NHL Gameday: Hansen doubtful as Sharks begin road trip in Dallas

NHL Gameday: Hansen doubtful as Sharks begin road trip in Dallas

Programming note – Sharks-Stars coverage starts today at 5:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 42-22-7, 91 points, 1st Pacific Division
Stars: 28-33-10, 66 points, 6th Central Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***After a so-so homestand in which they went 3-3-0, the Sharks kick off a four-game-in-six-day road trip tonight in Dallas. In an odd quirk to the schedule, San Jose will visit Minnesota on Tuesday before going right back to Dallas for a game on Friday, and closes out the trip on Saturday in Nashville.

“It’s never easy going on the road,” Joe Pavelski said after Saturday’s loss, “but we’ve had a nice little homestand here. We’ll be excited to get in a few cities and bring our game there, and just get together and keep playing.”

San Jose has lost its last two games in regulation to St. Louis and Anaheim. While the 4-1 loss to the Blues on Thursday was a poor performance, the team was much more pleased with its effort in a 2-1 defeat to the Ducks on Saturday.

The Sharks have 11 games remaining, including seven away from home, as they try to lock down first place in the Pacific Division.

“We’ve never shied away from tough rinks or tough trips,” Pete DeBoer said. “We’ve just got to make sure we build on [Saturday]. If we play like we did, most nights we’re going to win.”

***Dallas has lost four of its last five games in regulation, including a 5-1 defeat at SAP Center just eight days ago. The Stars have been outscored 22-9 over that span, in what has been a hugely disappointing season for a club that made it to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.

Still, at home, the Stars are a respectable 18-12-6. The Sharks have a 19-12-3 mark on the road, including 4-1-0 in their last five.

***Jannik Hansen is reportedly doubtful for the game with an upper body injury, as he took an apparent stick to the head in the third period of Saturday’s loss. Danny O’Regan and Timo Meier were recalled on Sunday, so one or both will play.

Tomas Hertl skated with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski after Hansen was forced to leave.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Logan Couture. The Sharks’ lone goal scorer on Saturday with a power play marker in what was his 500th career game, Couture has 25 points in his last 25 games (11g, 14a) after accumulating just 27 points in his first 44. He leads the team in scoring since his hot streak began on Jan. 19, and is third on the team in goals (25) and points (52).

Stars: Kari Lehtonen/Antti Niemi. Despite spending more money on goaltending than any other club, the Stars have the worst combined save percentage in the league (.892). On 13 occasions the Stars have pulled their starter, including against the Sharks on March 12. Lehtonen was removed for Niemi after allowing three goals on eight shots, although Niemi’s entrance was delayed when he was nowhere to be found.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Tomas Hertl – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Joel Ward
Joonas Donskoi – Chris Tierney – Mikkel Boedker
Micheal Haley – Danny O’Regan – Marcus Sorensen

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

Aaron Dell (starter)
Martin Jones

Stars
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Ales Hemsky
Remi Elie – Tyler Seguin – Brett Ritchie
Devin Shore – Radek Faksa – Patrick Sharp
Curtis McKenzie – Adam Cracknell – Jiri Hudler

Esa Lindell – John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis – Greg Pateryn
Patrik Nemeth – Stephen Johns

Kari Lehtonen (starter)
Antti Niemi

INJURIES

Sharks: Jannik Hansen (upper body) is doubtful. David Schlemko (right knee) is questionable. Melker Karlsson (lower body) is out.

Stars: Jason Spezza (back spasms) is doubtful. Mattias Janmark (knee) and Antoine Roussel (hand) are out.

QUOTEABLE

“When you play well and come up [short] – those games are going to happen. But, excited to attack this last road trip.” – Joel Ward, after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Anaheim

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

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AP

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

No one asked, but I’m going to begin this week’s mailbag with my prediction for the Stanley Cup Final – Preds in six. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to a few of your questions…

Most likely to be moved this off-season? (Nik @niknisj25)

If the Sharks do make a move – and I’ve argued here that I think it may be time for a shakeup – they’ll surely be looking for someone up front to boost the offense. In that case, they’d likely have to sacrifice a defenseman or two.

The Sharks defense is the strength of the organization at the moment, as they had one of the best one-through-seven groups in the NHL this season. But it’s also an expensive one. The Sharks have nearly $27 million committed to their top seven defensemen next season, while Marc-Edouard Vlasic is due for a hefty raise beginning in 2018-19.

