Opportunity knocks for Sharks' young forwards


Opportunity knocks for Sharks' young forwards

SAN JOSE Less than a month ago, Benn Ferriero and Tommy Wingels were teammates on the AHLs Worcester Sharks.

Theyre still teammates today, but now that Marty Havlat and Ryane Clowe are both sidelined, they find themselves among the top six forwards on the NHL club.

Its a tremendous opportunity for two young players trying to establish themselves as NHL regulars, and although they probably realized it themselves, their head coach hammered that point home.

Ive talked to them about that. This is their opportunity, Todd McLellan said. What a great chance for Tommy Wingels and Benny Ferriero right now, to finally come up from the minors and play in the top six or at least in the top nine. They get an opportunity to show their stuff.

For as bad as it is to play without Havlat and Clowe, its also really healthy for us to see what these guys can actually do. For the most part, theyve been contributing. Its up to them to continue to do that. Other teams are getting it from their depth players, and we need it from ours.

We touched upon Wingels this morning after his strong effort against Calgary.

Ferriero, who has five points (4g, 1a) in 13 games since he was recalled on Dec. 20, said: When guys get hurt its time for other guys to step up and keep the train going. Thats why its a team, you need a bunch of people throughout the year.

Its more than just the recent call-ups, of course. Players like Torrey Mitchell and Jamie McGinn will shoulder more of the offensive burden as the Sharks battle the injury bug for what appears to be at least the next four games, leading into the All-Star break.

Mitchell, who scored the game-tying goal on Tuesday, has five points in his last six games and may be playing his best hockey of the year. Hell have to keep his foot on the gas.

We depend on those guys so much to produce offensively, Mitchell said. I dont want to say you have to change your game a little bit on the third or fourth line, but its big if you can produce.

Individually, the Sharks forwards also know that each game night brings a bit of an internal competition, too. McLellan doesnt shy away from drastically reducing the minutes of players he thinks might not be skating their best or showing maximum effort. That will likely be even more evident in the near future as he searches for whomever has the hot hand.

You can kind of tell by the third period who hes going to go with the last 15 or 20 minutes. For guys like us on the third and fourth lines, youve got to try and leave your mark on the game in the first two periods and let him know that youre involved, Mitchell said. Hopefully he sees that, and you get the playing time you want in the third period.

It took McLellan all of 20 minutes to make changes to his top lines against Calgary, swapping Wingels and McGinn.

We know when the lines are on the boards, its whoever is going that night is going to play, McGinn said. It doesnt really matter what it says on the board.

When youre short, you look for nightly heroes, guys that can move up and give you something. Well continue to shuffle it around until we get bodies back, McLellan said.

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

SAN JOSE – The Sharks didn’t make any blockbuster moves last summer, content to make another run in 2016-17 with largely the same group that came within two wins of capturing the Stanley Cup.

They still acquired a notable player, though, when Mikkel Boedker was signed on July 1 to add an element that the Sharks knew they needed more of moving forward – speed. Boedker was expected to make the team faster, after the Sharks were exposed for not having enough of that against Pittsburgh in the NHL’s final round, as well as play in a top six role. 

At the time, it was hailed as a slick, under-the-radar move that wasn’t going to change the dynamic of the club but could help push it over the top.

When Boedker was a healthy scratch in games three and four of the first round against Edmonton, the evidence became clear, though, that this was a decision that fell flat on its face. 

Frankly, Boedker – who is signed for three more years with a $4 million salary cap hit – brings back visions of Sharks bust Marty Havlat. You know the skill is there, but the desire to use it on a nightly basis while showing any semblance of a battle level is lacking. 

Should the Sharks give Boedker another chance next season, or should they do everything in their power to try and move him? That’s a question that will likely be debated in the front office over the next several weeks.

On get-away day on Monday, indications were that the Sharks were planning on sticking with the 27-year-old, who finished with 26 points in the regular season (10g, 16a) and added one goal and one assist in four games in the playoffs.

“He has the things we’re looking for: his career scoring average, his speed, [penalty killing] ability,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “Did he meet the expectations that he had for himself [or] that we had for him? No. Can we get that out of him? Pete [DeBoer] believes we can.”

DeBoer has known Boedker since he played for him in 2007-08 in Kitchener (OHL). Despite scratching him in the playoffs, DeBoer said he saw “huge improvement” in Boedker throughout the course of the season after the forward spent nearly all of his NHL career in Arizona.

“There was an adjustment. He’s played 6-7 years a certain way in the NHL,” DeBoer said. “We’ve asked him to play differently here, and there was an adjustment.”

Boedker still believes that he can be a fit in San Jose.

“I think it will be and it can be,” he said. “It’s learning period, but you’ve also got to look in the mirror yourself and see what you can change and what assets you need to bring. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m ready to do that.”

The list of Sharks depth forwads that had frustrating seasons hardly begins and ends with Boedker, though.

Veteran Joel Ward’s production dipped from 43 points last season to 29 in 2016-17, although that probably isn’t too surprising considering he’s 36. Tomas Hertl is proving to be a streaky player, too, although his season was interrupted by another a knee injury.

The bigger disappointment came from players like Chris Tierney and Joonas Donskoi, who both made big impressions in the 2016 playoffs but struggled to produce consistent offense this year. Both were mentioned by name by DeBoer on Monday.

There are some promising youngsters in the pipeline like Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen, but it’s still too early to project any of them as can’t-miss scorers at the NHL level.

“I think we’ve got a large group of guys that I like, but need to step up,” DeBoer said. “Is Sorensen [like] Donskoi next year, where he takes a step back, or [does he take a] step forward? We’ve got a lot of guys that there’s a lot of potential there – Chris Tierney. 

“There’s a lot of those guys, but they need to have big summers and take a step, and show that they’re not just one season or one month players.”

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

SAN JOSE – Just in case there was any question as to the grisly nature of Logan Couture’s mouth injury, the Sharks forward shared a picture on his personal Instagram account on Monday.

If you haven’t seen it yet, proceed with caution.

The photo was taken the night of his injury on March 25 in Nashville, showing several top teeth missing in a mouth that can accurately be described as a bloody mess, after he was hit with a defected puck while standing in front of the net in a game against the Predators.

Couture revealed on Tuesday in a conference call that there was more to his injury that just damaged teeth. He also has some facial fractures, including one above his upper lip that extends to his nasal area, and another that is under the bottom row of his teeth.

The one that’s higher in his face is still painful. 

“Still struggle to eat and sleep. … It’s not a comfortable state to be in,” said Couture, who missed the final seven games of the regular season before returning for the six-game first round series loss to Edmonton.

As for the next step, Couture has yet to sit down with his dentist, although further work is on the horizon.

“There’s going to be some implants to get the teeth fixed,” he said. “Hopefully get it done in the next few weeks, and then I’ll head back to Canada.”

Couture doesn’t yet know how many teeth need to be replaced.

“All depends on how the teeth respond,” he said.

* * *

Joe Thornton had successful surgery on his left knee on Monday afternoon, NBC Sports California has learned, and according to a team statement released later on Tuesday he is expected to "make a complete recovery and be ready for the start of the 2017-18 season." 

According to a source, the damage to Thornton’s MCL was more significant than his ACL. The team declined to give any details about the surgery in its statement, including who performed it and where it was done. 

Thornton played four playoff games against Edmonton despite damaged knee ligaments, head coach Pete DeBoer revealed on Monday, when he said Thornton was dealing with a “torn MCL and ACL” after getting hurt in Vancouver on April 2.