NHL Gameday: Vlasic looks likely to return as Sharks visit Oilers

NHL Gameday: Vlasic looks likely to return as Sharks visit Oilers

Programming note – Sharks-Oilers coverage starts today at 5:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 24-14-2, 50 points, 1st Pacific Division
Oilers: 21-14-7, 49 points, 3rd Pacific Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***Marc-Edouard Vlasic will be a game-time decision, according to Pete DeBoer, but indications were that he would likely return after missing the last four games. Vlasic was taking shifts on the Rogers Place ice with regular partner Justin Braun.

Vlasic, who looks noticeably better as the swelling has gone down in his face, said: “I’m doing my thing. We’ll see tonight.”

The defenseman said last week that he suffered “a couple fractures” and some nerve damage from taking a the Shayne Gostisbehere shot to the mouth late in a 2-0 win over Philadelphia on Dec. 30. He’s still in some discomfort, though, and said: “Until the nerves heal, I’ll still have some pain.” 

Vlasic was wearing an extra-long visor that came down to about his chin level. 

If he plays, Vlasic would replace Mirco Mueller, who stayed on the ice late Tuesday morning. Tim Heed may get in on defense, perhaps in place of Dylan DeMelo, although DeBoer wasn’t revealing anything.

Also judging from the morning skate, Micheal Haley will return on the fourth line in place of Tommy Wingels.

***The timing would seem to be ideal to get Vlasic back in the lineup, as the Oilers’ top line of Connor McDavid, Patrick Maroon and Leon Draisaitl is tearing up the league. McDavid remains atop the league scoring race with 48 points (14g, 34a).

“With or without him, we’ve got to have all five guys defending against a guy like that and a line like that,” DeBoer said. “It would be nice to have Vlasic, but if we don’t, it’s still a five-man commitment from whoever we do have.”

***The Sharks and Oilers were battling for first place the last time they met on Dec. 23, a 3-2 overtime win for San Jose at SAP Center. Edmonton would overtake the Sharks in the standings with a regulation win tonight (although the Sharks have two games in hand).

Tonight also marks the official halfway point of the regular season for the Sharks. It’s time to start looking at the standings more frequently, Joe Pavelski indicated.

“You get to that halfway mark you start thinking a little bit more about positioning, and these guys have played well,” said the captain. “They gave us a good game [on Dec. 23]. So, it will be competitive. 

“We understand the situation in the standings. Everyone is so close together, so any time you can get a couple points, it’s important. If we can create a little separation in these games, that [would be] nice.”

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Patrick Marleau. The all-time franchise scoring leader was bumped from the top line two games ago, but he’s scored a goal in each of those last two games while skating on the third line. He has six points (3g, 3a) in his last five games, and sits seven goals shy of 500 for his career.

Oilers: Patrick Maroon. The big winger leads the Oilers with 16 goals, and was named as the NHL’s Second Star of the Week on Jan. 9, colleting five goals and one assist in four games including a hat trick in Boston on Jan. 5. He remains alongside star center Connor McDavid.

PROBABLE LINES

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

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

Martin Jones (starter)
Aaron Dell

Oilers
Patrick Maroon – Connor McDavid – Leon Draisaitl
Milan Lucic – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Zack Kassian
Benoit Pouliot – Drake Caggiula – Jordan Eberle
Anton Lander – Mark Letestu – Matt Hendricks

Oscar Klefbom – Eric Gryba
Andrej Sekera – Matt Benning
Kris Russell – Adam Larsson

Cam Talbot (starter)
Jonas Gustavsson

INJURIES

Sharks: Marc-Edouard Vlasic (face) is a game-time decision. David Schlemko (upper body) and Tomas Hertl (right knee sprain) are out.

Oilers: Brandon Davidson (illness) is day-to-day. Iiro Pakarinen (knee), Darnell Nurse (ankle surgery) and Tyler Pitlick (lower body) are out.

QUOTEABLE

“I like our group when we’re healthy. We haven’t been. It’s hard for me to say because we haven’t had [Tomas] Hertl like we didn’t have Couture for 20-30 games. You plug him in and you’re a different team. If we can get healthy, I’m excited about the group we have here.” – Pete DeBoer, on if he likes where the Sharks are at the midway point of the season

Thornton, Marleau now permitted to speak with other teams

Thornton, Marleau now permitted to speak with other teams

Their futures with the Sharks more uncertain than ever, pending unrestricted free agents Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are now free to take calls from other teams to gauge their potential interest.

Nothing can be signed with a new team before July 1, and there is a ban on discussing terms of any potential deal. Teams have already reached out to Marleau, per TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, while Thornton is also reportedly receiving interest around the league.

While they could still return to the Sharks, it’s new territory for both, as neither Thornton nor Marleau has ever tested the unrestricted free agent waters. Most recently, they agreed to three-year contract extensions with the Sharks on the same day – Jan. 24, 2014 – in what was the final year of their current deals.

Whether they return to the Sharks could depend on the length of the deal. If other teams are willing to offer multiple-year deals to Thornton and Marleau, it makes their return to the Sharks less likely – particularly in Marleau’s case. Earlier in the offseason, NBC Sports California confirmed that Thornton was seeking a three-year deal, while Marleau preferred a deal of at least three years.

General manager Doug Wilson’s top priority this offseason is to re-sign goalie Martin Jones and defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to long term extensions. Those contracts would likely cost the team a combined $12-14 million, and would begin in the 2018-19 season.

There is an added risk to any team that signs a player over the age of 35, as it would be on the hook for the entire salary cap hit regardless of whether that player is active (unless that player is on long-term injured reserve). 

Thornton turns 38 on Sunday, while Marleau turns 38 on Sep. 15.

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.”