Red Wings down Sharks 3-2, extend home win streak to 23

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Red Wings down Sharks 3-2, extend home win streak to 23

BOX SCORE

DETROIT In what was a much improved effort than their previous two losses to a pair of struggling teams, the San Jose Sharks showed up on Sunday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena, trying to put an end to the league-leading Red Wings NHL record home winning streak.

It didnt happen. Drew Miller had a goal and assist while Henrik Zetterberg and Darren Helm also scored in a 3-2 Detroit win, sending the Sharks to their third straight loss (0-2-1), fourth in five games on their current road trip (1-3-1), and sixth in the last eight (2-5-1).

And, even though the game could have easily gone the other way, with the calendar now showing late February the time for moral victories is over.

Its not a win. When you dont win a game youre frustrated, and were on a three-game losing streak right now, Logan Couture said. It isnt the time to do that. Teams are closing in and the playoff spot is getting tighter and tighter. This is obviously a tough rink to play in, but we need to start winning some games.

The level of desperation was completely opposite when compared with losses to Tampa Bay and Carolina earlier in the week, in which the Sharks seemed to lack focus and were generally not sharp.

Todd McLellan said: Were much happier with the effort, but its still a loss. We cant get caught up in satisfaction points. Points are points. But, the effort, commitment level to doing it the right way, to playing hard, to sacrificing, all went up from the last two games.

That includes goaltender Antti Niemi, who was publically challenged by McLellan following a 6-5 overtime loss to the Lightning in which he allowed six goals on 25 shots. Goaltender was much sharper, McLellan said.

San Jose (31-19-7, 69 points) still has the Pacific Division lead, but is just two points ahead of the surging Phoenix Coyotes (the Sharks have two games in hand).

Calgary and Los Angeles are tied for eighth in the Western Conference with 65 points apiece.

Its getting dicey.

We need wins. I know were first in our division right now but that doesnt mean much when youre only a few points out of the playoffs, Ryane Clowe said. Were looking for wins, not so much good efforts, but getting the points in the bag.

For the Red Wings, their record now stands at 23 wins in a row on home ice. The Sharks are one of just two teams to beat the Red Wings in their own building in regulation this season, back on Oct. 28, 4-2. Since a loss to Calgary on Nov. 3, though, Detroit is unbeaten.

The Sharks outshot the Red Wings 25-16 through two periods and had the better of the scoring chances up to that point despite trailing, 2-1.

Detroit held the territorial advantage to start the third, though, and got a key insurance goal from Helm. Miller gained control of the puck and brought it into the zone before finding Helm in the slot for a one-timer at 7:01.

Patrick Marleau brought the Sharks back to within 3-2 with less than five minutes to go. Ian White turned the puck over to Brent Burns at the point, and Marleau cleaned up the garbage in front of the net after Burns shot.

That was as close as the Sharks would get.

According to Clowe, the third period was a lot different of a period than the second when we had them hemmed in and had some chances. I dont know if fatigue played factor, and I dont think thats an excuse, but it was tough to give up that third one.

Injuries may have also played a part.

Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic was hurt early in the third, when he was struck in the face with the puck after a slap shot by Ian White deflected off of Dan Boyles skate. Vlasic, who was standing in the slot in the defensive zone, immediately crumpled to the ice and was bleeding heavily as he was helped off of the ice. He didnt return.

Vlasic was unavailable after the game, but McLellan was told the puck hit Vlasic kind of in the nose after it glanced off of his visor.

Moments after Vlasic went down, Joe Pavelski dove in front of a slap shot by Nicklas Lidstrom and was struck in the side of the helmet. Pavelski later returned after passing some concussion tests in the locker room.

You have to have trust in that system that hopefully nothing bad will happen, Pavelski said.

There was more. Colin White also missed a stretch of time after getting hit with a shot himself. That put the Sharks down two defensemen, and the club ran out of gas, but got it back at the end of the night, and couldnt find a way to get the third, McLellan said.

Zetterberg put Detroit on the board when he cut to the slot untouched and lifted a backhander through traffic and past Niemi at 6:30. The puck may have deflected on its way towards the net.

I saw it too late, Niemi said.

