Mitchell re-invigorated with new linemates

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Mitchell re-invigorated with new linemates

GLENDALE It was one of the biggest highlight-reel moments of the season, and it came courtesy of an unusual suspect.

Torrey Mitchells goal with less than two seconds left in the second period in Dallas was dazzling. The forward, who has scored just seven times this year in 61 games, received a pass from the neutral zone from Joe Thornton with the clock winding down and the visitors trailing by a goal. He cut to his right, and then quickly shifted his weight the other direction in making defenseman Alex Goligoski look foolish. He finished it off with a sneaky short-side backhand that beat goaltender Kari Lehtonen.

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Dont really have an explanation, it just worked out, Mitchell said on Friday about his goal. It felt good, and that was obviously a timely goal at the end of the period.

The Sharks seemingly carried the momentum into the third period, taking their first lead just 25 seconds after the faceoff on Patrick Marleaus 27th of the season, before the disappointing end.

But the loss doesnt diminish the fact that Mitchell, who has two goals in the last three games, seems re-invigorated on a line with newcomers Daniel Winnik and Dominic Moore.

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That line is starting to feel comfortable with each other. There are some good pieces there speedy pieces, good defensive pieces. Theyve been able to chip in offensively, and I like the way the three of them have been playing, Todd McLellan said.

New blood often brings new energy, and not necessarily with those players themselves. Mitchell seems to sincerely enjoy playing with his new linemates, and it shows.

Theyre doing a good job, theyre easy to play with, theyre fun to play with, and they have a lot of energy. We obviously have a lot of guys pushing for the third line role, too, so its keeping us honest and keeping us showing up every night, knowing we basically have to fight for our position. Its been good for us, and its been good for me.

Thats led to an uptick in production on the scoresheet, but theres more to it than that. Hes gaining the confidence of his head coach, who scratched him from the lineup on two separate occasions, most recently on Feb. 21 at Columbus.

Two situations this year where hes come out of the lineup, and hes done what a good player will do. Hes responded, McLellan said. Now, a real good player is going to maintain that. Hes getting that opportunity now, and I think Torrey Mitchell is a real good player. Lets see if he can do it, and maintain it.

It appears that McLellan is happy with that trios defensive play, too. Winnik, although he has yet to score, has been solid in his own zone and along the boards. Moore is also playing well as the center on that line, which lately, has been drawing the assignment of keeping the oppositions top line at bay.

At home, where McLellan has the last change, they were out there against Edmonton's dangerous Jordan Eberle-Sam Gagner-Taylor Hall line. On Thursday against the Stars, Mike Ribeiro, Michael Ryder and Loui Eriksson entered with a combined 31 points in the last eight games, but had trouble generating offense while matched up primarily against that line.

Mitchell embraces that challenge.

You want to be careful, because you want to stay on your toes and contribute offensively as well. But obviously, if thats our role for that game is to shut down that other teams top line, then thats fun for us, Mitchell said. Its exciting going into the game knowing you have an opportunity to shut down Gagner, or whoever it may be. Its good. I like that. Its fun.

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.”