NHL Gameday: Buffalo has been surprising nemesis for Sharks

NHL Gameday: Buffalo has been surprising nemesis for Sharks

Programming note – Sharks-Sabres coverage starts today at 7:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 41-20-7, 89 points, 1st Pacific Division
Sabres: 28-29-12, 68 points, 7th Atlantic Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***The Sharks have been very good this season against lesser competition; when facing teams that aren’t currently in playoff position, they are 24-4-6. But on Feb. 7 in Buffalo, against a team that will miss the postseason once again, the Sharks saw a 4-1 third period lead dissolve into a 5-4 overtime loss.

“We played two periods about as well as you can play, and a third period about as poorly as you can play,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “This team, for whatever reason, seems to have our number and has over the years. So, we’ve got to get past that.”

Marc-Edouard Vlasic recalled: “We gave too many odd-man rushes, and they’ll make you pay.”

Buffalo has won five in a row against the Sharks, and is 10-0-1 in the last 11. San Jose’s last regulation win was on Jan. 23, 2010.

The Sabres snapped a four-game losing streak on Saturday against Columbus, winning 5-3. They are 2-6-2 in their last 10.

***The Sharks’ lineup appears unchanged from Sunday, other than goalie Martin Jones returning to the net. David Schlemko and Melker Karlsson are still recovering from lower body injuries.

“Schlemko a lot closer. Karlsson a little bit closer, but still not available,” DeBoer said.

Rookie Marcus Sorensen will remain in the lineup, after he notched an assist against the Stars.

***The Sharks are 2-1-0 on their season-long six-game homestand, which continues with the Blues on Thursday and Ducks on Saturday. They are 22-8-4 on home ice, while Buffalo is 11-17-6 on the road.
 
KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Joel Ward. The veteran winger was promoted to the second line late in Saturday’s loss to Nashville and remained there on Sunday, posting a key early second period goal that deflated the Stars in San Jose’s comfortable win. Ward made the most of his chance to start in a top six role for the first time since Dec. 13 in Toronto.

Sabres: Ryan O’Reilly. The Sabres’ second leading scorer with 46 points (16g, 30a), O’Reilly has 11 points (4g, 7a) in his last 12 games against the Sharks. In his last seven games, he’s tallied three goals and five assists for eight points, with 20 shots on goal over that span.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Jannik Hansen – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Joel Ward
Joonas Donskoi – Tomas Hertl – Mikkel Boedker
Micheal Haley – Chris Tierney – Marcus Sorensen

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – Dylan DeMelo

Martin Jones (starter)
Aaron Dell

Sabres
Evander Kane – Ryan O’Reilly – Justin Bailey
Matt Moulson – Jack Eichel – Sam Reinhart
Marcus Foligno – Zemgus Girgensons – Brian Gionta
Nic Deslauriers – Evan Rodrigues – Tyler Ennis

Jake McCabe – Rasmus Ristolainen
Justin Faulk – Zach Bogosian
Josh Gorges – Cody Franson

Robin Lehner
Anders Nilsson

INJURIES

Sharks: David Schlemko (lower body) and Melker Karlsson (lower body) are out.

Sabres: Kyle Okposo (ribs) is day-to-day. Dmitry Kulikov (upper body), Johan Larsson (dislocated wrist) and William Carrier (knee) are out.

QUOTEABLE

“We’re happy with where we are. We still want to catch a couple teams, but we want to make sure our game is going in the right direction heading into playoffs.” – Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Marleau wants to return, but extension with Sharks could be tricky

Marleau wants to return, but extension with Sharks could be tricky

SAN JOSE – Just like his longtime teammate and fellow pending unrestricted free agent Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau said on Monday that he would like to return to the Sharks next season.

“Yeah, it would be nice. We’ll see if that’s an option,” Marleau said. “A lot of time here before this decision needs to be made.”

When asked if there have been any talks yet about an extension, Marleau said: “Not really, no.” Marleau, who was actively exploring his options to leave the Sharks early in the 2015-16 season, would be eligible to sign with another team on July 1.

The 37-year-old forward said he still feels like he has “at least five good years in me, or maybe more.”

“I still think I can contribute and play,” he said. “Until I think I can’t do that anymore, I’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

Marleau has spent his entire 19-year NHL career with the Sharks. He’s the franchise leader in just about every offensive statistical category, including games played (1,493) goals (508) and points (1,082). Marleau became just the 45th player in NHL history to reach 500 career goals on Feb. 2 in Vancouver. In 82 games this season, he posted 27 goals (third on the team) and 46 points (fifth).

He was asked what it would mean to spend his entire career in San Jose.

“There’s only a few people who have ever done that in their careers,” he said. “That’s something special.”

If Marleau wants a multi-year contract, which is likely, it could make it tricky for Doug Wilson to keep him, though. Players such as Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are due sizable raises in their next contracts, as both will enter the final year of their current bargain deals in 2017-18.

