Meeting helps Sharks' fourth-liners


Meeting helps Sharks' fourth-liners

SAN JOSE The Sharks returned home at the end of October from what was an extremely successful road trip, with five wins in six games. That didnt mean that the club didnt have any improvements to make, though.

One in particular was the fourth line. Andrew Desjardins, Andrew Murray and Brad Winchester had been together for just about every game and every practice since the beginning of training camp, and coach Todd McLellan wanted to see more from that group, which wasnt playing enough in the offensive end or generating any energy or momentum.

McLellan called a meeting shortly after the team returned, and wanted some answers -- but he also wanted to hear any questions they might have.

RELATED: Desjardins stats splits game logs

When I brought them in, I started by asking them some questions. Sometimes I like the answers, sometimes I dont. But, I ask the questions, so I have to listen to the answers, McLellan said.

It cant be one-way communication. It doesnt matter who you talk to -- a line or an individual. You have to be prepared to ask questions, listen to the answers, and vice versa.

RELATED: Murray stats splits game logs

Since then, the fourth line has seen its ice time gradually increase over the homestand. Against Pittsburgh on Nov. 3, none of the three played more than seven minutes. Two nights later against Nashville, Murrays 5:03 was a game-high among the trio.

In the past two games, however, they are all closer to the eight-minute mark, which is about where McLellan wants them in a standard game that is not dominated on power play and penalty kill time.

RELATED: Winchester stats splits game logs

Theyre in the game more. More grind time in the offensive zone and holding onto pucks, drawing more penalties than were taking. As a result, their minutes have gone up, he said. A lot of the things weve asked them to do, theyve brought to the table the last few nights.

All three players look back positively on the meeting with McLellan. Its vital to play for a coach that listens to his players, rather than barks out orders all of the time, Murray said.

Were obviously out there to get things accomplished, and he wanted a little bit of feedback from us, what we feel like were doing out there and what we can be doing better, he said. Sometimes, looking at it from his position, he can see things a little bit differently and help guys out that way. I think its important to have those open lines of communication.

Desjardins agreed. Its good to get on the same page and be able to work together. Its good to get feedback, and you have to respond to that. I think we have to continue to respond, and just get better.

While its not necessarily the fourth lines job to put pucks in the net, all three would like to contribute a little more on the scoresheet. In fact, since Desjardins scored twice on opening night and Winchester tallied an assist on one of those goals, none of the three has registered a single point since then. Murray is still looking for his first.

If we keep doing things the right way, I think well get rewarded, said Murray. Obviously, the pucks havent been going in as much as wed like, but I think if we can just get those chances and bury a few, and keep them out of our zone and from getting opportunities, its very good on our part.

Finally putting one past the goaltender could be a used as a good motivator to keep playing hard.

Were playing most of the game in the offensive zone or neutral zone, and were in and out of our end. But, I think if you talked to all three of us, were not satisfied, said Desjardins. We want to contribute, and we want to be a bigger contributor every night. As soon as youre satisfied, thats when things start to go.

Were just trying to push, and be better and better every day.

Sharks start training camp with familiar face elsewhere: ‘It’s kind of strange’


Sharks start training camp with familiar face elsewhere: ‘It’s kind of strange’

SAN JOSE — There was something familiar missing in San Jose when the Sharks opened training camp.

For the first time since 1996, the Sharks took the ice for their first training camp practice without Patrick Marleau on the team as the franchise's career leader in games and scoring left as a free agent for Toronto this summer.

"I've spent a lot of years with him. It is kind of strange," said Joe Thornton, who came to San Jose in 2005. "It's his birthday today too. It's a little weird, but he's going to do great up in Toronto."

Marleau had been with San Jose since being picked second overall in 1997 but left the Sharks to sign an $18.75 million, three-year deal with the Maple Leafs in July.

Marleau has 508 goals and 574 assists for 1,082 points. He had 46 points in playing all 82 games last season as he rebounded from a disappointing 2015-16 season by scoring 27 goals, including the 500th of his career. He ranks first in San Jose in career goals, games and points.

Only six players in NHL history have played more games with one team than Marleau's 1,493 in San Jose. The Sharks haven't played a game without him on the ice since April 7, 2009.

"Obviously Patty has meant so much to this organization and this group," captain Joe Pavelski said. "Everyone in this room has pretty much played with him and Patty has done something to help them out. He'll be missed. ... Just by committee somebody will step in and fill that kind of hole. That's what we'll need."

The Sharks made no major additions this offseason so will need to replace Marleau's 27 goals by getting development from younger players like Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Danny O'Regan, as well as bounce-back seasons from veterans like Thornton, Mikkel Boedker and Joonas Donskoi.

Only Pavelski, Logan Couture and Brent Burns are back after scoring more than 12 goals last season.

"When I look back at last year we had key people either have down years or miss significant time with injuries or coming off injuries," coach Peter DeBoer said. "I think if we can stay healthy I think we've got a large group of guys that can really take a step this year and I expect a step out of them."

While the Sharks lost Marleau in free agency, they did manage to keep Thornton by giving him a one-year, $8 million contract despite dwindling production last season and offseason knee surgery.

He scored just seven goals — his fewest in an 82-game season since his rookie year in 1997-98 — and was a key part of a power-play unit that uncharacteristically struggled last season. But he still managed 43 assists, teaming with captain Joe Pavelski on San Jose's top line.

Thornton missed the final week of the regular season and the first two playoff games with a left knee injury before returning for the final four games of a first-round loss to Edmonton. Thornton then underwent surgery to repair his MCL and ACL after the season but was back skating in August and started ramping it up for training camp two weeks ago. Thornton believes the lower-body work he did in rehab this offseason will pay dividends on the ice.

"They feel real strong," he said of his legs. "I feel a lot of pop out there. They're probably as strong as they've ever been just because I had to rehab that knee so much."

Sharks Media Day highlights: Beards, smiles & cup checks


Sharks Media Day highlights: Beards, smiles & cup checks

The boys were back together in San Jose on Thursday for Sharks Media Day, with plenty of smiles and moments of levity. Check out the highlights...

Hey Jumbo, you dropped something. 👖🤷‍♂️

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Martin Jones is pretty good at photobombs 📸💣

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🤳 Media Day #SJSharks

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New season. New commercials. 🕉🚌📺 #ComingSoon #SharksForLife

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