Detroit took that lead into the second period and increased it thanks to some fortunate timing. Johan Franzen stepped out of the penalty box as his hooking minor expired, and just as the Red Wings gained possession of the puck in their defensive zone. A three-on-two rush was the result, and Miller put in the rebound of a Justin Abdelkader deflection midway through regulation.

The Sharks didnt fold though, and outplayed the Red Wings for most of the second. Jason Demers, returning from nine-game absence with a lower body injury, was stopped by Joey MacDonald six minutes into the period when Demers had an open look from the circle.

MacDonald gloved a wrist shot from Couture on the power play just before Millers goal, and later robbed Joe Thornton on the doorstep after a nice pass through the slot from Burns. Burns also had a great chance himself after a strong move at the point resulted in a two-on-one rush with Jamie McGinn.

The Sharks were finally rewarded on the scoreboard with a power play goal at 14:33 when Couture got his stick on an airborne puck that was bouncing around the crease after Boyles shot from the high slot.

A short review confirmed the goal, as it looked like Thornton may have tapped it in with a high stick, but the video showed no conclusive evidence to overrule the call on the ice. Couture later said that after it hit his stick, Abdelkader put it in his own net.

San Jose drastically shuffled up its forward lines to start the game. Thornton played with regular winger Pavelski and Tommy Wingels, while Couture lined up with Clowe and Marleau. Newcomer Dominic Moore was between McGinn and Michal Handzus, while the fourth line was Andrew Desjardins, Brad Winchester and Torrey Mitchell.

The Sharks visit the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, looking for a season sweep of the NHLs worst team.

Odds and ends: John McCarthy was reassigned to Worcester before the game as Demers was taken off of injured reserve. The Sharks were 1-for-4 on the power play, and killed off all three Detroit advantages. MacDonald made 31 saves. Douglas Murray missed the game with a fractured Adams apple, and an update is expected within the next day or two, according to Todd McLellan. McLellan said after the game that hed like to see the Red Wings win the rest of their home games during the regular season. Why? Then the odds go against you, he quipped.

Sharks sign defenseman from Czech Republic

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AP

Sharks sign defenseman from Czech Republic

The Sharks have signed Czech defenseman Radim Simek to a one-year contract.

The two-way deal, originally reported by Radio Praha in the Czech Republic, is expected to be announced by the Sharks later this week, according to a source. Simek just finished competing for his country in the 2017 IIHF World Championships, skating in all eight games for the Czech Republic while posting one goal, one assist, 11 shots and a minus-two rating.

Simek, 24, has spent the last five seasons in the Czech League. In 42 games for Liberec in 2016-17, he posted 24 points (11g, 13a) and 30 penalty minutes with a plus-18 rating. A left-handed shot, he is listed at five-foot-11 and 196 pounds on the IIHF website.

The New York Rangers were also interested in Simek, according to the report.

Simek will likely begin next season with the AHL Barracuda.

The Sharks have signed a number of free agents out of Europe in recent seasons, including Joonas Donskoi in 2015 and Marcus Sorensen and Tim Heed last May.

 

Future with Sharks still uncertain for Thornton, Marleau

Future with Sharks still uncertain for Thornton, Marleau

More than four weeks have passed since the Sharks were dispatched by the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau appear no closer to signing contract extensions than when the season ended. 

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson faces some of the toughest decisions of his 14-year tenure as the head of the hockey department in the coming weeks, beginning with the two best players in franchise history.

And, no, there are no back room handshake deals here between the Sharks and either of Thornton or Marleau, allowing the Sharks to protect extra players in the upcoming expansion draft. The two veterans are still pending unrestricted free agents in the truest sense, and it’s no certainty that either will return to San Jose.

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Re-signing Thornton would seem to be more of a priority than re-signing Marleau, as centermen are more valuable than wingers. Thornton’s line, with Joe Pavelski and whoever the left wing happened to be, was still drawing the opposition’s top defense pair on many nights this season. Marleau was on that line at times, but was shuffled up and down throughout the year, spending about half the season on the third line.

Thornton apparently dodged disaster in terms of his left knee, as multiple sources have told NBC Sports California that the brunt of the damage was to his MCL, not his ACL. As long as he recovers fully, as expected, there’s reason to believe that Thornton could be better next season than he was in 2016-17. Last year’s Stanley Cup Final run, the World Cup, and the condensed schedule seemed to take their toll. Thornton, who typically downplays anything remotely negative, admitted more than once that this season in particular was a grind.

