Schlemko close to return, but DeMelo filling in well for Sharks

Schlemko close to return, but DeMelo filling in well for Sharks

SAN JOSE – Injured Sharks defenseman David Schlemko practiced with the team on Wednesday for the first time since hurting his right knee on March 2 against Vancouver.

He hopes to be available to play in time for Saturday’s game against Anaheim, as the Sharks wrap up their six-game homestand. The 29-year-old said he has to “get my legs under me a little bit” before he can get back into a game.

“Probably not [Thursday against St. Louis], but realistically Saturday,” he said. “That’s what I’m kind of shooting for. Obviously it’s not completely up to me, but that’s what I’m shooting for.”

Schlemko’s injury wasn’t originally supposed to keep him out this long, as he went on the team’s two-game road trip immediately after it happened. Still, there was no structural damage to the knee, according to the defenseman.

“Just kind of got my knee buckled into the boards there,” he said. “Just one of those things, takes some time to heal. A little longer than we thought and hoped. … Feel fortunate, at the same time, that it wasn’t more serious. Just excited to get back.”

In 51 games this season, his first in San Jose, Schlemko has 15 points (2g, 13a) while battling through three separate minor injuries.

Whether Schlemko would play against the Ducks even if he were healthy would be up to coach Pete DeBoer, of course. Dylan DeMelo has been paired with Brenden Dillon on the third pair in Schlemko’s spot for the past six games, and has points in the last two.

DeMelo registered an assist on Joe Pavelski’s third period goal against the Sabres on Tuesday in the Sharks’ 4-1 win.

“Just happy to be in the lineup and just trying to contribute as much as I can to the team,” DeMelo said after the game. “I'm not really known for getting points, but I've been able to get a couple points the last couple of games. 

“Whatever I can do to help the team win, that's what I'm here for. It's been a lot of fun. It's definitely a lot better playing than sitting out for seven weeks. I'm just happy to be back in the lineup and [helping] the team win."

Melker Karlsson skated on his own on Wednesday, but is less likely to play before the end of the homestand, according to DeBoer. Karlsson has missed the last two games with a lower body injury.

“Nothing major has come up, no change, but…I would say doubtful for Saturday,” DeBoer said.

Karlsson has 19 points (9g, 10a) in 60 games.

Report: Division rival interested in Joe Thornton

Report: Division rival interested in Joe Thornton

The mere thought of Joe Thornton wearing a Kings sweater may be enough to cause some Sharks fans to lose their lunch.

But it might be a possibility.

According to LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen, the Kings consider Thornton to be a “priority” should be hit the open market as a free agent. While the two sides are currently allowed to express mutual interest, NHL rules forbid them from discussing terms of any deal until Saturday at 9 a.m. PT.

Rosen points to a number of individuals in the Kings' organization that have ties to Thornton, including general manager Rob Blake, who played on the Sharks with Thornton from 2008-10. Mike O’Connell was Thornton’s general manager in Boston and currently serves as the Kings’ senior advisor to the general manager. Glen Murray, a former teammate and frequent linemate of Thornton’s with the Bruins for three-and-a-half seasons, is in Kings player development.

The Kings, under new management since replacing Dean Lombardi with Blake, and head coach Darryl Sutter with John Stevens, have put a priority on finding players this offseason that can get pucks to dangerous scoring areas. 

Adding one of the best passers in the history of the NHL would surely help in that regard. Thornton sits 13th in the NHL all-time with 1,007 assists.

Rosen writes: “Los Angeles has been a dominant possession team without being a high scoring team for the better part of the last six-plus seasons, and it was articulated earlier in the off-season that the team needed to do a better job of taking advantage of that possession discrepancy. In trying to find players with the ability to turn possession into actual production, the team has placed an emphasis on finding players capable of distributing the puck into high-danger in the attacking zone. There might not be another player in the NHL – let alone unrestricted free agents – who is as gifted of a passer of Thornton, which places the team’s needs in concert with the future Hall of Famer’s skill set.”

As reported here previously Thornton, who turns 38 on Sunday, is seeking a deal of three years. That might not be agreeable to the Sharks, who are likely to sign Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to long-term and expensive contract extensions that would kick in with the 2018-19 season.

Of course, Thornton could also be using the Kings as leverage to get a new deal in San Jose, where he would prefer to remain.

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

The Sharks have issued qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Chris Tierney, Marcus Sorensen and Barclay Goodrow, while cutting ties with three players in the system.

Tierney, 22, posted 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 80 games last season, serving primarily as the fourth line center. He has 64 points (24g, 40a) in 202 career games over three NHL seasons, all with the Sharks.

Sorensen posted one goal and three assists in 19 games with the Sharks last season, his first in the NHL. The 25-year-old played in all six playoff games against Edmonton, scoring one goal and one assist.

Goodrow, 24, skated in three games for the Sharks last season with one assist. He has 16 points (4g, 12a) in 77 games over three seasons with the Sharks, although has played in just 17 NHL games since the start of the 2015-16 season.

Forward Nikita Jevpalovs, defenseman Patrick McNally and goalie Mantas Armalis - also known for his career as a male model - were left unqualified and are now unrestricted free agents.

Earlier in the offseason, the Sharks signed pending restricted free agents Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson. Donskoi received a two-year deal at a salary cap hit of $1.9 million, while Karlsson was signed to a three-year deal at $2 million annually.