Sharks anxious for Game 2, Anaheim

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Sharks anxious for Game 2, Anaheim

SAN JOSE - Enough of these grueling, lengthy practices already. Lets play another hockey game.

Thats what Joe Thornton is saying, and you can assume every other player in the locker room is thinking something similar.

I just want to play. Enough of this practicing, said the captain. Its been a long time. Give me four-in-four, I dont care. I just want to get some games in now.

The Sharks will finally get back into game action on Friday night when they visit the Anaheim Ducks, trying to improve to 2-0 for the first time since the 2008-09 season. San Jose beat the Phoenix Coyotes 6-3 on Saturday, but has endured a number of long practice sessions at the hands of Todd McLellan and the coaching staff with no games on the schedule for five full days.

We practiced hard. Was it the right thing? I guess well find out over the next little bit, said McLellan after Thursdays practice. The intensity level, we really tried to keep it high - very competitive in the corners, a lot of bumping and grinding. We hope that sets us up for some good games moving ahead.

The intensity was very high, said Thornton.

The Sharks wont get any sympathy from the Ducks, though. Anaheim has not played since last Saturday either, and it didnt get the benefit of playing at home or even in North America. The Ducks began the season as one of four NHL teams taking part in games in Europe, as the Sharks did last season.

Anaheim split its games there, winning in a shootout over the New York Rangers on Saturday but losing decisively to the Buffalo Sabres the night before.

Is there a chance they will be jet-lagged or lethargic on Friday night? The Sharks dont think so.

We expect their best game and I think thats what were going to get, said Joe Pavelski, who tallied two power play goals against the Coyotes. They will be excited to come home and play, and its our first road trip so we want to start off on the right foot. Its almost like another start to the season.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic said, Its pretty even. Both teams are well rested and ready to start, really, the regular season.

The beginning of games is always important, but the start to this one may be even more so. It should be evident early which team better dealt with the long layoff.

McLellan has a few things hell be looking for in the first 10 minutes.

Id like to see us match their commitment level, he said. They are going to come out and establish a forechecking game and try to hem us into our end. In turn, Id like us to be able to handle that well and play with a tempo that we played in Game 1 here fast, aggressive, getting to loose pucks and hemming teams in.

If we can do that, well have a chance. If they are doing that to us were going to be on our heels and probably not playing that well.

Another consequence of the layoff is that the Sharks will now have more games in bunches, including a stretch of three in four nights. San Jose hosts the St. Louis Blues on Saturday and the Ducks on Monday.

I think well know a lot more about our team on Tuesday morning than we do right now, said McLellan.

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

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AP

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

No one asked, but I’m going to begin this week’s mailbag with my prediction for the Stanley Cup Final – Preds in six. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to a few of your questions…

Most likely to be moved this off-season? (Nik @niknisj25)

If the Sharks do make a move – and I’ve argued here that I think it may be time for a shakeup – they’ll surely be looking for someone up front to boost the offense. In that case, they’d likely have to sacrifice a defenseman or two.

The Sharks defense is the strength of the organization at the moment, as they had one of the best one-through-seven groups in the NHL this season. But it’s also an expensive one. The Sharks have nearly $27 million committed to their top seven defensemen next season, while Marc-Edouard Vlasic is due for a hefty raise beginning in 2018-19.

One name that could be intriguing to other teams is Justin Braun. The 30-year-old has been a part of the Sharks’ top shut down pair with Vlasic for several seasons now, and is signed for the next three years at a reasonable $3.8 million cap hit. The Sharks could potentially move him for offensive help, and slot in a guy like David Schlemko alongside Vlasic, while finally giving Dylan DeMelo a chance to play on a nightly basis on the third pair. A Vlasic-Schlemko pair could be more offensive than Vlasic-Braun, too, because as adept as they were at keeping the puck out of their own net, the Sharks didn’t get many goals from their defenders outside of Burns.

Of course, the upcoming expansion draft all but assures that nothing will happen until Las Vegas selects its team on June 21. If the Sharks lose a defenseman to the Golden Knights, they’ll be more reluctant to move another one. Still, with guys like Joakim Ryan, Tim Heed, Julius Bergman, Mirco Mueller and now Radim Simek in the pipeline, the club might be able to handle a couple departures.

How do we fix the power play next season? Bring in a coach that could help us? Change up the lines, or style of play? (adam smith @kickback408)

One thing that won’t be happening is a new coach, as Doug Wilson recently confirmed that Steve Spott would be back alongside Pete DeBoer. Bob Boughner could move on if he gets hired as a head coach elsewhere, but Boughner’s focus is the team’s defense and penalty kill.

Obviously, the future of the power play depends on who is on the roster, beginning with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Both saw their power play production dip this season.

Thornton went from 29 power play points in 2015-16 to 19 this season (he had eight power play goals in 2015-16, and just one this season). Marleau saw a decline from 25 power play points in 2015-16 to 16 last season. Even if both return, it may be time to try other bodies on the top unit.

Do you see Meier, Labanc and/or Sorensen having a breakout season next year? Or anyone else on the Barracuda? (Colin Dunn @ColinDunnACA)

Someone better had, because this team needs to start getting younger, and soon. One of the bigger disappointments of the 2016-17 season is that none of them apparently showed the coaching staff that they were prepared to play on a nightly basis at the NHL level.

Timo Meier and Marcus Sorensen, I would surmise, are at the top of the depth chart as far as forwards go. Their line in the playoffs with center Chris Tierney was the Sharks’ best through the early part of the series with Edmonton. As for Kevin Labanc, I think he’s fallen a bit since he had a brief run of success for the Sharks in December.

While the Sharks did a good job stockpiling some young players through the 2013-15 drafts, they’ve traded away a number of picks in recent years. In last year’s draft they didn’t have a first or third round pick; this year they don’t have any picks in the second, third or fourth rounds; and in 2018 they are already without their second and third round picks. 

It’s great to accumulate young players, but at some point they have to break through. Now is the time.

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

After five seasons with the Sharks, Larry Robinson is leaving the organization.

Robinson, 65, spent the last three seasons as the club's director of player development. He served as an associate coach from 2012-14.

TSN in Montreal and the Montreal Gazette originally reported the news.

The Sharks confirmed that Robinson's contract would be expiring, and general manager Doug Wilson told NBC Sports California that the divorce was amicable, and "because of geography." Robinson lives in Florida.

According to the Montreal Gazette

Robinson’s contract with the Sharks expires on July 1, but agent Donnie Cape said Thursday that San Jose general manager Doug Wilson has given him permission to speak with other teams. Robinson lives in Bradenton, Fla., and the long travel distance to San Jose is one of big the reasons he’s looking for a new team to work for.

Robinson seemed to ponder retirement in 2014, but signed a three-year extension to remain in the Sharks' front office. He worked mostly from his home in Florida the past two seasons, making occasional trips to San Jose, including during training camp.

In the summer of 2015, Robinson underwent surgery for skin cancer.

Recognized as one of the best defensemen in NHL history, Robinson won six Stanley Cup championships with the Montreal Canadiens as a player, and holds the NHL record for playing 20 straight seasons in the playoffs. A 10-time All-Star and two-time Norris Trophy winner, Robinson was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995.

Robinson was the head coach of the Los Angeles Kings from 1995-99, and the New Jersey Devils from 1999-2002 and again in 2005-06. He led the Devils to the Stanley Cup in 2000. Robinson has nine Stanley Cup rings as a player and coach.

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The Sharks did not renew the contract of pro scout Jason Rowe, who had been with the organization for the past nine seasons. Rowe focused on eastern NHL and AHL teams.