Ducks squeak past Sharks in another low scoring, tight affair

Ducks squeak past Sharks in another low scoring, tight affair

SAN JOSE – Some recent trends have emerged in games between the Sharks and Ducks, and they were again on display on Saturday night at SAP Center.

They’re close, and they’re low scoring, to be specific.

Anaheim’s 2-1 triumph was the eighth straight head-to-head matchup that has been decided by just one goal. Furthermore, the teams have combined for just 28 total goals in those eight meetings, or 3.5 per game.

Of course, in those types of games, one mistake can be deadly. In this case, it came when Paul Martin’s attempted pass to Joe Pavelski was blocked by Jakob Silfverberg, who raced in on a breakaway to beat Martin Jones at 13:29 of the second period. It was the final goal of the game.

Martin described the play.

“[The puck] kind of rolled on me or jammed me a little bit. I was going to shoot, and then I saw Pavs kind of slide up in the slot and I just tried to slide it to him. Hit a shin pad, or hit something, so…yeah,” Martin said.

Logan Couture said: “Obviously it’s a tough break to give up that one, to that guy, with that shot. He picks his corners pretty good. We rebounded and had a good third period.”

Couture is correct in that the Sharks did press Anaheim in the final frame, outshooting the Ducks 14-4 but failing to get the equalizer.  The Sharks had a 34-27 advantage in shots in the game, and a 76-53 advantage in shot attempts.

His line with Patrick Marleau and Joel Ward was the Sharks’ most effective of the evening, and all of them had chances. Ward was stopped in front of the net about four minutes into the third period, though, and Marleau was denied on a breakaway with nine minutes left. Couture finished with a game-high six shots, including a first period power play goal on a two-man advantage.

In one sequence in the second period, Couture’s wraparound try ended up on Ward’s tape on the other side of the net, and with goalie Jonathan Bernier sprawled out in the crease, Ward tried getting it over the goaltender to Marleau in front of an empty net. He didn’t get it high enough, though, and Bernier froze it.

The Sharks were much more pleased with their effort on Saturday than in Thursday’s 4-1 loss to the Blues in which they were thoroughly outplayed. 

“I didn’t like our first 10 minutes, but after that I thought we played a real good game,” Pete DeBoer said. “It was a playoff-type atmosphere. We had enough opportunities to get three or four tonight. We didn’t. That’s a credit to their goalie. But, we did a lot of good things.”

Joe Pavelski said: “They had their chances, we had ours. It was a game, it was physical, it was a fun one. Crowd was into it right from the start, and guys showed up to play.”

There are no points for effort, though, so the Sharks still have some work to do if they want to close out the Pacific Division. They were well aware that they had a chance to essentially bury the Ducks by potentially opening their lead up to seven points with a game in hand.

Instead, they’re now just four points ahead with a pair of back-to-backs on the road on the immediate horizon. The Sharks visit Dallas on Monday and Minnesota on Tuesday, and will have to keep an eye in the rear view mirror on surging Anaheim, which has won five of its last seven (5-1-1).

“I think as the games get closer to the end, you kind of know who’s up and down,” Ward said of the contracting standings.

The primary takeaway from Saturday’s game, though, was that if the Sharks put forth the same kind of effort and performance over their final 11, they’ll be fine.

Martin said: “As long as we’re playing the way that we want to play, I think it will take care of itself.”

“If we play like we did tonight, most nights we’re going to win,” DeBoer said.

* * *

DeBoer didn't offer any sort of update on Jannik Hansen, who left the game in the third period after taking a stick up high from defenseman Brandon Montour as the two came together in the corner. "I don’t have anything for you on that yet," DeBoer said.

Pavelski talked to his linemate after the game.

“I think [Hansen] said he got a stick in the head, or something like that. I don’t really know for sure," Pavelski said.

 

Marleau wants to return, but extension with Sharks could be tricky

Marleau wants to return, but extension with Sharks could be tricky

SAN JOSE – Just like his longtime teammate and fellow pending unrestricted free agent Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau said on Monday that he would like to return to the Sharks next season.

“Yeah, it would be nice. We’ll see if that’s an option,” Marleau said. “A lot of time here before this decision needs to be made.”

When asked if there have been any talks yet about an extension, Marleau said: “Not really, no.” Marleau, who was actively exploring his options to leave the Sharks early in the 2015-16 season, would be eligible to sign with another team on July 1.

The 37-year-old forward said he still feels like he has “at least five good years in me, or maybe more.”

“I still think I can contribute and play,” he said. “Until I think I can’t do that anymore, I’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

Marleau has spent his entire 19-year NHL career with the Sharks. He’s the franchise leader in just about every offensive statistical category, including games played (1,493) goals (508) and points (1,082). Marleau became just the 45th player in NHL history to reach 500 career goals on Feb. 2 in Vancouver. In 82 games this season, he posted 27 goals (third on the team) and 46 points (fifth).

He was asked what it would mean to spend his entire career in San Jose.

“There’s only a few people who have ever done that in their careers,” he said. “That’s something special.”