Wilson called it “a priority” to get Jones and Vlasic signed before training camp. He can begin talks on July 1, per NHL CBA rules.

“Certainly Martin Jones is everything we expected him to be, and he’s crucial,” Wilson said. “Marc-Edouard Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league. You saw what he did against one of the top players in the league (Connor McDavid). Marc-Edouard is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world. 

“Both of them are extremely important to get under contract, and we can start those discussions in the next little while.”

Both Jones and Vlasic indicated they would like to stay in San Jose past next season, too, and it’s conceivable that the combined price tag for those players will be somewhere in the $13-$15 million range. Both made just a combined $7.25 million in 2016-17 ($4.25 million for Vlasic, $3 million for Jones).

“Oh, absolutely,” Jones said, when asked if he could see himself with the Sharks long term. “I love it here. The guys are great. It’s a lot of fun coming to the rink every day. City has been great. The fans are awesome, and we have a great team. I’m excited.”

Vlasic said on March 14 that he would like to play his whole career with the Sharks, and confirmed that sentiment again on Monday, although the timing of an extension gets seemed of little importance to the 30-year-old.

“When it happens it will happen. It doesn’t matter if it’s July 1 or during the season,” he said.

The Sharks also have several pending restricted free agent forwards this summer in Chris Tierney, Marcus Sorensen, Melker Karlsson and Joonas Donskoi. It’s likely that they’d prefer to keep all of those players, and some multi-year contracts could be the result. Other players like Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc showed flashes of becoming solid NHL contributors, too.

Along with the salary cap (still yet to be revealed), Thornton’s future, and which player the Sharks lose in the upcoming expansion draft, there are plenty of factors both sides need to weigh before any decision on Marleau gets made.

“[Marleau and Thornton] have been cornerstones of this franchise for a long time, not only as players, but as people,” Wilson said. “There’s a lot of variables that go into that decision, and the first one is me sitting down and talking with both of them. We haven’t had a chance to do that, so we’ll get there.”

DeBoer: Joe Thornton played through torn knee ligaments in playoffs

DeBoer: Joe Thornton played through torn knee ligaments in playoffs

SAN JOSE – There was finally some clarification on Monday on what Joe Thornton was playing through, as the Sharks gathered one final time at their practice facility before the offseason.

And, it was significant, as the 37-year-old was dealing with a “torn MCL and ACL” in his left knee, according to coach Pete DeBoer.

“I don’t know if the injury report has come out yet, but I’ve never seen a player play with a torn MCL and ACL,” DeBoer said. “Basically, his knee is floating there. It was as courageous an effort, him doing what he did, as I’ve ever seen.”

Thornton was scheduled to have surgery on the knee later on Monday afternoon, according to general manager Doug Wilson. Prior to that, the longtime centerman met with the local media.

"I'm going to go see the doctors right after this and see what they say,” he said. “So, I'll know more about it today. I just know it was pretty sore playing."

Wilson said: “I’ve been in the business a long time. To see a player play with that type of injury tells you everything you need to know about him.”

As for a timeframe for Thornton to return, Wilson said: “Don’t know. We’ll know after [surgery].”

Thornton, an unrestricted free agent who has spent the last 12 seasons with the Sharks, said that he would like to return.

"Yeah, I want to come back. I think this is a Stanley Cup caliber team and I think I'm a little bit older and I realize how good this team is,” he said. “Of course I'd like to [return]. But, we'll have to see. I'm sure we'll be talking. But right now I haven't been a dad for a long time. I need to turn into a family man for a couple months."

Thornton said there have not been any talks yet about a contract extension.

“I just wanted to focus on hockey this year,” he said. “There's no hurry, but yeah, I want to be back. This team is a real talented team, and I love playing here."

Wilson said: “We have lots of time … We’ve got four-and-a-half months until we’re back at it.”

Thornton, who has been downplaying the injury since it occurred on April 2 – including when he said three days later that there was “no doubt” he would return for the playoff opener, and then missing the first two games of the first round series with Edmonton – struck the same tune on Monday when asked what he had to go through to suit up.

"Just the normal stuff that hockey players deal with,” he said. “It was just unfortunate, the time of the year, that it happened three games before the end of the season and the playoffs [and] you’ve got to deal with something like that. 

“Hockey players are a different breed. There's probably five or six guys that had to deal with different stuff. But it is what it is. I'll go get it checked out today, and go from there."

Although Thornton’s was the most severe, there were other Sharks playing through injury as is commonplace at the end of any NHL season. 

Tomas Hertl suffered a broken foot in the same game as Thornton on April 2 in Vancouver, while forward Patrick Marleau had a broken thumb. Logan Couture played through a mouth injury that he has already revealed will require extensive dental work this summer, while Joonas Donskoi separated his left shoulder twice over the second half of the regular season.