Murray eased back into lineup

586962.jpg

Murray eased back into lineup

SAN JOSE Douglas Murray felt fine physically on Wednesday, playing for the first time since Dec. 3 with a right hand injury that sidelined him for 10 games. It was a different element of play that may have negatively affected him, though.

It felt more slow because of the thinking part of it. When youve been gone for three weeks you kind of over think things and it makes you kind of slow that way, but the legs felt great, Murray said after practice on Friday at Sharks Ice.

Murray played just over 14 minutes, down from his season average of more than 19 per game. He was paired with Justin Braun on what was the teams third defense pair behind Dan BoyleMarc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent BurnsJason Demers.

Todd McLellan explained his thought process regarding Murray.

Were trying to limit him. We didnt come into the game saying were going to cut his minutes back or anything, thats just the way the game evolved that he played 14, the coach said. I think he plays best around that 17 or 18 minute average, so hell get there.

For now, though, it appears that Murray will continue to play with Braun, as his regular partner over the past few seasons, Boyle, has been among the Sharks best players in recent weeks on both ends of the ice while paired with Vlasic.

In his last eight games, Boyle has a goal and four assists for five points and a 3 rating. Hes also generated a whopping 27 shots on goal during that span. The uneven start to the year, in which it was later revealed that Boyle played through a broken foot, appears to be behind the veteran defenseman.

We think that Boyler has played maybe his best hockey over the last how ever many weeks. Thats been with Vlasic, McLellan said. We like whats going on there, so we may keep it that way.

We switch up partners all the time. I know all of my teammates tendencies, but obviously when you play so long with someone, you kind of know what the other ones going to do and where hes going to be. That makes it a little bit easier," said Murray of Boyle. "But, every game we play with different guys, so its not a big deal.

Meanwhile, the Sharks are still battling a pair of injuries on the blue line. Jim Vandermeer remains on injured reserve with a left hand injury, while Colin White missed Wednesdays game with a lower body injury.

Vandermeer practiced with the Sharks again on Friday, as he has for the past two weeks. White did not, but he could return to the ice as soon as Saturday, according to McLellan.

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.”