Sharks

NHL Gameday: Sharks seek higher 'compete level' in Game 3 vs Oilers

NHL Gameday: Sharks seek higher 'compete level' in Game 3 vs Oilers

Programming note – Sharks-Oilers coverage starts today at 6:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on NBC Sports California

SERIES SCHEDULE

The best-of-seven series is tied, one game apiece

Game 1: Sharks 3, Oilers 2 (OT)
Game 2: Oilers 2, Sharks 0
Game 3: Sunday, April 16, Oilers @ Sharks (7 p.m.)
Game 4: Tuesday, April 18, Oilers @ Sharks (7 p.m.)
Game 5: Thursday, April 20, Sharks @ Oilers (7:30 p.m.)
*Game 6: Saturday, April 22, Oilers @ Sharks (TBD)
*Game 7: Monday, April 24, Sharks @ Oilers (TBD)

* - if necessary

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***Tonight is the Sharks’ first home game of the series. They went 8-4 at SAP Center in the playoffs last season, and were 26-11-4 at home in the 2016-17 regular season.

“We’re excited. I think we realize what it was to us last year,” Joe Pavelski said. “We’re looking forward to getting out there in front of our crowd and kind of just feeding off that energy, because it does give you a little bit of a boost.”

***The Oilers playing a more physical game then San Jose has become the biggest storyline in the series. Edmonton not only has a 90-54 advantage in hits through the first two games, many of them have been of the heavy and punishing variety.

The Sharks, though, don’t appear to be making any lineup changes other than Joe Thornton’s potential return. Pugilist Micheal Haley won’t draw in.

“For me, it’s not about big hits. We’re not a big hit team,” Pete DeBoer said. “Our physical play is puck possession, and being heavy and hard to play against. That’s the physical side of the game, for me.”

“If you define physicality by dropping the gloves and fighting someone, no, we don’t have that. But, I think we’ve got plenty of physicality in our lineup for what I would consider physicality.”

***The first thing that needs improving from Game 2, according to Pavelski, is, “probably just our compete level a little bit. … Whether it’s on our power play or five-on-five, we can be a little better there.”

The power play, of course, will have to be better after going 0-for-6 in Game 2 while allowing two shorthanded goals. Scoring a goal or two with a man advantage also might prevent the Oilers’ from taking so many runs as Sharks players, too.

“The only way to punish teams for taking too many penalties is to put a puck in the net,” Jannik Hansen said. “You score a couple early, maybe it backs them off a little bit.”

“That being said, you need to create offensive five-on-five, too. … The penalties have been called, but everybody knows the deeper [the series] goes that harder it is to get power plays. That’s where the five-on-five has to step up.”

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Brent Burns. After he was a force in Game 1 with 18 shot attempts, Burns was held to just five attempts (and two on goal) in Game 2. The Sharks’ leading scorer in the regular season is still looking for his first point in the series, and if the Sharks power play is going to start producing, Burns will have to play a role in that, too.

Oilers: Zack Kassian. The Oilers’ forward was the star of Game 2, scoring a shorthanded goal and delivering six hits, including a pair of heavy blows on Brenden Dillon and Logan Couture. The Sharks had no response for Kassian, who was permitted to run around in creating havoc all over the ice.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Melker Karlsson – Logan Couture – Joe Pavelski
Jannik Hansen – Tomas Hertl – Mikkel Boedker
Joonas Donskoi – Patrick Marleau – Joel Ward
Marcus Sorensen – Chris Tierney – Timo Meier

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

Martin Jones (starter)
Aaron Dell

Oilers
Patrick Maroon – Connor McDavid – Leon Draisaitl
Milan Lucic – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jordan Eberle
Drake Caggiula – Mark Letestu – Zack Kassian
Benoit Pouliot – David Desharnais – Iiro Pakarinen

Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
Andrej Sekera – Kris Russell
Darnell Nurse – Matt Benning

Cam Talbot (starter)
Laurent Brossoit

INJURIES

Sharks: Joe Thornton (left knee) is questionable.

Oilers: Oscar Klefbom (lower body) is probable. Tyler Pitlick (torn ACL) is out.

SHARKS PLAYOFF RECORD WHEN…

The Sharks are 9-5 all-time when a series is tied 1-1. They are 10-4 when leading a series two-games-to-one, and 3-10 when trailing a series two-games-to-one.

The Sharks have an all-time Game 3 record of 22-13, including 13-6 at home.

When teams are tied 1-1 in a series, the winner of Game 3 wins the series 67.6 percent of the time (202-97 record).

QUOTEABLE

“It’s big boy hockey, but our guys were hanging in, sacrificing. That’s what the playoffs are about.” – Brent Burns

 

Five months after taking puck to face, Sharks' Logan Couture 'still pretty sore'

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AP

Five months after taking puck to face, Sharks' Logan Couture 'still pretty sore'

Nearly five months after taking a puck to the mouth that resulted in major damage, Logan Couture is still dealing with the aftereffects of his surgically repaired mouth, which now features several false teeth.

Appearing on the NHL Network this week, Couture was asked how he’s feeling with less than one month to go before the Sharks open training camp on Sep. 14.

“There’s good days and bad days,” Couture said. “My bottom teeth are still my real teeth. They’ve tried to keep them so I don’t lose them. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, they’re still pretty sore. My top teeth are all fake now – my front six, I think. So, it’s different. It just feels different in my mouth. 

“But everything else with my face and all that is healed. I’m lucky that it’s an injury that didn’t affect my training, and hopefully won’t affect me going forward.”

Couture was injured on March 25 in Nashville. He was set up just outside the crease in the offensive zone when a Brent Burns point shot hit a stick before squarely battering the now 28-year-old’s mouth.

