Sharks-Bruins: What to watch for

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Sharks-Bruins: What to watch for

SAN JOSE Any good feelings from the Sharks exciting 3-2 overtime win last Saturday against Detroit are long gone.

After San Jose looked to be coming out of its six-week funk, beating the Red Wings to improve to 3-0-1 in its last four, the Sharks suffered a pair of discouraging regulation losses to Anaheim on Monday and Los Angeles on Tuesday.

I thought wed continue that momentum and play well, and we didnt, Logan Couture said.

After a day off for the regulars on Wednesday, the Sharks (36-27-10, 82 points) will try to get things going in the right direction again tonight at HP Pavilion against the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins. San Jose enters the evening in 10th place in the Western Conference, two points behind the eighth place Kings (Phoenix is in ninth, also with 84 points).

RATTO: Sharks' hearts and minds will decide playoff berth

Couture said: Were trying to remain as positive as can be. Weve got a big test tonight. I know Im excited. Any time you play a team that just won the Stanley Cup, you have to get up for it.

We need to play our best game of the year and build off of that, Patrick Marleau said.
Handzus returning; Wingels too? Sharks center Michal Handzus will return tonight after missing the last six games with a lower body injury.

Obviously its an exciting time right now. Its fun to play in these games, its like playoff hockey, Handzus said.

It hasnt been the most pleasant of seasons for the offseason addition, as Handzus was a healthy scratch in three of the seven games before he was hurt.

I havent played well enough, too, before so Im looking forward to getting back in and playing better, he said.

Rookie Tommy Wingels, whos been out with an upper body injury for the last five games, could also return, although neither he nor coach Todd McLellan would confirm it.

RELATED: Wingels nominated for Masterton

Look for Jason Demers to return to the lineup, too, possibly in place of Justin Braun. Nathan Horton (concussion), Rich Peverley (knee) and Tuukka Rask (groin) remain out for the Bruins.
Havlat surging: The Sharks have welcomed Marty Havlat back to the lineup, as the winger has four goals in four games after missing 39 with a partially torn hamstring. He has six points (4g, 2a) in his last three games.

Hes very creative out there with the way he passes and where he places pucks, said linemate Patrick Marleau. He protects the puck well, he sees the ice very well, and knows when to go fast and when to go slow. Thats something very special in a player.

Havlat had just two goals in his first 26 games with San Jose before he was hurt on Dec. 17.

Bruins streaking: The Boston Bruins (42-27-3, 87 points) had a difficult two-month stretch after a dominant early part of the season. The club has won its last three, though, including an 8-0 thrashing of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday.

Stanley Cup Champs for a reason, coming off a real good win, McLellan said. Playing probably better over the last week to 10 days than they were earlier in the year. They went through their funk as well, as all teams do. Theyre gearing up for their playoff run, so well have our hands full.

Theyre a complete team, right from the goaltender on out, said former Bruins captain Joe Thornton. Theyre flying high off that 8-0 win last game. Wed like to score early, get some confidence, and get ready to roll from there.

In one of the more entertaining games this season, the Sharks won at TD Garden on Oct. 22, 4-2. Benn Ferriero scored the game-winner midway through the third period, breaking a 2-2 tie at the second intermission.

Marleau said: You take some confidence from the previous game. You know that theyre going to bring their game tonight and have lots of firepower. They play a great system game, so were going to have to do the same.
McLellan looking for some clutch hitting: The Sharks head coach used a baseball analogy to describe what hes looking for from his team as it continues its trudge through the second half of the season.

When youre up to bat in the bottom of the ninth, the walk is great. Its kind of the safe play, but Id like to see somebody hit the ball. Well take a single, well take a double, and those are the kind of players we want right now.

If you have too much on your shoulders you might get to first, but youre going to walk. For lack of a better analogy, I like baseball, so thats what Im going to use right now.

Whats been the problem over the last two games?

I feel at times its a nervousness that holds us back. We have to go out there and play free. Its not about one or two individuals carrying the weight of the team on the shoulders, its about distributing it evenly. The 25 minute guys have to take as much on as the seven minute guys. When you do that, the team plays well.
Niemi vs. Thomas: Antti Niemi will make his 13th straight start in net for the Sharks. Hes 4-0 with a 1.96 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in four career games against Boston, and made 37 saves in the win on Oct. 22.

Tim Thomas goes for the Bruins, as capable backup Rask remains out with a groin injury. Thomas is 2-3-0 with a 2.02 GAA and .928 SP career against the Sharks.

Former Dallas Stars goalie Marty Turco is Thomas backup. He was signed as a free agent on March 5 after Rask went down.

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.