But perhaps just as important to the Sharks is what Thornton brings to the team emotionally. Pavelski may still be the captain – and an effective one, at that – but Thornton is still the heartbeat. Pete DeBoer made that clear after Game 2 of the first round against the Oilers, talking about what Thornton’s absence from the bench in those first two games meant to the team in terms of a bench presence.

“It’s old school accountability with Joe. It’s black and white,” DeBoer said. “He came up in an era and at a time and around people who you weren’t worried about hurting feelings. You said what needed to be said. That’s not always the case now in modern dressing rooms and with modern athletes. He’s a great resource for us, because there’s no greater pressure than peer pressure, especially from a Hall of Fame guy like that.”

So what might it take to retain Thornton and keep him from hitting the open market? 

It has been previously reported that Thornton wanted a three-year deal, and that remains the case. As for money, I would expect Thornton – who has taken hometown discounts in the past to stay in San Jose – to ask for at least $5 million per season, minimum. Our best guess here is that a Thornton-Sharks pre-July 1 agreement would probably look something like three years and somewhere between $15 – 17 million.

Whether the Sharks would be willing to make that kind of commitment to Thornton, who will be 38 in July, is unclear. If they are not, Thornton could listen to offers from other teams beginning on June 24, when the window opens for unrestricted free agents to speak with other teams.

Still, Thornton’s first choice is to remain in San Jose. The Sharks don’t have anyone that could replace him on or off the ice. There should be a deal to be made here, either sooner or later.

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Marleau’s future with the Sharks seems much hazier.

Unlike Thornton – who put up with public ridicule from Wilson and had his captaincy stripped – Marleau’s commitment to the organization hasn’t been quite as steadfast. Recall in 2015, of course, when Marleau’s preference for a brief stretch was to leave the Sharks. We reported here in November, 2015 that he was willing to accept a trade to three teams, while ESPN reported that Marleau’s agent was “quietly exploring the market” as late as January, 2016.

While those feelings seem to have passed over time, Marleau hasn’t been as emphatic as Thornton in his desire to return. When asked on April 24 if he would like to come back to the Sharks, Marleau said: “Yeah, it would be nice. We’ll see if that’s an option. A lot of time here before this decision needs to be made.”

At this point, though, Marleau may be asking for a bit much in his next deal. It’s believed that the franchise’s all-time leading scorer is, like Thornton, seeking a contract of at least three years.

That shouldn’t be overly surprising. When asked then if he wanted a multi-year deal on April 24, Marleau said: “Yeah, I think so. … I still feel like I have at least five good years in me, or maybe more.”

As we wrote here in early February, it may not make much sense for the Sharks to commit to Marleau for more than one year for a number of reasons, including potential long-term (and surely expensive) contract extensions for Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, something Wilson has made his top priority this offseason. 

If Marleau is seeking a lengthy commitment from San Jose, I don’t see how that works from a business perspective for San Jose, which has a number of prospects in the system at wing that could potentially fill the hole Marleau would leave. Timo Meier and Marcus Sorensen, in particular, could be ready to take the next step, and both would be much cheaper options (Meier has two years left on his entry level deal, while Sorensen is a pending restricted free agent that won’t require a huge raise).

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Further complicating matters is that Thornton has never been shy about wanting to win with Marleau by his side. The two famously announced their nearly identical three-year contract extensions on Jan. 24, 2014, and Thornton would still prefer to have Marleau return to San Jose with him.

“Hopefully, I can come back and Patty can come back,” Thornton said after the season ended. “I think this team is a very good team. I think this is a Stanley Cup caliber team. I really believe that."

Considering the salary cap for next season has not yet been revealed, and that Wilson can’t officially extend Jones or Vlasic until July 1, the general manager could be forced to wait a little while before finalizing anything with either Thornton or Marleau. That makes it all the more likely that the Thornton and Marleau camps will at least get an opportunity to hear from other clubs and consider other offers in late June.

In short, anything is still possible. And Wilson, Thornton and Marleau all have some difficult decisions on the horizon in a Sharks offseason that is unlike any other.