NHL Gameday: Sharks host Panthers; Labanc thrives on top line

NHL Gameday: Sharks host Panthers; Labanc thrives on top line

Programming note – Sharks-Panthers coverage starts today at 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 34-18-5, 73 points, 1st Pacific Division
Panthers: 24-20-10, 58 points, 5th Atlantic Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***The Sharks will play their first home game after a four-game road trip tonight against the Panthers, whom they beat in Florida on Nov. 10, 4-2. San Jose has won the last three head-to-head matchups.

Florida is five points out of the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

“They’re [in] desperation mode with [27] games left,” Pete DeBoer said. “Anybody that’s packed in and fighting for those last playoff spots you’re going to see their best game here for the rest of the season.”

After going 1-8-1 in the first home game after a multiple-game road trip last season, the Sharks are 3-2 in such situations this year.

***It’s uncertain whether rookie Nikolay Goldobin will be in the lineup after the former first round pick was recalled on Wednesday morning. One line that will remain the same, though, is the top line of Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Kevin Labanc.

Labanc had a pair of assists on that line after getting bumped up there to start the second period on Sunday in New Jersey, a 4-1 Sharks win. It would seem he has a chance to stick there now that Tomas Hertl has shifted to third line center.

“It’s an unbelievable opportunity,” Labanc said. “They’re great players, and I’m just fortunate enough to be on that line. I’ve just got to get the puck to them and let them do all the work.”

Thornton said: “He’s forechecking hard, he’s complimenting me and Pav real nicely. He’s been working extremely hard to fit in, and he’s done a great job.”

***Patrick Marleau will be honored in a pregame ceremony for scoring his 500th career goal on Feb. 2 in Vancouver.  He will also become just the 10th player in league history to skate in 600 consecutive games. That iron man streak began on April 9, 2009.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Joe Thornton. The veteran center brings a three-game point streak into tonight’s game (2g, 2a), including his first two goals of the season in a manned net. Thornton is now just four assists away from 1,000 in his career.

Panthers: Jaromir Jagr. The Panthers winger is celebrating his 45th birthday today, and with his 10th goal of the season on Saturday, he’s scored double-digit goals in each of his 23 seasons in the league.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Kevin Labanc – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Mikkel Boedker
Timo Meier – Tomas Hertl – Joel Ward
Micheal Haley – Chris Tierney – Melker Karlsson

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Martin Jones (starter)
Aaron Dell

Panthers
Jonathan Huberdeau – Aleksander Barkov – Jaromir Jagr
Jussi Jokinen – Vincent Trocheck – Reilly Smith
Michael Sgarbossa – Nick Bjugstad – Jonathan Marchessault
Shawn Thornton – Derek MacKenzie – Colton Sceviour

Keith Yandle – Jason Demers
Mark Pysyk – Aaron Ekblad
Michael Matheson – Alex Petrovic

Roberto Luongo
James Reimer

INJURIES

Sharks: Joonas Donskoi (upper body) and Dylan DeMelo (broken wrist) are out.

Panthers: None.

QUOTEABLE

“He was a trooper, three-year-old, standing behind the bench all game. I thought I have a three-year-old, that’s a tough feat to do. So, come on back and meet some of the boys.” – Joe Thornton, on bringing a young fan into the dressing room after Sunday’s game in New Jersey

Sharks conclude 2017 NHL Draft with five more forwards in the system

Sharks conclude 2017 NHL Draft with five more forwards in the system

CHICAGO – After nabbing a center in the first round on Friday, the Sharks added four more forwards and one defenseman to conclude the second day of the annual NHL Entry Draft on Saturday, held this year at United Center.

The Sharks weren’t explicitly trying to restock their forward cabinet, according to general manager Doug Wilson and scouting director Tim Burke, although the club did make two separate moves in surrendering some later round picks to move up in the fourth round (to take center Scott Reedy) and sixth round (to take left wing Sasha Chmelevski).

First, though, it was defenseman Mario Ferraro in the second round at 49th overall. The offensive defenseman was a player that the Sharks targeted, using the pick they acquired from New Jersey last Friday as part of the trade for Mirco Mueller.

“He’s got a lot of speed, offensive guy, exciting,” Burke said. “Puck-moving type of guy.”

