Saturday matinee with division-leading Sharks, Canucks

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Saturday matinee with division-leading Sharks, Canucks

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Let Comcast SportsNet California fully prepare you for the Sharks and Canucks with Sharks Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m.
SHARKS (26-13-5)VANCOUVER (28-15-4)Coverage at 12:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California

While the playoff race is just heating up for most NHL clubs, matchups between the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks have already had the intensity of a postseason series.The division leaders face off for the fourth and final time in the regular season Saturday when the Sharks visit Vancouver.The three previous meetings resulted in 3-2 scores with the Canucks (28-15-4) winning twice - once in overtime. San Jose (26-13-5) took the most recent one in a shootout Jan. 2 in Vancouver.

Including last season's Western Conference finals, Vancouver is still 5-0-2 in its last seven home games against the Sharks.The Canucks' eight-point lead over Colorado in the Northwest is the largest of the NHL's division leaders, but they'll be looking to avoid losing three straight for the first time since April 19-24 during last season's West quarterfinal series against Chicago.Following Sunday's 4-2 loss to Anaheim in the opener of a six-game homestand, the Canucks fell 3-2 in a shootout to Los Angeles on Tuesday. Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault indicated his team is having trouble making decisions."Right now, a lot of times, the play we're making is not the right play," he said. "We spend more time in our zone, we give the other team momentum, we give the other team scoring chances, and we need to do a better job of that."It's not just our defense, but it's our forwards and our D's."Having Henrik Sedin back on the scoresheet could help the Canucks erase any on-ice apprehension. Sedin, who's among the league leaders with 52 points, will try to avoid being held scoreless in three straight regular-season games for the first time since Feb. 26-March 3.He has 19 assists and 22 points in his last 14 meetings with the Sharks.Roberto Luongo has yielded six goals in losing the Canucks' last two games, matching the total allowed over his previous four contests. But he's 6-1-2 with a 1.96 goals-against average versus the Sharks since the start of last season, including Vancouver's five-game victory in the postseason.The Sharks are beginning a three-game road trip through western Canada prior to the All-Star break after falling 4-1 to Ottawa on Thursday - just their third regulation loss in 18 contests.San Jose has a one-point lead and four games in hand over second-place Los Angeles in the Pacific, and is starting to separate itself from Dallas and Phoenix."It should be a good test for us before the break," captain Joe Thornton said of playing in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary in a four-day span.Thornton has struggled in recent trips to Rogers Arena, posting a goal and three assists in his last seven games there, including postseason play. Patrick Marleau, who has one goal in his last five games overall, comes into this contest on a four-game point streak in Vancouver with three goals and an assist.Antti Niemi, who made 27 saves in the Sharks' win at Vancouver earlier this month, has alternated wins and losses in four road games since then. Niemi has yielded a combined one goal in wins at Anaheim and Winnipeg, but was beaten for eight in losses at Minnesota and Chicago.Since joining the Sharks in September 2010, Niemi is 2-4-0 with a 3.31 GAA in six games at Vancouver with three losses coming in postseason play.

Sharks ink pair of European prospects

Sharks ink pair of European prospects

The Sharks officially announced the signing of defenseman Radim Simek to a one-year contract on Tuesday, as well as Swedish forward Filip Sandberg to a two-year contract.

Simek’s deal was reported on Monday and confirmed by NBC Sports California. The contract is valued at $925,000 for the 2017-18 season, a source confirmed. The 24-year-old defenseman spent the past five seasons in the Czech league, posting 24 points (11g, 13a) and 30 penalty minutes with a plus-18 rating last season. A left-handed shot, he is listed at five-foot-11 and 196 pounds on the IIHL website.

In 211 career games in the Czech league, he posted 91 points (37g, 54a) and a plus-51 rating.

"Radim is a quick transition defenseman who drives the play offensively and plays with a physical edge," general manager Doug Wilson said in a statement. "We like his offensive instincts especially on special teams and think his game will translate well in North America."

Sandberg, 22, has 71 points (25g, 46a) in 204 career games in the Swedish league. Last season, he posted 25 points (8g, 17a) and a plus-17 rating in 52 games.

Sandberg is set to make $742,500 in 2017-18 and $792,500 in 2018-19, a source confirmed.

The five-foot-nine, 180-pound Stockholm native also competed in the World Jr. Championships in 2013 and 2014, helping Sweden win silver both years.

"Filip is a very creative player who sees the ice well and can create offense in limited space," Wilson said. "He plays a high-pressure, puck-pursuit game and his battle level is something we have been impressed with, especially against older players. We are excited for him to join our organization."

The contracts for Simek and Forsberg are two-way deals, allowing them to play for the AHL Barracuda next season.

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.