Sharks-Blue Jackets: What to watch for


Sharks-Blue Jackets: What to watch for

Columbus (10-23-5) vs. Sharks (21-11-4) at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California.

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks host the Columbus Blue Jackets at home tonight, looking to extend their winning streak to three games. After sweeping a mini-road trip with wins in Vancouver on Monday and Anaheim last night, the Sharks have points in nine of their last 10 games overall and lead the Pacific Division with 46 points.

Greiss to start: Its been more than a month since Antti Niemi has vacated the Sharks crease, but Thomas Greiss will get the call in net against the Blue Jackets. Greiss hasnt played since Dec. 3 when San Jose lost at home to the Florida Panthers, 5-3.

In eight games this season, Greiss is 4-4-0 with a 2.37 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.

Niemi will serve as the backup, while Antero Niittymaki continues to be the odd man out.

No time to rest: The Sharks will play their third game in four nights, while Columbus enters well rested. The Blue Jackets havent played since New Years Eve, when they surrendered a 2-0 third period lead in losing to the Washington Capitals, 4-2. Columbus actually arrived in San Jose on Tuesday, which isnt uncommon for East Coast teams visiting California as they adapt to the time difference.

Rick Nash leads Columbus with 27 points, tied with Vinny Prospal, while newcomer Jeff Carter has 10 goals and seven assists in 27 games.

San Jose concludes a stretch of four games in six nights when it hosts the Capitals on Saturday.
Third period woes: The Blue Jackets, last overall in the NHL, enter with the worst goal differential in the third period. Theyve been outscored by 26 goals combined in the final 20 minutes (52-26), and are just 8-6-2 when leading after two.

The Sharks havent exactly dominated the third period, either. Theyve scored just 25 times, and only the New York Islanders have fewer.

San Jose has allowed just 24 goals in the third, though, the second fewest behind Boston.

Wingels watch: The Sharks made a roster move in time for tonights game, recalling winger Tommy Wingels. Theres a chance Wingels could get into the lineup, as McLellan wasnt too pleased with some of his forwards after the win in Anaheim.

You have to contribute, especially when you play this many games, said the coach. We had some guys that didnt do a lot tonight, and maybe well look at making some changes.

McLellan used a third line of Andrew Desjardins, Jamie McGinn and Brad Winchester, which generated the tying goal against the Ducks when Winchester fired in a wrist shot on a pass from McGinn late in the second period. Torrey Mitchell and Andrew Murray, meanwhile, did not see much ice in the second half of the game.

Wingels is second on Worcester in scoring with 21 points (13g, 8a) in 29 games. In eight career NHL games, all with San Jose, Wingels has one assist and four penalty minutes.

Wingels began the season on the opening night roster, playing three of the first four games before being reassigned.

Odds and ends: Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski, signed in the off-season, is out with a broken ankle. San Jose is 17-1-2 all-time against Columbus at HP Pavilion. Sharks defensemen Jim Vandermeer and Colin White remain on injured reserve.

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic will compete in the upcoming IIHF World Championships for Team Canada, it was announced on Friday.

The tournament runs from May 5-21 in Paris, France and Cologne, Germany. 

Vlasic, 30, a native of Montreal, has played in the tournament twice before in 2009 and 2012. He also represented Canada in the 2014 Olympic Games, helping it to a gold medal, and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which Canada also captured.

In 75 games with the Sharks this season, Vlasic posted 28 points (6g, 22a) and a +4 rating. He was second on the team in shorthanded time on ice (2:04 per game) and blocked shots (146).

A pending restricted free agent in 2018, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson called getting Vlasic signed to a long-term deal an offseason priority for the club. The two sides can begin negotiations on July 1.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” Wilson said. “[He] is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

The Sharks lost in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs to Edmonton, although Vlasic and partner Justin Braun helped to keep Connor McDavid in check at even strength. The league's leading scorer had just one even strength point in the six-game series, an empty net goal with less than one second left in Game 6.

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.”