Sharks

Instant Replay: Pacific division still up for grabs after Ducks beat Sharks

Instant Replay: Pacific division still up for grabs after Ducks beat Sharks

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SAN JOSE – Perhaps the Pacific Division race isn’t over quite yet, after all.

Patrick Eaves and Jakob Silfverberg scored goals in a 2-1 Ducks win over the Sharks at SAP Center on Saturday, bringing them to within four points of San Jose for the division lead. The Sharks, who still have one game in hand on Anaheim, had a nine point cushion on the rest of the Pacific after beating Buffalo on Tuesday.

Anaheim has won the Pacific Division in each of the last four seasons. The Sharks are seeking their first title since 2011.

It took Anaheim more than eight minutes to get their first shot on goal in the second period, as momentum swung towards San Jose in a 1-1 game.

But with six-and-a-half minutes left in the middle frame, Silfverberg blocked a Paul Martin shot after the defenseman fumbled with the puck just inside the offensive zone blue line, and raced in for a breakaway score at 13:29. The Ducks took their 2-1 lead to the dressing room.

San Jose’s best chance to tie it in the third came on a Patrick Marleau breakaway with nine minutes to go, but he couldn’t slip through a backhand.

The Sharks pulled Martin Jones with about two-and-a-half minutes left in regulation, but couldn’t find the equalizer.

The Sharks finished their season-long six-game homestand with a 3-3-0 mark. They lost back-to-back games in regulation at home for just the second time this season (Nov. 3-5).

Anaheim, playing its second game in two nights, improved to 5-1-1 in its last seven.

The Ducks had the Sharks on their heels early. They took the lead just 39 seconds into the game when Eaves finished his check on Justin Braun, snuck out to the front of the net, and lifted a Ryan Getzlaf feed over Jones’ glove hand. It was Eaves’ third goal with Anaheim since he was traded from Dallas just before the deadline.

Anaheim kept up the pressure, including a Ryan Kesler breakaway which is rang off the post, but the Sharks would tie it late in the frame.

On a two-man advantage, Joe Thornton found Logan Couture alone in the slot, and Couture – playing in his 500th career NHL game – whipped it through Jonathan Bernier at 19:13.

Couture nearly had his second of the night some remaining power play time early in the second, but his redirection of a Martin saucer caught iron.

Jannik Hansen left the game midway through the third period after colliding with Ducks defenseman Brandon Montour, and did not return.

The Sharks and Ducks concluded their five-game season series. Anaheim was 3-0-2.

Special teams

The Sharks finished 1-for-3 on the power play, scoring their third five-on-three goal of the season.  Couture’s 11 power play goals leads the team.

Anaheim was 0-for-2 on the power play, as the Sharks improved to 12-for-13 on the PK over the last six games.

In goal

Jones has allowed two or fewer goals in his last eight starts, but fell to 4-8-0 in his career against Anaheim with two goals allowed on 27 shots. He played all five games of the season series.

Playing in his fourth game this season against San Jose, Bernier made 33 saves to get his 15th win of the season.

Anaheim remains without goalie John Gibson, who is sidelined with a lower body injury and has missed 10 of the last 11 overall.

Lineup

Andrew Cogliano played in his 776th straight game, tied for the fourth-longest streak in NHL history.

Up next

After Monday’s game against the Stars opens a four-game road trip, the Sharks will visit Minnesota on Tuesday, and go right back to Dallas for another game on Friday. The trip concludes with their only visit of the regular season to Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.

Five months after taking puck to face, Sharks' Logan Couture 'still pretty sore'

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AP

Five months after taking puck to face, Sharks' Logan Couture 'still pretty sore'

Nearly five months after taking a puck to the mouth that resulted in major damage, Logan Couture is still dealing with the aftereffects of his surgically repaired mouth, which now features several false teeth.

Appearing on the NHL Network this week, Couture was asked how he’s feeling with less than one month to go before the Sharks open training camp on Sep. 14.

“There’s good days and bad days,” Couture said. “My bottom teeth are still my real teeth. They’ve tried to keep them so I don’t lose them. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, they’re still pretty sore. My top teeth are all fake now – my front six, I think. So, it’s different. It just feels different in my mouth. 

“But everything else with my face and all that is healed. I’m lucky that it’s an injury that didn’t affect my training, and hopefully won’t affect me going forward.”

Couture was injured on March 25 in Nashville. He was set up just outside the crease in the offensive zone when a Brent Burns point shot hit a stick before squarely battering the now 28-year-old’s mouth.

After missing the final seven games of the regular season, Couture returned for the Sharks’ playoff opener. He managed to play in all six games of the first round loss, posting two goals and one assist for three points, although he struggled at times and was seemingly targeted by the Oilers.

Couture is currently in his hometown of London, Ontario where he’s staging a casino event for brain research. Fellow Sharks Chris Tierney and Dylan DeMelo will take part, as will other NHL stars like the Kings’ Drew Doughty.

Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes

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Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes

It was late in the lockout-shortened 2013 season when Sharks general manager Doug Wilson really started to prepare for the future. Douglas Murray was dealt to Pittsburgh for a pair of second round selections. Ryane Clowe packed his bags for Broadway, in exchange for a second and a third round pick from the Rangers. Michal Handzus went to Chicago for a fourth rounder.

Wilson’s logic was sound, as it typically takes two-to-four years before draft picks have a chance to make an impact at the NHL level. The general manager figured that by then, players like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau either wouldn’t be a part of the team anymore or would be slowing down. Restocking the cupboards was essential.

From 2013-15, the Sharks made 24 selections over the next three NHL entry drafts, including seven total picks in the top two rounds. Some players have shown promise. Others haven’t. A few aren’t in the organization anymore. That’s the nature of the business.

The way the 2017-18 opening night roster is shaping up, though, now is the time that some of these young players in the system simply have to step up. Marleau and his 27 goals last season are gone, Thornton’s numbers are down and he’s coming off of major knee surgery, Joe Pavelski is now 33 years old, and the team’s offense depth is suspect at best. There have been no notable additions in the offseason.

Frankly, this season could be viewed as a referendum on the team’s amateur scouting staff, including longtime director Tim Burke. Wilson handed Burke and his staff a wonderful opportunity to provide the organization with fresh talent with the team approaching an organizational crossroads.

What has transpired so far is a bit concerning, as already two of the team’s first round picks from that span ended up being nothing more than trade bait.

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Mirco Mueller, chosen 18th overall in 2013, was a huge disappointment in San Jose. It’s been well documented that he was mishandled by the organization when he was rushed to the league in 2014-15, but even this past season, regular observers of the Barracuda had Mueller as nothing more than the AHL team’s fourth-best defenseman. He’s now in New Jersey, swapped for a pair of draft picks.

The scouting staff was so high on Mueller on draft day that Wilson traded a valuable second round pick to Detroit to move up just two places to select him. With those acquired picks, the Red Wings took Anthony Mantha 20th overall and Tyler Bertuzzi 58th overall – two forwards that have shown a whole lot more NHL potential than Mueller (especially Mantha, who has 39 points in 70 career NHL games so far).

Perhaps more concerning, though, is that the Sharks 2013 draft class as a whole is looking like a dud. Second round pick Gabryel Boudreau suffered a wrist injury and is no longer in the organization anymore, but he was trending downward even before he got hurt. None of the remaining players selected from rounds four-through-seven look to be NHL quality, either.

The next year brought Nikolay Goldobin, chosen 27th overall after the Sharks traded down in the first round, and he ended up being the key piece in the Jannik Hansen acquisition from Vancouver. Goldobin showed some flashes of offensive talent during his time in the organization, but his lack of hockey sense and on-ice work ethic helped lead to his exit. Whether Goldobin becomes an NHL regular, even with a fresh start in Vancouver, is highly uncertain.

Had the Sharks stayed at 20th overall, they could have selected Nick Schmaltz (20th overall), Robby Fabbri (21st overall), or David Pastrnak (25th overall). Instead, they moved down and took Goldobin, making it back-to-back first round failures.

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Still, unlike 2013, other players from Goldobin’s draft class have shown some promise. Second rounder Julius Bergman was a steady blueliner for a good Barracuda team last season, and although he’s probably not NHL-ready yet, he could be on the right track. Late in the draft the team found Kevin Labanc in the sixth round with the 171st overall selection, and Labanc had some nice moments with the Sharks last season. His shot and his hands make him a solid prospect, although Labanc still probably has to get a bit bigger and stronger to play in the NHL full-time.

Noah Rod (second round, 53rd overall) and Rourke Chartier (fifth round, 149th overall) are also still developing, with Rod playing against men in the Swiss league the past few seasons and Chartier a valuable player for the Barracuda last year.

In 2015, the draft provided the Sharks with Timo Meier at ninth overall, as the club drafted in the top 10 for the first time since 2007. At this point, Meier is far and away the best prospect in the organization, and he’ll likely be relied upon to play a top nine (or even a top six) role for the Sharks this season.

The 2015 draft brought other decent prospects, too. Defenseman Jeremy Roy was selected 31st overall, and after suffering a serious knee injury in juniors this year, he’ll get a chance to play for the Barracuda this year. Fourth rounder Adam Helewka and fifth rounder Rudolfs Balcers have also developed nicely since draft day. It’s still a bit too early to evaluate that draft as a whole.

It should also be mentioned that while their draft day record may be suspect the past few seasons, the Sharks have brought in European free agents like Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen. Karlsson has developed into a versatile, hard-working forward; Donskoi has shown flashes of offensive brilliance despite a disappointing second year in the NHL last season; and Sorensen looks primed to make the opening night roster after his speed and tenacity shined through during the Sharks’ first round series loss to Edmonton.

The Sharks scouting staff has helped to keep the team competitive for a long time, and they’re as big a reason as any that the team has missed the playoffs just once in the past 11 seasons. But this is also a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, and now is the time that the Sharks need to see some results from players that were chosen by Burke and company.