented here, while the Kings were forced to fire head coach Terry Murray in December and were mired in last place in the NHL in goals-per-game for much of the season (theyre now in 29th with 2.26, but have averaged more than three per game since the NHL trade deadline at the end of February).

Thats all in the past, now, though. In fact, those trials and tribulations could end up making the Kings more dangerous in the postseason, according to Jarret Stoll.

Weve gained a lot of experience and character, and went through a lot if we do happen to play well these next two games and get to the playoffs, Stoll said. Its been a long road. It hasnt been an easy one; its been a bumpy one for a lot of us in here. Firing a coach, having a new one come in here, thats never fun and never positive, and it wasnt.

That just shows the character of the group we have in here. We all care about each other, we all care about this team a lot, and we all know that we have a very, very good team.

Just like San Jose, the fact that playoff hockey has started early for the Kings as they battle to remain in the top eight could have a positive impact.

Or not, said Justin Williams.

I think it probably has its advantages and disadvantages, Williams said. You obviously want to play well going into playoffs, but its also nice to know a couple weeks before if youre going to be in or have a first seed to rest players and get them healthy.

The most important thing is playing well going into playoffs. We need to continue to do that.
Odds and ends: Kings coach Darryl Sutter said that winger Jeff Carter will miss the game Thursday with a reported ankle injury. Defenseman Slava Voynov did not skate, but will play against the Sharks. Los Angeles skated for a little more than an hour on Wednesday.

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

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AP

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

No one asked, but I’m going to begin this week’s mailbag with my prediction for the Stanley Cup Final – Preds in six. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to a few of your questions…

Most likely to be moved this off-season? (Nik @niknisj25)

If the Sharks do make a move – and I’ve argued here that I think it may be time for a shakeup – they’ll surely be looking for someone up front to boost the offense. In that case, they’d likely have to sacrifice a defenseman or two.

The Sharks defense is the strength of the organization at the moment, as they had one of the best one-through-seven groups in the NHL this season. But it’s also an expensive one. The Sharks have nearly $27 million committed to their top seven defensemen next season, while Marc-Edouard Vlasic is due for a hefty raise beginning in 2018-19.

One name that could be intriguing to other teams is Justin Braun. The 30-year-old has been a part of the Sharks’ top shut down pair with Vlasic for several seasons now, and is signed for the next three years at a reasonable $3.8 million cap hit. The Sharks could potentially move him for offensive help, and slot in a guy like David Schlemko alongside Vlasic, while finally giving Dylan DeMelo a chance to play on a nightly basis on the third pair. A Vlasic-Schlemko pair could be more offensive than Vlasic-Braun, too, because as adept as they were at keeping the puck out of their own net, the Sharks didn’t get many goals from their defenders outside of Burns.

Of course, the upcoming expansion draft all but assures that nothing will happen until Las Vegas selects its team on June 21. If the Sharks lose a defenseman to the Golden Knights, they’ll be more reluctant to move another one. Still, with guys like Joakim Ryan, Tim Heed, Julius Bergman, Mirco Mueller and now Radim Simek in the pipeline, the club might be able to handle a couple departures.

How do we fix the power play next season? Bring in a coach that could help us? Change up the lines, or style of play? (adam smith @kickback408)

One thing that won’t be happening is a new coach, as Doug Wilson recently confirmed that Steve Spott would be back alongside Pete DeBoer. Bob Boughner could move on if he gets hired as a head coach elsewhere, but Boughner’s focus is the team’s defense and penalty kill.

Obviously, the future of the power play depends on who is on the roster, beginning with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Both saw their power play production dip this season.

Thornton went from 29 power play points in 2015-16 to 19 this season (he had eight power play goals in 2015-16, and just one this season). Marleau saw a decline from 25 power play points in 2015-16 to 16 last season. Even if both return, it may be time to try other bodies on the top unit.

Do you see Meier, Labanc and/or Sorensen having a breakout season next year? Or anyone else on the Barracuda? (Colin Dunn @ColinDunnACA)

Someone better had, because this team needs to start getting younger, and soon. One of the bigger disappointments of the 2016-17 season is that none of them apparently showed the coaching staff that they were prepared to play on a nightly basis at the NHL level.

Timo Meier and Marcus Sorensen, I would surmise, are at the top of the depth chart as far as forwards go. Their line in the playoffs with center Chris Tierney was the Sharks’ best through the early part of the series with Edmonton. As for Kevin Labanc, I think he’s fallen a bit since he had a brief run of success for the Sharks in December.

While the Sharks did a good job stockpiling some young players through the 2013-15 drafts, they’ve traded away a number of picks in recent years. In last year’s draft they didn’t have a first or third round pick; this year they don’t have any picks in the second, third or fourth rounds; and in 2018 they are already without their second and third round picks. 

It’s great to accumulate young players, but at some point they have to break through. Now is the time.

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

After five seasons with the Sharks, Larry Robinson is leaving the organization.

Robinson, 65, spent the last three seasons as the club's director of player development. He served as an associate coach from 2012-14.

TSN in Montreal and the Montreal Gazette originally reported the news.

The Sharks confirmed that Robinson's contract would be expiring, and general manager Doug Wilson told NBC Sports California that the divorce was amicable, and "because of geography." Robinson lives in Florida.

According to the Montreal Gazette

Robinson’s contract with the Sharks expires on July 1, but agent Donnie Cape said Thursday that San Jose general manager Doug Wilson has given him permission to speak with other teams. Robinson lives in Bradenton, Fla., and the long travel distance to San Jose is one of big the reasons he’s looking for a new team to work for.

Robinson seemed to ponder retirement in 2014, but signed a three-year extension to remain in the Sharks' front office. He worked mostly from his home in Florida the past two seasons, making occasional trips to San Jose, including during training camp.

In the summer of 2015, Robinson underwent surgery for skin cancer.

Recognized as one of the best defensemen in NHL history, Robinson won six Stanley Cup championships with the Montreal Canadiens as a player, and holds the NHL record for playing 20 straight seasons in the playoffs. A 10-time All-Star and two-time Norris Trophy winner, Robinson was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995.

Robinson was the head coach of the Los Angeles Kings from 1995-99, and the New Jersey Devils from 1999-2002 and again in 2005-06. He led the Devils to the Stanley Cup in 2000. Robinson has nine Stanley Cup rings as a player and coach.

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The Sharks did not renew the contract of pro scout Jason Rowe, who had been with the organization for the past nine seasons. Rowe focused on eastern NHL and AHL teams.