If Marleau wants a multi-year contract, which is likely, it could make it tricky for Doug Wilson to keep him, though. Players such as Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are due sizable raises in their next contracts, as both will enter the final year of their current bargain deals in 2017-18.

Wilson called it “a priority” to get Jones and Vlasic signed before training camp. He can begin talks on July 1, per NHL CBA rules.

“Certainly Martin Jones is everything we expected him to be, and he’s crucial,” Wilson said. “Marc-Edouard Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league. You saw what he did against one of the top players in the league (Connor McDavid). Marc-Edouard is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world. 

“Both of them are extremely important to get under contract, and we can start those discussions in the next little while.”

Both Jones and Vlasic indicated they would like to stay in San Jose past next season, too, and it’s conceivable that the combined price tag for those players will be somewhere in the $13-$15 million range. Both made just a combined $7.25 million in 2016-17 ($4.25 million for Vlasic, $3 million for Jones).

“Oh, absolutely,” Jones said, when asked if he could see himself with the Sharks long term. “I love it here. The guys are great. It’s a lot of fun coming to the rink every day. City has been great. The fans are awesome, and we have a great team. I’m excited.”

Vlasic said on March 14 that he would like to play his whole career with the Sharks, and confirmed that sentiment again on Monday, although the timing of an extension gets seemed of little importance to the 30-year-old.

“When it happens it will happen. It doesn’t matter if it’s July 1 or during the season,” he said.

The Sharks also have several pending restricted free agent forwards this summer in Chris Tierney, Marcus Sorensen, Melker Karlsson and Joonas Donskoi. It’s likely that they’d prefer to keep all of those players, and some multi-year contracts could be the result. Other players like Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc showed flashes of becoming solid NHL contributors, too.

Along with the salary cap (still yet to be revealed), Thornton’s future, and which player the Sharks lose in the upcoming expansion draft, there are plenty of factors both sides need to weigh before any decision on Marleau gets made.

“[Marleau and Thornton] have been cornerstones of this franchise for a long time, not only as players, but as people,” Wilson said. “There’s a lot of variables that go into that decision, and the first one is me sitting down and talking with both of them. We haven’t had a chance to do that, so we’ll get there.”

DeBoer: Joe Thornton played through torn knee ligaments in playoffs

DeBoer: Joe Thornton played through torn knee ligaments in playoffs

SAN JOSE – There was finally some clarification on Monday on what Joe Thornton was playing through, as the Sharks gathered one final time at their practice facility before the offseason.

And, it was significant, as the 37-year-old was dealing with a “torn MCL and ACL” in his left knee, according to coach Pete DeBoer.

“I don’t know if the injury report has come out yet, but I’ve never seen a player play with a torn MCL and ACL,” DeBoer said. “Basically, his knee is floating there. It was as courageous an effort, him doing what he did, as I’ve ever seen.”

Thornton was scheduled to have surgery on the knee later on Monday afternoon, according to general manager Doug Wilson. Prior to that, the longtime centerman met with the local media.

"I'm going to go see the doctors right after this and see what they say,” he said. “So, I'll know more about it today. I just know it was pretty sore playing."

Wilson said: “I’ve been in the business a long time. To see a player play with that type of injury tells you everything you need to know about him.”

As for a timeframe for Thornton to return, Wilson said: “Don’t know. We’ll know after [surgery].”

Thornton, an unrestricted free agent who has spent the last 12 seasons with the Sharks, said that he would like to return.

"Yeah, I want to come back. I think this is a Stanley Cup caliber team and I think I'm a little bit older and I realize how good this team is,” he said. “Of course I'd like to [return]. But, we'll have to see. I'm sure we'll be talking. But right now I haven't been a dad for a long time. I need to turn into a family man for a couple months."

Thornton said there have not been any talks yet about a contract extension.

“I just wanted to focus on hockey this year,” he said. “There's no hurry, but yeah, I want to be back. This team is a real talented team, and I love playing here."

Wilson said: “We have lots of time … We’ve got four-and-a-half months until we’re back at it.”

Thornton, who has been downplaying the injury since it occurred on April 2 – including when he said three days later that there was “no doubt” he would return for the playoff opener, and then missing the first two games of the first round series with Edmonton – struck the same tune on Monday when asked what he had to go through to suit up.

"Just the normal stuff that hockey players deal with,” he said. “It was just unfortunate, the time of the year, that it happened three games before the end of the season and the playoffs [and] you’ve got to deal with something like that. 

“Hockey players are a different breed. There's probably five or six guys that had to deal with different stuff. But it is what it is. I'll go get it checked out today, and go from there."

Although Thornton’s was the most severe, there were other Sharks playing through injury as is commonplace at the end of any NHL season. 

Tomas Hertl suffered a broken foot in the same game as Thornton on April 2 in Vancouver, while forward Patrick Marleau had a broken thumb. Logan Couture played through a mouth injury that he has already revealed will require extensive dental work this summer, while Joonas Donskoi separated his left shoulder twice over the second half of the regular season.