Instant Replay: Pavelski stays hot, Sharks blow past Sabres

Instant Replay: Pavelski stays hot, Sharks blow past Sabres

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE – Another multi-goal effort from the captain helped put an end to the Sharks’ inexplicable troubles with the Sabres.

Joe Pavelski scored twice for the second straight game, as the Sharks ended a five-game home losing to Buffalo on Tuesday at SAP Center, 4-1. It was the Sharks’ first regulation win of any kind over the Sabres since Jan. 23, 2010.

Pavelski’s first goal tied the game at one apiece in the second period, while his second score gave the Sharks a two-goal cushion. He has seven goals in his last five games and now leads the team with 28, one more than Brent Burns.

The game-winner, though, came from an unlikely source.

In the final minute of the second period of a 1-1 game, Micheal Haley got a little piece of Cody Franson’s short pass to Jack Eichel in front of the net, and the Sabres’ forward ended up kicking the puck through Robin Lehner’s five-hole with less than a minute to play in the middle frame. Haley was credited with this second of the season.

Pavelski added third period insurance. Dylan DeMelo’s point shot hit Josh Gorges in front of the net, and Pavelski was there to whip it home at 5:28 to make it 3-1.

Just before the goal, Martin Jones denied Eichel on a breakaway, sealing his five-hole and keeping the Sabres from getting what would have been the equalizer.

Another fluky play pushed the Sharks’ lead to 4-1. Joel Ward slid the puck over to Logan Couture, and as Couture and Lehner both extended their sticks out to poke at the loose puck, it popped up into the air and landed on the other side of the goal line at 14:47.

The Sharks have won four of their last five games, improving to 3-1-0 on their season-long six-game homestand. They are 7-2-0 in their last nine, and have a nine-point lead on the Pacific Division.

Kicking off a four-game road trip, the Sabres lost their fifth straight away from home.

The Sharks poured 20 shots on goal in the first, a season high for most in a period, but trailed after the opening frame. Pavelski gave the puck away to Gorges at the point, and Matt Moulson pushed the rebound of Gorges’ blast over to Eichel for an easy score just 1:10 into the game.

Lehner made a number of stellar saves to keep the Sharks off of the board, coming way out of his crease to turn away a Burns wrister, and later preventing Couture’s open look on a two-on-one from beating him with less than three minutes to go in the first.

The Sharks were also denied what originally looked like a Marcus Sorensen goal, but it was correctly ruled that Burns had pushed Lehner out of the way while taking the puck the net before Sorensen slid the puck across the line.

San Jose continued to press in the second, though, and was finally rewarded on the power play. Pavelski hammered in a one-timer from the slot on a backhanded feed from Couture at 11:47 to knot the score at 1-1.

Special teams

Entering with a 2-for-24 stretch in their previous seven games, with both coming against Washington, the Sharks finished 1-for-3 on the power play. Pavelski has seven power play goals on the season.

The penalty kill was 2-for-2, and is 11-for-11 in the last four games.

In goal

Perhaps benefiting from added rest, Jones secured the win with 21 saves, and has allowed two or fewer goals in seven consecutive starts. He’s 2-1-1 in his career against Buffalo.

Lehner has lost both of his career games against the Sharks, officially allowing four goals on 41 shots.

Lineup

The Sharks made no changes to their lineup, as David Schlemko and Melker Karlsson remained out with lower body injuries.

Joe Thornton’s assist on Pavelski’s first goal was his 40th of the season. It is his 14th season reaching that mark.

Up next

The Sharks will conclude their regular season series with the Blues – a potential first round playoff opponent – on Thursday at SAP Center. St. Louis has won the first two, both in regulation, including a 4-0 shutout of the Sharks in San Jose on Jan. 14.

The homestand concludes with the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.

Analysis: Wilson could be taking calculated risk with Thornton, Marleau

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Analysis: Wilson could be taking calculated risk with Thornton, Marleau

The NHL offseason is about to heat up with the draft this weekend in Chicago and the start of free agency on July 1. Here’s what we’re hearing in regards to the Sharks, who could be at an organizational crossroads…

What’s the latest with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau?

It’s been quiet regarding to two franchise cornerstones that could officially become unrestricted free agents in eight days and are free to speak with other teams on Sunday. There has been dialogue, as Doug Wilson has said, but the general manager always prefers to keep contract negotiations private.

We do know that there have never been any gentleman’s agreements between the Sharks and Thornton and Marleau for after the expansion draft. I continue to see this theory suggested by some – both media and fans alike – but it’s simply not true, as we've reported here in the past.

At this point, Thornton and Marleau will surely wait until June 25 to see what kind of offers roll in from other clubs. They should learn pretty quickly what kind of interest is out there.

From the Sharks’ perspective, the term of any potential deal is vital. If Thornton and Marleau still want at least three years – as we’ve reported here previously – that might not work for the Sharks, as their top offseason priority is to sign Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to long-term extensions. 

Wilson could be taking a calculated risk, especially in Thornton’s case, as the general manager no doubt knows that Thornton would prefer to stay in San Jose (it’s less clear how much Marleau wants to return). If there aren’t any other teams out there willing to sign a 38-year-old player coming off of a significant knee injury to a three-year deal, Thornton could settle for a one or two-year deal to stay with the Sharks. If another team is willing to go that high, Thornton could always give the Sharks a chance to match.

