Sharks-Blues: What to watch for

731096.jpg

Sharks-Blues: What to watch for

ST. LOUIS For the first time in his coaching career, Sharks head coach Todd McLellan is preparing his team for Round 1, Game 1 away from HP Pavilion. The seventh-seeded Sharks open up in St. Louis tonight against the Blues.

Will playing at the Scottrade Center be a benefit or an inconvenience? McLellan doesnt know. But, he does feel different than in years past.

Opening up on the road is new to us, and I think its something we need to take advantage of. That may sound strange, but the pressures that go with being a one or a two team are different than the pressures of being a seven or an eight team, McLellan said. We can spin that any way we want. We can say its coaches playing mind games and all that kinds of stuff, but its real. As a coach, I feel that playoff intensity, but I feel different now than I have in some of the other series.

That might be a really good thing for our team, and it might be a bad thing. Thats why we have to play it.

Dan Boyle has experienced just about everything in his long career, and said that the Sharks need to try to turn the rabid home crowd against its team early.

Sometimes when you start at home and you dont start out the right way, the fans get on you pretty quickly, Boyle said. In this case, the pressure is kind of on them to have a good start. Hopefully we can have a good start of our own, and the fans can sort of turn on them a little bit.

When you go on the road, it would be nice to take tonight just to get an early lead on them and really put the pressure on, Joe Thornton said. Is it different? I dont know. Its playoffs, every game is so important, and its important to get a lead in games. Its strange, but it is a good thing I think.

Incidentally, the last time San Jose opened a first round series on the road was in 2007 in Nashville. The fifth-seeded Sharks beat the fourth-seeded Preds, four games to one.

The first 10: The Sharks expect a strong push from the Blues early on, and a tie score through the first half of the opening frame would be an accomplishment for the road team.

Getting a lead would be even better, as the Blues just won half of their games when surrendering the first goal of the game (15-23-7). The Sharks were 34-8-3 when taking a 1-0 lead.

It will be a good test for us. If we can get a goal early and have a little push back, thats what well look to do, Ryane Clowe said.

I think the first 10 minutes of the playoffs as whole is the hardest 10 minutes, Boyle said. Everybody is just insane, and so excited and amp'ed up. The first 10 minutes of Game 1 has been, for me, in my experience, the craziest 10 minutes of the whole playoffs, really.

In the crease: Jaroslav Halak will start for the Blues, opposing Antti Niemi.

Halak was 2-0 against the Sharks with one shutout this season, posting a 0.50 goals-against average and .977 save percentage in the process. Niemi was 0-3 with a 2.04 GAA and .923 SP in three games against the Blues this season.

Brian Elliott, who was nursing an upper-body injury, will back up Halak tonight.

Lineup look: As Ray Ratto reported, Colin White will likely be the odd man odd on the Sharks blue line, meaning Jason Demers and Justin Braun will comprise the third defense pair.

NEWS: Lineup tweaks for Sharks

Torrey Mitchell, who missed the season finale against the Kings, will also play. Mitchell will likely be slotted on the wing next to Dominic Moore and TJ Galiardi, while Michal Handzus will come back out of the lineup.

Clowe, who took a couple days off from practice at the beginning of the week before returning yesterday, is also good to go.

It was nice to get a couple day break, we havent had that in awhile, he said. Im gearing to go now. I feel great, ready to go, and healthy.

St. Louis, like the Sharks, is healthy.

Former Sharks give insight: The Blues' roster features a pair of former Sharks in Scott Nichol and Kent Huskins. It was reported earlier in the week that coach Ken Hitchcock had them address the Blues regarding how to play against San Jose.

Nichol elaborated a bit on that after the Blues morning skate.

I think any little tidbit will help. When I played there we had two long seasons in the Western Conference Finals, so you know how guys react in playoffs, and how they can elevate their game. And, they have, he said.

Theyve been in playoff mode for the last three weeks and they are probably one of the few teams that can turn it on and off. For sure, theyve got it on right now.

Hitchcock, himself, is also familiar with several of the Sharks top players, as he was an assistant coach on Canadas Olympic team in 2010.

I know the players in San Jose. I know a lot of them. Ive coached with and against them in very elite competition, Hitchcock said. I know what they can do and I know how well they can play. Wherever theyve been to get here, they know how to play when theyre here.

Odds and ends: The Sharks were 0-4 against the Blues in the regular season, including getting shut out twice here in St. Louis. Patrick Marleau had five points in the Sharks last four games (2g, 3a), as did Joe Pavelski (2g, 3a) and Marty Havlat (1g, 4a). David Perron scored in five of the last six games for the Blues. David Backes and TJ Oshie tied for the Blues team lead in scoring with 54 points each.

Sharks conclude 2017 NHL Draft with five more forwards in the system

Sharks conclude 2017 NHL Draft with five more forwards in the system

CHICAGO – After nabbing a center in the first round on Friday, the Sharks added four more forwards and one defenseman to conclude the second day of the annual NHL Entry Draft on Saturday, held this year at United Center.

