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

 

Vegas picks defenseman Schlemko from Sharks in expansion draft

Vegas picks defenseman Schlemko from Sharks in expansion draft

UPDATE (6:28pm PT on Wednesday): The Las Vegas Golden Knights have selected Sharks defenseman David Schlemko in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft.

***

A few hours before the Vegas Golden Knights roster was set to be unveiled, word leaked on which Sharks player they have selected.

Defenseman David Schlemko will be headed to the expansion team, which will begin play in the fall, according to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun.

A source told NBC Sports California that there is no side deal or trade between the Sharks and Golden Knights. Vegas is simply selecting one of the available players that the Sharks did not protect ahead of the expansion draft.

It’s possible that the Golden Knights are selecting Schlemko with the purpose of trading him to another team. The 30-year-old is signed for the next three years at a reasonable $2.1 million salary cap hit.

The Sharks should have internal options to replace Schlemko, who, in his only season with the Sharks, notched two goals and 16 assists for 18 points in 62 games while skating primarily on the third defense pair with Brenden Dillon.

Dylan DeMelo, who has served as the seventh defenseman for each of the last two seasons, could finally break through to earn a full time spot in the active lineup. Tim Heed and Joakim Ryan, who both spent the majority of the 2016-17 season with the AHL Barracuda, were signed to two-year contract extensions late last week and could be ready to break through.

By selecting Schlemko, Vegas is passing on other available Sharks like Dillon, Paul Martin, Joel Ward and Mikkel Boedker.

Brent Burns' path to Norris was an unconventional one

Brent Burns' path to Norris was an unconventional one

It was February 22, 2013, and the Sharks were in Chicago for a game in the first half of the lockout-shortened season.

In the third period of a 1-1 tie, Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad accelerated towards the Sharks’ end on what looked like a harmless two-on-two rush. Directly in front of Saad in the neutral zone was a backwards-skating Brent Burns, who puzzlingly slowed up, pivoted the wrong way, and allowed Saad far too much room to fire a wrist shot from the circle that cleanly beat Antti Niemi. It was the game-winner in a 2-1 Chicago victory.

In the hallway outside the visiting dressing room at United Center afterwards, then-coach Todd McLellan wasn’t pleased. 

"I thought that we let a player in a situation that wasn't very dangerous skate into a primary scoring spot without even challenging him,” MeLellan said. "I'm not sure if our goalie was on the angle or not, but I'm disappointed we didn't challenge [Saad] earlier."

Translation: Burns misplayed it. Badly.

Burns, it was later revealed, was having difficulty with his mobility after an offseason surgery. About a month later, also partially because of that injury, he was converted into a power forward – and he was an effective one, at that. The thought of him eventually winning a Norris Trophy in his career would have been preposterous as the abbreviated 2013 season came to a close.

Four years later, though, it’s happened. Burns was named as the NHL’s most outstanding defenseman for the 2016-17 season at the NHL Awards show in Las Vegas on Wednesday night, the first Sharks player to ever capture the prestigious award. It capped off a dominant season for Burns, who even got some votes for the Hart Trophy as league MVP.

The path that Burns took to winning the Norris is as unique as his fashion sense.

* * *

After more than a season playing right wing, including the entirety of 2013-14 when he posted 22 goals and 48 points in 69 games, general manager Doug Wilson announced after the Sharks’ disastrous first round choke job against the Kings that Burns would be going back to the blue line the next season.

It was a move that McLellan and the Sharks’ coaching staff were never fully on board with, and when McLellan was asked in training camp whether Burns would stay on the blue line, he replied it was “a commitment, right now.”

Burns would admit more than a year later that that ambiguity wasn’t helpful, and it showed on the ice. While the 2014-15 season was a disaster for the Sharks on a number of fronts, Burns never looked comfortable in his own zone. Offensively, he was strong, posting 60 points in 82 games. But untimely turnovers, questionable decisions with the puck and poor positioning plagued him all season long. The Sharks missed the playoffs.

Internally, there were some in the Sharks organization – in addition to standing those behind the bench – that thought the team would never win consistently as long as Burns was playing 20 minutes a night on defense. He was just too erratic.

But the Sharks missing the playoffs that season may have proven to be a blessing in disguise, as least as far Burns is concerned. The defenseman joined Team Canada for the World Championships, coached by McLellan and assistant Pete DeBoer, and was dominant. He was named as the best defenseman in the tournament while the Canadiens won gold.

Soon after that, DeBoer took over the Sharks. There was no question in his mind that Burns was going to stay on the blue line in 2015-16, after he saw firsthand how Burns performed in the Worlds.

“I think there’s going to be a comfort level that he’s going to get to again,” DeBoer said at the 2015 draft, shortly after taking the Sharks job. “He’s coming [in] with a lot of confidence off the World Championships. I’m not worried about him defensively.”

While there were still some kinks in Burns’ game early in DeBoer’s first season as the Sharks hovered around .500 through Christmas, the Wookiee kept improving. DeBoer and assistant coach Bob Boughner decided that the best way to handle Burns play was to allow him the freedom to roam, while pairing him with responsible free agent addition/defensive-minded defenseman Paul Martin. Burns was free from the shackles of the McLellan-Jim Johnson approach, which was a little too technical for his liking.

“I think it was great with Pete coming in and just saying, ‘hey, he’s a d-man.’ I think that set the tone a lot for me,” Burns said late in April 2016.

By the end of the season, Burns was dominant. He ended up as a Norris Trophy finalist for the first time, ultimately finishing third, after he was second in the NHL in scoring among defensemen with 75 points while playing a sound defensive game, too. His play over the second half and in the playoffs catapulted the Sharks to their first-ever appearance in the Stanley Cup Final that June.

* * *

This season Burns picked up where he left off at the end of the Sharks’ lengthy playoff run. He was far and away the team's most valuable player, leading the Sharks (and all NHL defensemen) with 76 points. His 29 goals were tops among NHL blueliners and tied for the Sharks team lead, while his 320 shots led the NHL.

Now one of the best two-way players in the NHL, skating as a forward for a season and a half helped to make Burns the force he is today, according to McLellan.

“I think the time that he spent up front has allowed him to finally become that dynamic offensive d-man,” McLellan, now the Oilers’ head coach, said last December. "He understands what it feels like to drive the puck to the net, where the holes are. I think that time that he played up front really allows him to be a multi-positional type guy. … He’s taking charge, and it’s happening for him. Tremendous player."

His development resulted in the Sharks signing Burns to a massive eight-year, $64 million contract extension on Nov. 22, 2016. That’s as clear a signal as any that the Sharks believe the 32-year-old will continue to be a Norris contender, at least in the near future. 

Wilson, who deserves an enormous amount of credit for getting Burns back on the blue line amid a sea of doubters, expressed confidence that the six-foot-five, 230-pounder could keep on dominating when that contract kicks in next season.

“To see that size and that skill set and that type of shot, there’s not many players like that that can create offense from the back end. But, he also defends well,” Wilson said.

“I honestly do feel he’s just coming into his prime.”