After missing the final seven games of the regular season, Couture returned for the Sharks’ playoff opener. He managed to play in all six games of the first round loss, posting two goals and one assist for three points, although he struggled at times and was seemingly targeted by the Oilers.

Couture is currently in his hometown of London, Ontario where he’s staging a casino event for brain research. Fellow Sharks Chris Tierney and Dylan DeMelo will take part, as will other NHL stars like the Kings’ Drew Doughty.

Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes

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AP

Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes

It was late in the lockout-shortened 2013 season when Sharks general manager Doug Wilson really started to prepare for the future. Douglas Murray was dealt to Pittsburgh for a pair of second round selections. Ryane Clowe packed his bags for Broadway, in exchange for a second and a third round pick from the Rangers. Michal Handzus went to Chicago for a fourth rounder.

Wilson’s logic was sound, as it typically takes two-to-four years before draft picks have a chance to make an impact at the NHL level. The general manager figured that by then, players like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau either wouldn’t be a part of the team anymore or would be slowing down. Restocking the cupboards was essential.

From 2013-15, the Sharks made 24 selections over the next three NHL entry drafts, including seven total picks in the top two rounds. Some players have shown promise. Others haven’t. A few aren’t in the organization anymore. That’s the nature of the business.

The way the 2017-18 opening night roster is shaping up, though, now is the time that some of these young players in the system simply have to step up. Marleau and his 27 goals last season are gone, Thornton’s numbers are down and he’s coming off of major knee surgery, Joe Pavelski is now 33 years old, and the team’s offense depth is suspect at best. There have been no notable additions in the offseason.

Frankly, this season could be viewed as a referendum on the team’s amateur scouting staff, including longtime director Tim Burke. Wilson handed Burke and his staff a wonderful opportunity to provide the organization with fresh talent with the team approaching an organizational crossroads.

What has transpired so far is a bit concerning, as already two of the team’s first round picks from that span ended up being nothing more than trade bait.

* * *

Mirco Mueller, chosen 18th overall in 2013, was a huge disappointment in San Jose. It’s been well documented that he was mishandled by the organization when he was rushed to the league in 2014-15, but even this past season, regular observers of the Barracuda had Mueller as nothing more than the AHL team’s fourth-best defenseman. He’s now in New Jersey, swapped for a pair of draft picks.

The scouting staff was so high on Mueller on draft day that Wilson traded a valuable second round pick to Detroit to move up just two places to select him. With those acquired picks, the Red Wings took Anthony Mantha 20th overall and Tyler Bertuzzi 58th overall – two forwards that have shown a whole lot more NHL potential than Mueller (especially Mantha, who has 39 points in 70 career NHL games so far).

Perhaps more concerning, though, is that the Sharks 2013 draft class as a whole is looking like a dud. Second round pick Gabryel Boudreau suffered a wrist injury and is no longer in the organization anymore, but he was trending downward even before he got hurt. None of the remaining players selected from rounds four-through-seven look to be NHL quality, either.

The next year brought Nikolay Goldobin, chosen 27th overall after the Sharks traded down in the first round, and he ended up being the key piece in the Jannik Hansen acquisition from Vancouver. Goldobin showed some flashes of offensive talent during his time in the organization, but his lack of hockey sense and on-ice work ethic helped lead to his exit. Whether Goldobin becomes an NHL regular, even with a fresh start in Vancouver, is highly uncertain.

Had the Sharks stayed at 20th overall, they could have selected Nick Schmaltz (20th overall), Robby Fabbri (21st overall), or David Pastrnak (25th overall). Instead, they moved down and took Goldobin, making it back-to-back first round failures.

* * *

Still, unlike 2013, other players from Goldobin’s draft class have shown some promise. Second rounder Julius Bergman was a steady blueliner for a good Barracuda team last season, and although he’s probably not NHL-ready yet, he could be on the right track. Late in the draft the team found Kevin Labanc in the sixth round with the 171st overall selection, and Labanc had some nice moments with the Sharks last season. His shot and his hands make him a solid prospect, although Labanc still probably has to get a bit bigger and stronger to play in the NHL full-time.

Noah Rod (second round, 53rd overall) and Rourke Chartier (fifth round, 149th overall) are also still developing, with Rod playing against men in the Swiss league the past few seasons and Chartier a valuable player for the Barracuda last year.

In 2015, the draft provided the Sharks with Timo Meier at ninth overall, as the club drafted in the top 10 for the first time since 2007. At this point, Meier is far and away the best prospect in the organization, and he’ll likely be relied upon to play a top nine (or even a top six) role for the Sharks this season.

The 2015 draft brought other decent prospects, too. Defenseman Jeremy Roy was selected 31st overall, and after suffering a serious knee injury in juniors this year, he’ll get a chance to play for the Barracuda this year. Fourth rounder Adam Helewka and fifth rounder Rudolfs Balcers have also developed nicely since draft day. It’s still a bit too early to evaluate that draft as a whole.

It should also be mentioned that while their draft day record may be suspect the past few seasons, the Sharks have brought in European free agents like Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen. Karlsson has developed into a versatile, hard-working forward; Donskoi has shown flashes of offensive brilliance despite a disappointing second year in the NHL last season; and Sorensen looks primed to make the opening night roster after his speed and tenacity shined through during the Sharks’ first round series loss to Edmonton.

The Sharks scouting staff has helped to keep the team competitive for a long time, and they’re as big a reason as any that the team has missed the playoffs just once in the past 11 seasons. But this is also a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, and now is the time that the Sharks need to see some results from players that were chosen by Burke and company.