The Sharks weren’t explicitly trying to restock their forward cabinet, according to general manager Doug Wilson and scouting director Tim Burke, although the club did make two separate moves in surrendering some later round picks to move up in the fourth round (to take center Scott Reedy) and sixth round (to take left wing Sasha Chmelevski).

First, though, it was defenseman Mario Ferraro in the second round at 49th overall. The offensive defenseman was a player that the Sharks targeted, using the pick they acquired from New Jersey last Friday as part of the trade for Mirco Mueller.

“He’s got a lot of speed, offensive guy, exciting,” Burke said. “Puck-moving type of guy.”

Wilson said: “We’re very pleased with the d-man. He’s a very dynamic, athletic guy, great skater. He was a guy that we moved up a little bit aggressively to get because that round, you could see people going after who they wanted. He is a guy that we identified.”

After moving up from the fifth round to the fourth round last Friday, again because of the Mueller trade, the Sharks jumped up 21 more spots in the fourth round by obtaining the Rangers pick at 102nd overall for the 123rd and 174th selections.

Center Scott Reedy is a player that Burke has high hopes for, projecting the Minnesota native as a “second line right winger [with] high-end potential.” Burke pointed out that Reedy, who is friends with first round pick Josh Norris, occasionally played on the same line with Norris for each of the last two seasons with the U.S. Under-18 team.

“He’s a big, strong forward that can play both positions (center and right wing),” Burke said.

Right wing Jacob McGrew, an Orange, CA native, went to the Sharks in the fifth round despite missing all of his first season in junior with a lower body injury suffered in training camp with Spokane (WHL).

“We knew about him before he went up there,” Burke said. “He’s a California kid. … If he was healthy he probably would have gone earlier.”

The Sharks again moved up to snag Huntington Beach native and center Chmelevski at 185 overall, and made their sixth and final pick in the 212th position by taking left wing Ivan Chekhovich in the seventh round. Both players look to have some offensive skill, based on their numbers and Youtube highlights.

Burke was surprised that both players were around so late.

“I thought they had pretty good years and they kind of slipped in the draft,” he said. “We weighed that versus some other more project-type guys, and we thought they had more offense and finish to their game. They just kept sliding, so we took a chance on them.”

Wilson said: “We moved up for the guys we wanted, and then there were some skilled guys at the end that we were surprised were still there. … We’ll go back and take a look how it all went, but we feel, I think, really good about where we ended up with this.”

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

CHICAGO – Ilya Kovalchuk is still reportedly mulling over a return to the NHL, four years after he surprisingly walked away from a monstrous contract with the New Jersey Devils to play in the KHL.

The Sharks have been linked to Kovalchuk, in large part because of Pete DeBoer, who was Kovalchuk’s most recent head coach. In 2011-12, Kovalchuk was a dangerous scoring winger under DeBoer, helping the Devils reach the Stanley Cup Final.

It was apparently a good working relationship between the player and the coach for the two seasons they were together, DeBoer said on Friday at the NHL Entry Draft at United Center.

“I loved Kovy in New Jersey,” DeBoer said. “We went to a Stanley Cup Final together. He was a huge piece for us there. I really enjoyed coaching him. I haven’t seen him in four or five years now. I’m sure there’s still a lot of game left there.”

DeBoer said he’s had no contact with the 34-year-old Kovalchuk, who would have to be traded by New Jersey before signing a new contract with any other NHL club. Still, it seems like the Sharks’ coach might welcome a reunion with Kovalchuk, who posted 78 points in 60 games with SKA Saint Petersburg last season, and has 816 points (417g, 399a) in 816 career NHL games with Atlanta and New Jersey.

“I had a really good relationship with him. I had a lot of respect for him as a player and a person,” DeBoer said.

* * *

DeBoer seemed as uncertain as everyone else as to whether Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will return to the Sharks or move on to other clubs as free agents.

But, naturally, it’s on his mind.

“You think about it all the time,” DeBoer said. “They’re obviously important pieces in the history of the franchise, and in our group. I also understand the business side of this, and there’s always tough decisions to make. The way I approach these type of things is I’m going to go to Canada and relax, and Doug [Wilson] is going to make those decisions. I’m sure we’ll have a good group come training camp.”

“We’ve got a really good core group of guys and some tough decisions that have to be made. The one thing Doug and his group has shown over the years is their ability to stay competitive, to find a way even after making tough decisions. I have all the faith in the world in that, and I’m excited about training camp.”

* * *

The Sharks lost David Schlemko in the expansion draft earlier in the week. Vegas then flipped him to the Canadiens for a fifth round pick in 2019.

“I think for David, it’s a great opportunity for him, especially going to Montreal,” DeBoer said. “For us, it’s an opportunity for a young guy to jump in. The one thing we have in the organization is some depth. There’s a lot of guys knocking on the door, and guys hungry to grab that job.”