Which Sharks players could be on the move in a potential trade?

There have already been a few huge trades as of Friday morning, including the Blue Jackets snagging Artemi Panarin from Chicago for Brandon Saad, the Coyotes acquiring Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta from the Rangers, and Niklas Hjalmarsson from Chicago.

Could the Sharks join the party? It’s certainly possible, as the team could probably use another forward or two than can put the puck in the net.

I could see the Sharks dangling Chris Tierney, for reasons that I laid out last week on my Facebook page when I thought that the club might protect a fourth defenseman and leave Tierney unprotected. In short, Ryan Carpenter’s return should make Tierney more expendable; coach Pete DeBoer has been pretty critical of Tierney in the past; and Tierney, a pending restricted free agent, remains unsigned. 

Further, you have to wonder if Tierney might be better off on another team for his own growth. If the Sharks re-sign Thornton, Tierney will be firmly entrenched as the fourth line center behind Thornton, Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl. Could his camp be pushing for a trade, prompting the Sharks to make sure they kept Carpenter around?

As for other potential trade bait, the Sharks have some organizational depth at defense right now, even after they shipped Mirco Mueller to the Devils. Perhaps they try and move one of their established defenseman for the right price, if they think any of the youngsters are ready to make the leap to the NHL, or maybe they could move one of the blue line prospects for an established veteran scorer.

It’s worth noting, too, that one source texted me last week, “I think there is more coming from Doug and crew.”

Is Micheal Haley going to return?

The only other UFA from the Sharks’ NHL roster last season, other than Thornton and Marleau, is Haley.

There continues to be mutual interest between the two sides. Pete DeBoer likes Haley, he’s a respected guy in the dressing room, and his teammates appreciate the role he plays. That doesn’t mean a deal will get done, as the Sharks have more pressing matters to navigate through first, but Haley could be back in the fall.

The Sharks have some key restricted free agents, too. What’s going on with those guys?

The deadline to qualify restricted free agents is Sunday. Expect the Sharks to qualify Tierney, Marcus Sorensen and Barclay Goodrow.

The remaining RFAs are Nikita Jevpalovs, Mantas Armalis and Patrick McNally. All three could be allowed to walk, and therefore become unrestricted.

Sharks have bevy of young defensemen to replace Schlemko

Sharks have bevy of young defensemen to replace Schlemko

CHICAGO – If there were a best-case scenario for the Sharks regarding the expansion draft, it probably would have been the Vegas Golden Knights selecting Mikkel Boedker, and the three years and $12 million remaining on his contract.

Instead, the Golden Knights swiped David Schlemko. While the 30-year-old was a nice third pair defenseman in his only year with the Sharks, it was probably the second-best case from San Jose’s perspective. The team should be able to fill the vacancy internally without too much difficulty. Schlemko had two goals and 18 points in 62 games last season, and has three years left on his contract at $2.1 million annually.

“I think it’s worked out well for all parties involved,” said general manager Doug Wilson. “You go into expansion, you know you’re going to lose a player. David came in and played well for us. We signed him as a free agent, so we didn’t have to give up an asset to get him. So, we think we moved through the expansion phase with the good young players coming in that are ready to play and compete for that spot. That’s probably as good as we could have expected to come out of expansion, in that position.”

If there are no other major moves on the Sharks’ blue line this offseason, the spot to play alongside Brenden Dillon will be there for the taking in training camp. There’s no reason, of course, to break up the top four of Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Justin Braun, and Brent Burns-Paul Martin.

Dylan DeMelo would figure to have the inside track on the job, but there are others like Tim Heed and Joakim Ryan, each of whom signed two-year contract extensions on June 17. They served as the AHL Barracuda’s top defense pair for most of the season.

The 24-year-old Ryan, a sixth round pick in 2012, posted 10 goals and 49 points in 65 games last season in the AHL. He was recalled once by the Sharks but did not play. Heed, 26, is an offensive defenseman that tallied 14 goals and 56 points in 55 games with the Barracuda and played in one game with the Sharks on Jan. 11 in Calgary. Ryan is a left-handed shot; Heed, like Schlemko and DeMelo, shoots right.

Regarding Ryan, Wilson said: “He’s right on track. He’s the type of guy that – if you look around the league at the number of young defensemen that are making an impact – he thinks and plays the game the right way.”

“Watching [Ryan and Heed] play together, I would say they were arguably the best defense pair in the AHL last year.”

There are other defensemen to monitor, too. The Sharks signed soon-to-be 25-year-old Czech Radim Simek to a one-year contract on May 23, beating out several of other NHL teams to acquire his services. 

“He’s a puck-moving guy,” Wilson said. “He’s got a little bite to him, too. Not tall, but thick and strong. We think he’s a guy that has the skill set to step right in and play. We’ll see how much time it takes him to adjust to the smaller rink.”

And don’t forget about Jeremy Roy, either. The first pick of the second round in the deep 2015 draft (31st overall), Roy is expected to join the organization next season, likely starting his pro career with the Barracuda after recovering from a significant knee injury that ended his junior season in late October.

“He had a major repair, but he’s back healthy,” Wilson said. “We’ll see him this summer, and he’s a puck-moving guy. … Injuries you can’t control, but we have high expectations for Jeremy.”

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Vegas shipped Schlemko to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday for a fifth round pick in the 2019 draft.