Sharks-Blue Jackets: What to watch for

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Sharks-Blue Jackets: What to watch for

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Sharks Pregame Live airs tonight at 7, followed by Columbus-Sharks at 7:30, and Sharks Postgame Live immediately following the final horn -- all on Comcast SportsNet California.

SAN JOSE In the first game back from the All-Star break, which for many teams, including San Jose, was an entire week, the focus is straightforward.

Keep it simple, get your legs, your body and mind into it early, and kind of go from there, Patrick Marleau said. The attention to detail is going to be important really early.

Douglas Murray said: Youve got to be sharp from the get-go. A big thing is to get your confidence back, in your skating, your puck handling and your passing. Just try to be as sharp as possible from the beginning, and usually if you feel good about yourself you play good.

The Sharks went into the break on a positive note, with a 1-0 win in Calgary on Jan. 24 that was their first in regulation in five games, ending a 1-3-1 stretch. They lead the Pacific Division by two points, but have three games in hand on the second place Los Angeles Kings.

BRODIE & KEVIN: Finding scoring

San Jose has already beaten the NHLs last place Blue Jackets twice this month, by identical 2-1 scores on Jan. 5 at HP Pavilion and Jan. 14 in Columbus. The Sharks may have an advantage tonight, as Columbus flew across the country on Monday and had an evening practice after touching down.

We practiced hard yesterday and hopefully weve got the rust off. You have to start up again at some point, and its no different from what Columbus is going through. I understand they had to fly and then practice here so thats probably completely out of character for them, Todd McLellan said.
Burns ready, Clowe not: The All-Star game came at the perfect time for defenseman Brent Burns, who looked like he suffered a potentially serious knee injury in Edmonton on Jan. 23. He was limping badly after that game, but walking better the next day, and is good to go after resting up in Hawaii during the All-Star break.

Burns is having a down year offensively, but has points in five of his last nine games and was looking more aggressive in the offensive zone in the weeks leading up to the injury.

Would he like to see his numbers improve in the seasons second half?

I dont think Ive been changing anything. Just the battle of the year, you keep trying to get them in and kind of go through the roller coaster of them going and them not going.

Clowe, however, will miss his sixth straight game while recovering from a facial fracture. His goal is to return in time for Thursdays game against Dallas.

With Clowe and Marty Havlat out, that has obviously hurt the Sharks depth among their forwards.

When youre not as deep, players can get away with it a little bit more. Coaches dont have as many tools to send messages, McLellan said. Were excited about getting both of those guys back eventually. The extended break wont hurt them at all as far as rest and building their bodies back up for the push, but we do miss them.

In other injury news, Jason Demers is out tonight with a lower body injury.
In the crease: Antti Niemi will start for the Sharks, coming off of his third shutout of the season in Calgary one week ago. It was a big game for the goalie, who struggled in his two previous outings before the impressive win over the Flames.

In five career games against Columbus, Niemi is 3-1-0 with a 2.89 goals-against average and .906 save percentage, although he hasnt faced them yet this season. In the two recent wins over the Blue Jackets on Jan. 5 and Jan. 14, it was Thomas Greiss who allowed one goal in a pair of 2-1 Sharks wins.

Curtis Sanford suffered a pair of hard-luck losses against San Jose this season by allowing just four goals in two losses, but it will be Steve Mason in net tonight for the Jackets. In nine career games against the Sharks, Mason is just 3-5-1 but has a solid 2.39 goals-against average and .932 save percentage.
Searching for offense: The Sharks have scored two goals or less in six of their last eight games, and will look to break out of that slump against Columbus, which is 29th in the NHL in goals-against per game (3.22).

One area they could improve upon? Getting those second and third chances in the so-called dirty areas around the net.

If youre getting those second and third opportunities, those are the quality chances, Patrick Marleau said. You can get those first ones, but youve got to have guys battling in and around the paint and getting at those loose rebounds to put a couple home.

McLellan said that the Sharks have been getting plenty of bodies there, but the aggressiveness in that area of the ice could improve.

