McLaren returns as healthy forward option

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McLaren returns as healthy forward option

SAN JOSE Its been a long time since Frazer McLaren played an NHL hockey game.

The Sharks recalled McLaren from Worcester on Saturday after a two-week conditioning assignment expired. After rehabbing from offseason hip surgery and playing some games with the clubs AHL affiliate, McLaren is now an option at forward for the Sharks.

He took part in practice on Sunday at Sharks Ice, and accompanied the team to Los Angeles later in the day. McLaren last appeared in an NHL game on Nov. 18, 2010 at Dallas.

The hip feels good, he said. I played some pretty big minutes in Worcester and I definitely feel if theres an opening in the lineup for me to play, Id be ready to go.

It gives us another piece that we can use, said Todd McLellan. Well make decisions nightly on lineups, and injuries, and health, and opponent and all that stuff. But, Fraz obviously brings a different ingredient to the table some size, some strength, and skates well for a big man. We have that option now.

To recap, McLaren originally hurt the hip while playing in Worcester last season and tried to play through it until March. When it didn't fully heal, he opted to have a procedure on May 2 that has sidelined him ever since.

In seven games in Worcester, McLaren was scoreless with 18 penalty minutes.

I dont think I had ever gone that long without playing hockey so it was a bit of an adjustment. I felt better as all the games went on and it was good to get down there and play seven games, get some confidence and get some ice time.

And as for the fighting majors?

Even if I was only down there for two weeks, they are still my teammates and I have to stick up for them, he said.

McLaren may have to wait to get his chance, though. The Sharks fourth line of Andrew Desjardins, Andrew Murray and Brad Winchester has been effective for most of the month of November. They have even managed to contribute on the scoreboard, as evidenced by Murrays goal against Vancouver on Saturday night.

The 6-5, 250-pound McLaren, who has just 32 career NHL games over two seasons under his belt, realizes that there may not be a place for him at the moment.

You have to give those three lots of credit, theyre playing awesome. Im sure thats exactly what Todd wants from the fourth line, he said.

McLellan cautions that McLaren will have to adjust back to the speed of the NHL game when hes reinserted back into the lineup.

Like anybody who missed almost a full year of hockey, he was rusty to begin with, even in the American League, said the coach. I would imagine when he starts here, the pace is going to be quicker than what he played there.

It will be an adjustment period, but we have to give him the opportunity at some point to get his game back here.

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.”