Wilson said: “We’re very pleased with the d-man. He’s a very dynamic, athletic guy, great skater. He was a guy that we moved up a little bit aggressively to get because that round, you could see people going after who they wanted. He is a guy that we identified.”

After moving up from the fifth round to the fourth round last Friday, again because of the Mueller trade, the Sharks jumped up 21 more spots in the fourth round by obtaining the Rangers pick at 102nd overall for the 123rd and 174th selections.

Center Scott Reedy is a player that Burke has high hopes for, projecting the Minnesota native as a “second line right winger [with] high-end potential.” Burke pointed out that Reedy, who is friends with first round pick Josh Norris, occasionally played on the same line with Norris for each of the last two seasons with the U.S. Under-18 team.

“He’s a big, strong forward that can play both positions (center and right wing),” Burke said.

Right wing Jacob McGrew, an Orange, CA native, went to the Sharks in the fifth round despite missing all of his first season in junior with a lower body injury suffered in training camp with Spokane (WHL).

“We knew about him before he went up there,” Burke said. “He’s a California kid. … If he was healthy he probably would have gone earlier.”

The Sharks again moved up to snag Huntington Beach native and center Chmelevski at 185 overall, and made their sixth and final pick in the 212th position by taking left wing Ivan Chekhovich in the seventh round. Both players look to have some offensive skill, based on their numbers and Youtube highlights.

Burke was surprised that both players were around so late.

“I thought they had pretty good years and they kind of slipped in the draft,” he said. “We weighed that versus some other more project-type guys, and we thought they had more offense and finish to their game. They just kept sliding, so we took a chance on them.”

Wilson said: “We moved up for the guys we wanted, and then there were some skilled guys at the end that we were surprised were still there. … We’ll go back and take a look how it all went, but we feel, I think, really good about where we ended up with this.”

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

CHICAGO – Ilya Kovalchuk is still reportedly mulling over a return to the NHL, four years after he surprisingly walked away from a monstrous contract with the New Jersey Devils to play in the KHL.

The Sharks have been linked to Kovalchuk, in large part because of Pete DeBoer, who was Kovalchuk’s most recent head coach. In 2011-12, Kovalchuk was a dangerous scoring winger under DeBoer, helping the Devils reach the Stanley Cup Final.

It was apparently a good working relationship between the player and the coach for the two seasons they were together, DeBoer said on Friday at the NHL Entry Draft at United Center.

“I loved Kovy in New Jersey,” DeBoer said. “We went to a Stanley Cup Final together. He was a huge piece for us there. I really enjoyed coaching him. I haven’t seen him in four or five years now. I’m sure there’s still a lot of game left there.”

DeBoer said he’s had no contact with the 34-year-old Kovalchuk, who would have to be traded by New Jersey before signing a new contract with any other NHL club. Still, it seems like the Sharks’ coach might welcome a reunion with Kovalchuk, who posted 78 points in 60 games with SKA Saint Petersburg last season, and has 816 points (417g, 399a) in 816 career NHL games with Atlanta and New Jersey.

“I had a really good relationship with him. I had a lot of respect for him as a player and a person,” DeBoer said.

* * *

DeBoer seemed as uncertain as everyone else as to whether Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will return to the Sharks or move on to other clubs as free agents.

But, naturally, it’s on his mind.

“You think about it all the time,” DeBoer said. “They’re obviously important pieces in the history of the franchise, and in our group. I also understand the business side of this, and there’s always tough decisions to make. The way I approach these type of things is I’m going to go to Canada and relax, and Doug [Wilson] is going to make those decisions. I’m sure we’ll have a good group come training camp.”

“We’ve got a really good core group of guys and some tough decisions that have to be made. The one thing Doug and his group has shown over the years is their ability to stay competitive, to find a way even after making tough decisions. I have all the faith in the world in that, and I’m excited about training camp.”

* * *

The Sharks lost David Schlemko in the expansion draft earlier in the week. Vegas then flipped him to the Canadiens for a fifth round pick in 2019.

“I think for David, it’s a great opportunity for him, especially going to Montreal,” DeBoer said. “For us, it’s an opportunity for a young guy to jump in. The one thing we have in the organization is some depth. There’s a lot of guys knocking on the door, and guys hungry to grab that job.”