The fact is, there are people around the net, and sometimes theres two many people around the net, believe it or not. For every two guys we send there, they probably send three, and all of a sudden youve got five players and goaltender. Shots dont get through.

That doesnt mean we cant be better around the net and cant be harder and more determined, and well challenge our team to be that down the stretch.
Odds and ends: Logan Couture has three goals and an assist in his last three games. Columbus will host the 2013 NHL All-Star game. The Blue Jackets are 1-18-1 when trailing entering the third period. Dan Boyle will play in his 800th NHL game; Brent Burns his 500th; and Douglas Murray his 400th. Only Murray has played all of them with the same team. Of San Joses 35 remaining games, 13 are against the Pacific Division and 19 are on the road. Columbus is on pace for just 54 points this season, which would be a franchise-low. The Blue Jackets are a -39 on the road in goal differential.

Sorensen returns to Sharks after having 'positive impact' last season

Sorensen returns to Sharks after having 'positive impact' last season

Editor's Note: The above video is from March 2, 2017

One of the Sharks’ young forwards expected to challenge for a full time roster spot this season has been re-signed.

Marcus Sorensen, who started the year in the AHL before working his way up to the Sharks, signed a two-year contract extension the team announced on Tuesday. A source told NBC Sports California that the deal is worth $700,000 at the NHL level for each of the next two seasons.

In 19 regular season games with the Sharks, Sorensen, 25, posted one goal and three assists. He appeared in all six playoff games against Edmonton, posting one goal and one assist.

In 43 games with the AHL Barracuda, Sorensen had 17 goals and 17 assists for 34 points.

"The time he spent with the Sharks this season, and the positive impact he had, proved that he can be an effective player at the highest level,” assistant general manager Joe Will said in a statement.

Sorensen originally signed with the Sharks as a free agent on May 13, 2016. He was originally drafted by Ottawa in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, but spent six seasons playing in Sweden before joining San Jose.

Sorensen was a restriced free agent. The Sharks have just one RFA left to sign in forward Barclay Goodrow.

https://twitter.com/sorensenmarcus/status/887412566447628288

Mailbag: Will Sharks miss Marleau's leadership? Thornton to be bumped?

Mailbag: Will Sharks miss Marleau's leadership? Thornton to be bumped?

Now that the dust has settled on the draft and free agency, here’s a meaty offseason Sharks mailbag before my vacation…

Who will replace Patty's leadership? (philip malan‏ @pmalan1979)

Patrick Marleau was a good example for other players in that he always came to camp in great shape and took care of himself between games, allowing him to be very productive into his later years. 

But let’s not overblow it. From what I understand, Marleau preferred to avoid confrontation, and was never the guy in the dressing room challenging other players to step up. That was left more to guys like Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, with Logan Couture growing into that role in recent years, too. When it comes to veteran leadership there are other guys still in the dressing room of more value than Marleau. His leaving town shouldn’t change the dynamic.

Will Thornton be bumped from the top line center role? Who do you think will replace Marleau on the PP? (Elle‏ @LikeShiningOil)

The whole “top line” designation is something that us writers and broadcasters like to use, and I’m going to keep using it for Thornton so long as he and Pavelski are on the same line. That said, there will be plenty of games where the Couture line gets more even-strength ice time than the Thornton line. I guess my point here is don’t read too much into the labels. I don’t expect Thornton’s ice time to go down from what it was last season. He’s averaged 18 minutes and change in each of the past five seasons, and probably will again.

As for replacing Marleau on the power play, I would tab Tomas Hertl as the frontrunner, but I’m sure the Sharks will try a number of different looks there in training camp. After finishing 25th in the NHL last season they pretty much have to, right?

How will the lines roll this season, if you were to prognosticate now? (Erik Kuhre @Puckguy14)

It seems like we say this every year, but it depends on where the Sharks see Hertl slotting in. Last season Hertl started out on the wing of the top line after offseason knee surgery before moving to center fairly quickly. I know he battled through yet another knee injury during the season, but Hertl’s 22 points in 49 games was a disappointing total.