One name that could be intriguing to other teams is Justin Braun. The 30-year-old has been a part of the Sharks’ top shut down pair with Vlasic for several seasons now, and is signed for the next three years at a reasonable $3.8 million cap hit. The Sharks could potentially move him for offensive help, and slot in a guy like David Schlemko alongside Vlasic, while finally giving Dylan DeMelo a chance to play on a nightly basis on the third pair. A Vlasic-Schlemko pair could be more offensive than Vlasic-Braun, too, because as adept as they were at keeping the puck out of their own net, the Sharks didn’t get many goals from their defenders outside of Burns.

Of course, the upcoming expansion draft all but assures that nothing will happen until Las Vegas selects its team on June 21. If the Sharks lose a defenseman to the Golden Knights, they’ll be more reluctant to move another one. Still, with guys like Joakim Ryan, Tim Heed, Julius Bergman, Mirco Mueller and now Radim Simek in the pipeline, the club might be able to handle a couple departures.

How do we fix the power play next season? Bring in a coach that could help us? Change up the lines, or style of play? (adam smith @kickback408)

One thing that won’t be happening is a new coach, as Doug Wilson recently confirmed that Steve Spott would be back alongside Pete DeBoer. Bob Boughner could move on if he gets hired as a head coach elsewhere, but Boughner’s focus is the team’s defense and penalty kill.

Obviously, the future of the power play depends on who is on the roster, beginning with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Both saw their power play production dip this season.

Thornton went from 29 power play points in 2015-16 to 19 this season (he had eight power play goals in 2015-16, and just one this season). Marleau saw a decline from 25 power play points in 2015-16 to 16 last season. Even if both return, it may be time to try other bodies on the top unit.

Do you see Meier, Labanc and/or Sorensen having a breakout season next year? Or anyone else on the Barracuda? (Colin Dunn @ColinDunnACA)

Someone better had, because this team needs to start getting younger, and soon. One of the bigger disappointments of the 2016-17 season is that none of them apparently showed the coaching staff that they were prepared to play on a nightly basis at the NHL level.

Timo Meier and Marcus Sorensen, I would surmise, are at the top of the depth chart as far as forwards go. Their line in the playoffs with center Chris Tierney was the Sharks’ best through the early part of the series with Edmonton. As for Kevin Labanc, I think he’s fallen a bit since he had a brief run of success for the Sharks in December.

While the Sharks did a good job stockpiling some young players through the 2013-15 drafts, they’ve traded away a number of picks in recent years. In last year’s draft they didn’t have a first or third round pick; this year they don’t have any picks in the second, third or fourth rounds; and in 2018 they are already without their second and third round picks. 

It’s great to accumulate young players, but at some point they have to break through. Now is the time.

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

After five seasons with the Sharks, Larry Robinson is leaving the organization.

Robinson, 65, spent the last three seasons as the club's director of player development. He served as an associate coach from 2012-14.

TSN in Montreal and the Montreal Gazette originally reported the news.

The Sharks confirmed that Robinson's contract would be expiring, and general manager Doug Wilson told NBC Sports California that the divorce was amicable, and "because of geography." Robinson lives in Florida.

According to the Montreal Gazette

Robinson’s contract with the Sharks expires on July 1, but agent Donnie Cape said Thursday that San Jose general manager Doug Wilson has given him permission to speak with other teams. Robinson lives in Bradenton, Fla., and the long travel distance to San Jose is one of big the reasons he’s looking for a new team to work for.

Robinson seemed to ponder retirement in 2014, but signed a three-year extension to remain in the Sharks' front office. He worked mostly from his home in Florida the past two seasons, making occasional trips to San Jose, including during training camp.

In the summer of 2015, Robinson underwent surgery for skin cancer.

Recognized as one of the best defensemen in NHL history, Robinson won six Stanley Cup championships with the Montreal Canadiens as a player, and holds the NHL record for playing 20 straight seasons in the playoffs. A 10-time All-Star and two-time Norris Trophy winner, Robinson was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995.

Robinson was the head coach of the Los Angeles Kings from 1995-99, and the New Jersey Devils from 1999-2002 and again in 2005-06. He led the Devils to the Stanley Cup in 2000. Robinson has nine Stanley Cup rings as a player and coach.

* * *

The Sharks did not renew the contract of pro scout Jason Rowe, who had been with the organization for the past nine seasons. Rowe focused on eastern NHL and AHL teams.