Sharks-Blues: What to watch for


Sharks-Blues: What to watch for

ST. LOUIS Everyone in the hockey world is glad that Blues winger David Perron is finally back. Especially Joe Thornton.

Thornton, of course, buried Perron with a shoulder check on Nov. 4, 2010 in St. Louis, forcing the 23-year-old to miss 13 months and 97 games with a severe concussion.

Obviously, you dont want to hurt anybody. Its unfortunate hes been out for so long, but to see him back playing put a smile on my face and for him to score in his first game back was exciting, as well, said Thornton. I wish him all the health in the world now.

When Perron was ready to return on Dec. 3 against Chicago, Thornton made sure to text him before that first game and wish him luck. Perron went on to score a goal in a 5-2 loss for the Blues.

Its not something that I expected at that point, but it was nice to get, said Perron of the surprise text. Hes a nice guy, and its obviously not a play that was really smart on his part, but it happened and I moved on from that. It was nice to get it, for sure.

Perron made it known to the media that Thornton reached out, in part because he wanted to turn the page and make sure others do, as well.

A lot of people were and still are mad at him. Im not one of them, said Perron. I just wanted to share it with people because I know hes a classy guy. Obviously, you make mistakes in life and that was one he made last game, but Ive moved on from that.

Thornton mentioned that he and Perron will speak either before or after the game, and that hell keep that conversation between the two of them.

Back on the road: The Sharks bring a 7-3 road record into tonights game at the Scottrade Center, much better than their 8-6-1 mark at HP Pavilion. Its the beginning of a three-game trip for San Jose, which visits Chicago on Sunday and Colorado on Tuesday.

Whats been the difference on the road this season?

I dont know. Maybe we simplify our game, said Marc-Edouard Vlasic. It seems like things are going well for us on the road, so we have to keep that going against a very good team.

Patrick Marleau thinks the key to road success is keeping it simple, and making sure that youre ready right from the bat. Usually teams come out hard at home the first 10 minutes or so and you have to be ready for that, and ready to whether the storm and find your own game.

St. Louis is 10-3-1 at home.

Power outage: The Sharks bring the 10th ranked NHL power play into tonights game, but are just 1-or-17 over their last six games. That includes an abysmal two-man advantage for nearly two minutes that the Sharks were fortunate to get away with, during the 5-2 win over the Stars on Saturday.

The execution was pretty poor, said Marleau, who had a couple of misplays with the puck during that advantage.

Vlasic would like to see the Sharks get more shots on the net when they are on the power play.

Especially these guys, they work hard with big bodies on the back end, he said. They block a lot of shots, so well try to shoot to break them down and hopefully the power play will get one for us tonight.

The Blues havent been any better on the power play, entering the game with a league-worst 10.4 percent success rate.

Battle ready: The Sharks have surrendered a combined total of just 41 shots over their last two games against Minnesota and Dallas. Even though they lost 2-1 against the Wild last Thursday, Todd McLellan thinks that the Sharks hard working mentality, which has lacked at times this season, is paying dividends.

In our two previous games weve given up 41 shots on goal which is pretty darn good, defensively. You have to be doing something right battling, that doesnt happen by mistake, he said.

I think that we went to the net a lot harder, we kept pucks in the offensive zone because of it, and maybe even more importantly we took some good finished checks from the other team in our zone to breakout, and we had good support.

Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock also saw that on the game tape between the Sharks and Stars, and it's the biggest key to the game tonight from his perspective.

Its kind of whoever controls the end boards is going to win the hockey game, said Hitchcock. If they get the end boards on you, like they did against Dallas once they dialed it up, its pretty hard to play against them. If we can get the end boards on them were very competitive in the offensive zone, too. So, well see who gets the end boards.

Odds and ends: Douglas Murray and Jim Vandermeer remain out for the Sharks. Todd McLellan had his lines rearranged at the morning skate, including Joe Thornton between Jamie McGinn and Brad Winchester, and Joe Pavelski on the wing with Patrick Marleau and Michal Handzus. Blues goalie Brian Elliott will oppose Antti Niemi. Elliott has a league-best 1.56 goals-against average and .944 save percentage. St. Louis allows just 2.08 goals per game, second in the league to Boston. St. Louis is 10-2-3 since Hitchcock took over. The Sharks have the most shots in the league per game (34.5) while St. Louis allows the fewest (26.3).

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.”

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

SAN JOSE – Just in case there was any question as to the grisly nature of Logan Couture’s mouth injury, the Sharks forward shared a picture on his personal Instagram account on Monday.

If you haven’t seen it yet, proceed with caution.

The photo was taken the night of his injury on March 25 in Nashville, showing several top teeth missing in a mouth that can accurately be described as a bloody mess, after he was hit with a defected puck while standing in front of the net in a game against the Predators.

Couture revealed on Tuesday in a conference call that there was more to his injury that just damaged teeth. He also has some facial fractures, including one above his upper lip that extends to his nasal area, and another that is under the bottom row of his teeth.

The one that’s higher in his face is still painful. 

“Still struggle to eat and sleep. … It’s not a comfortable state to be in,” said Couture, who missed the final seven games of the regular season before returning for the six-game first round series loss to Edmonton.

As for the next step, Couture has yet to sit down with his dentist, although further work is on the horizon.

“There’s going to be some implants to get the teeth fixed,” he said. “Hopefully get it done in the next few weeks, and then I’ll head back to Canada.”

Couture doesn’t yet know how many teeth need to be replaced.

“All depends on how the teeth respond,” he said.

* * *

Joe Thornton had successful surgery on his left knee on Monday afternoon, NBC Sports California has learned, and according to a team statement released later on Tuesday he is expected to "make a complete recovery and be ready for the start of the 2017-18 season." 

According to a source, the damage to Thornton’s MCL was more significant than his ACL. The team declined to give any details about the surgery in its statement, including who performed it and where it was done. 

Thornton played four playoff games against Edmonton despite damaged knee ligaments, head coach Pete DeBoer revealed on Monday, when he said Thornton was dealing with a “torn MCL and ACL” after getting hurt in Vancouver on April 2.