If the season were starting today, I’d put Hertl on the wing of the Thornton line again with, of course, Pavelski on the other side. Here’s what I’ve got in that scenario:

Tomas Hertl – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Timo Meier – Logan Couture – Joonas Donskoi
Jannik Hansen – Chris Tierney – Mikkel Boedker
Melker Karlsson – Ryan Carpenter – Joel Ward

Extras: Marcus Sorensen, Kevin Labanc, Barclay Goodrow

(One guy who is really going to have to fight to keep his spot is Ward. I could see him getting pushed out, but for now I’m leaving him in).

Will there be a tough guy in the lineup to protect the kids? (Jim Kelley)

The Sharks signed free agent Brandon Bollig a couple weeks ago to replace Micheal Haley, but I don’t seem him as a regular in the NHL lineup. Bollig could be a guy they recall if they think it’s necessary to dress a pugilist, like when Pete DeBoer brought up Haley late in the 2015-16 season for the sole reason of fighting Darnell Nurse, who had jumped Sharks defenseman Roman Polak just two weeks earlier for no real reason.

Do you think Chris Tierney is capable of more point production at this point in his career? (Ian Stephenson)

Count me among those that thought Tierney was ready to have a better season last year after his strong performance in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Still, he’s just 23 years old, and his line in the series against Edmonton with Meier and Sorensen was a very effective one for long stretches of play. This is a huge year for Tierney, who had to settle for the Sharks’ one-year, $735,000 qualifying offer. Perform, and he’ll get paid. Struggle, and he could be on the move.

Do you think the Sharks will trade either Grosenick or Dell? Doesn't seem Grosenick has much more to prove in AHL. (Chris Greni)

No, they’ll hold on to all three for the time being. Getting Troy Grosenick re-signed to a one-year deal was a nice move on the Sharks’ part, considering Aaron Dell still has just 20 games of NHL experience. Perhaps if they both continue to play well the Sharks could dangle one as trade bait later in the year, but it wouldn’t make sense at this point. 

Any thoughts on DW using the offer sheet to bring in scoring help? There’s several serviceable RFAs out there still waiting for contracts. (Tony Martinico)

Keep in mind that some of those high end RFAs, like Colton Parayko, Nino Niederreiter and Tomas Tatar are currently headed for arbitration, which takes the offer sheet off the table.

Purely speculation here, but I have to wonder if the Sharks have at least kicked around trying to ink Leon Draisaitl to an offer sheet. You have to think Berlin native Hasso Plattner would love to add the “German Gretzky” to the roster. I know we're settling into the part of the NHL offseason where typically nothing happens, but it was July 19 when the Flyers signed Shea Weber to a monster offer sheet five years ago.

And, of course, Doug Wilson has used the power of the offer sheet in the past, signing Niklas Hjalmarsson in 2010 and then using the threat of an offer sheet with Boston to acquire Martin Jones.

Which Cuda player, aside from Meier, Labanc and Sorensen, would you expect to be a dark horse and could make the big team out of camp? (olin @sleepymofo)

Keep in mind that the sixth and defensemen spots are open, too. I would presume that Dylan DeMelo is the frontrunner to replace David Schlemko, but Tim Heed and Joakim Ryan are coming off of strong seasons in the AHL. Perhaps one of them overtakes DeMelo in training camp.

As for other forwards than those you mentioned, Goodrow could end challenging for a spot on the fourth line. I get plenty of questions about Danny O’Regan, too, and perhaps he makes a push. The issue with O’Regan is that although he’s a skilled player in the minors, he’s probably not quite skilled enough to make up for his small frame at the NHL level. I view him more as a fill-in guy.

Any word on [Barclay] Goodrow and [Marcus] Sorenson? I'm assuming they didn't sign their QO's? (DaveBPilot‏ @DaveBPilot)

Yes, that’s safe to assume, since the deadline was Saturday. They remain RFAs, and negotiations will surely continue.

Still, it’s worth mentioning what happened last year with Matt Nieto. The forward didn’t sign his qualifying offer, as he was pushing for a multi-year deal, and ended up signing for one year for less than he would have made had he accepted the original offer. He was waived and claimed by Colorado.