Havlat 'surprised' with first game back

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Havlat 'surprised' with first game back

SAN JOSE In the few games prior to Marty Havlat suffering a serious left hamstring injury, the winger looked to be finding his game. He was skating well, setting up his linemates, and even scored his second goal the night he got hurt on Dec. 17 against Edmonton.

In his long-awaited return against the Predators on Thursday night at HP Pavilion, Havlat looked more like that player than the one who struggled earlier.

If you were astonished to see just how effective he was, well, Havlat hears you. CSNCalifornia.com caught up with him after the game.

Actually better than in October when I was coming back, so I was a surprised the way I felt, Havlat said, after the 2-1 shootout win over Nashville. At the end I was getting a little tired, but it was great for a first time.

I felt more tired at the beginning of the season when I was coming back in New Jersey. Physically, I felt better.
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Havlat is referring to his first comeback this year, when he missed the opening four games of the season and all of training camp while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. He had five assists in his first four games, beginning on Oct. 21 against the Devils, but later suffered a stretch in which he had no goals and four assists over 16 games beginning in mid-November.

Against the Predators, Havlat skated on the second line with Ryane Clowe and Patrick Marleau, finishing with three shots in 18:47 of ice time.

Color Clowe impressed.

It was nice to play with him again. He had the shoulder bobs going again,said Clowe, with a smile. He was really good. It was nice to have his creativity back there, and he made some big plays and had some pretty good chances, too. He looked like he had a lot of energy, and Im sure hell get better.

A good return almost became a great one when Havlat had maybe the Sharks best scoring chance through the first two periods. Clowe set him up with an opportunity alone in front of the net, but Preds goalie Pekka Rinne made a highlight-reel save when he denied Havlats attempt at the side of the net with about five minutes to go in the period.

I let the puck go a little too far, then he had a great save on the rebound, Havlat said. He didnt give up on the play. If he didnt it would maybe be in, but with his glove leaning forward, he made a great save.

Havlat was involved in a pretty significant scrum with Rinne and Buffalo forward Paul Gaustad shortly after that, when Havlat inadvertently tripped the Preds goalie.

Although he and Gaustad got coincidental minors from it, Havlat was pleased with the way his knee held up in what was a physical, fast-paced game.

He said: I had a couple battles there when I was pushed, and everything went well the first game. Im happy the way it felt during the whole night.

Todd McLellan was also thrilled to have one of his top six forwards back, as the Sharks still have just 13 goals in their last nine games and are still searching for more offense.

I thought he made a difference tonight. You could his skill level and the difference that it made with our second line, McLellan said. He had the puck a lot, went to it, managed himself well, didnt get caught out tired. I think he can leave the rink and feel good about his game.

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic will compete in the upcoming IIHF World Championships for Team Canada, it was announced on Friday.

The tournament runs from May 5-21 in Paris, France and Cologne, Germany. 

Vlasic, 30, a native of Montreal, has played in the tournament twice before in 2009 and 2012. He also represented Canada in the 2014 Olympic Games, helping it to a gold medal, and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which Canada also captured.

In 75 games with the Sharks this season, Vlasic posted 28 points (6g, 22a) and a +4 rating. He was second on the team in shorthanded time on ice (2:04 per game) and blocked shots (146).

A pending restricted free agent in 2018, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson called getting Vlasic signed to a long-term deal an offseason priority for the club. The two sides can begin negotiations on July 1.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” Wilson said. “[He] is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

The Sharks lost in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs to Edmonton, although Vlasic and partner Justin Braun helped to keep Connor McDavid in check at even strength. The league's leading scorer had just one even strength point in the six-game series, an empty net goal with less than one second left in Game 6.

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

SAN JOSE – The Sharks didn’t make any blockbuster moves last summer, content to make another run in 2016-17 with largely the same group that came within two wins of capturing the Stanley Cup.

They still acquired a notable player, though, when Mikkel Boedker was signed on July 1 to add an element that the Sharks knew they needed more of moving forward – speed. Boedker was expected to make the team faster, after the Sharks were exposed for not having enough of that against Pittsburgh in the NHL’s final round, as well as play in a top six role. 

At the time, it was hailed as a slick, under-the-radar move that wasn’t going to change the dynamic of the club but could help push it over the top.

When Boedker was a healthy scratch in games three and four of the first round against Edmonton, the evidence became clear, though, that this was a decision that fell flat on its face. 

Frankly, Boedker – who is signed for three more years with a $4 million salary cap hit – brings back visions of Sharks bust Marty Havlat. You know the skill is there, but the desire to use it on a nightly basis while showing any semblance of a battle level is lacking. 

Should the Sharks give Boedker another chance next season, or should they do everything in their power to try and move him? That’s a question that will likely be debated in the front office over the next several weeks.

On get-away day on Monday, indications were that the Sharks were planning on sticking with the 27-year-old, who finished with 26 points in the regular season (10g, 16a) and added one goal and one assist in four games in the playoffs.

“He has the things we’re looking for: his career scoring average, his speed, [penalty killing] ability,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “Did he meet the expectations that he had for himself [or] that we had for him? No. Can we get that out of him? Pete [DeBoer] believes we can.”

DeBoer has known Boedker since he played for him in 2007-08 in Kitchener (OHL). Despite scratching him in the playoffs, DeBoer said he saw “huge improvement” in Boedker throughout the course of the season after the forward spent nearly all of his NHL career in Arizona.

“There was an adjustment. He’s played 6-7 years a certain way in the NHL,” DeBoer said. “We’ve asked him to play differently here, and there was an adjustment.”

Boedker still believes that he can be a fit in San Jose.

“I think it will be and it can be,” he said. “It’s learning period, but you’ve also got to look in the mirror yourself and see what you can change and what assets you need to bring. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m ready to do that.”

The list of Sharks depth forwads that had frustrating seasons hardly begins and ends with Boedker, though.

Veteran Joel Ward’s production dipped from 43 points last season to 29 in 2016-17, although that probably isn’t too surprising considering he’s 36. Tomas Hertl is proving to be a streaky player, too, although his season was interrupted by another a knee injury.

The bigger disappointment came from players like Chris Tierney and Joonas Donskoi, who both made big impressions in the 2016 playoffs but struggled to produce consistent offense this year. Both were mentioned by name by DeBoer on Monday.

There are some promising youngsters in the pipeline like Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen, but it’s still too early to project any of them as can’t-miss scorers at the NHL level.

“I think we’ve got a large group of guys that I like, but need to step up,” DeBoer said. “Is Sorensen [like] Donskoi next year, where he takes a step back, or [does he take a] step forward? We’ve got a lot of guys that there’s a lot of potential there – Chris Tierney. 

“There’s a lot of those guys, but they need to have big summers and take a step, and show that they’re not just one season or one month players.”