Sharks-Canadiens: What to watch for


Sharks-Canadiens: What to watch for

SAN JOSE When a team is mired in a scoring slump, as the Sharks are with just three goals in their last three games, an ugly goal can be just what the doctor ordered to break out of it.

The best way to do that is get in front of the goaltender and look for a rebound, or even a puck to deflect in off of a skate of a shin pad. Battling their way to the blue paint is something the Sharks will make a conscious effort to do when they host the Montreal Canadiens at HP Pavilion tonight.

It seems to always be the way to get out of it. When youre not scoring, it always seems to be the goal that you get is a second rebound chance, or third chance, or one that just squeaks in somehow, said Joe Pavelski. If you want to score consistently, you have to find a way to get those.

Sometimes youre around the net and youre not really assertive or hungry for second chances, so I think youll see us more assertive around the net, said Ryane Clowe, who hasnt scored since Nov. 3 vs. Pittsburgh.

Clowe went on to say that just because youre around the net, doesnt mean youre doing whats necessary to create the so called dirty or greasy goals.

Sometimes you think youre there, but are you getting pushed out easily? Are you getting boxed out? Just because you go there for a second chance doesnt mean they are going to give it to you, he said. You have to make sure youre committed to working for rebounds. A lot of times if you can get in the goalies face a little bit, you get pucks that go off your shin pad or get tips-ins.

Clowe will be back on a line with Logan Couture and Marty Havlat, a trio that had early success together when Havlat made his season debut in the fifth game of the season in New Jersey on Oct. 21. Patrick Marleau is back with Pavelski and Joe Thornton on the top line.

Havlat is another player mired in a scoring slump, with just one goal this season and only one assist in his last nine games. From the sound of it, Havlat is one guy in particular that McLellan would like to see get his nose a little dirtier in trying to create scoring chances.

Eventually, hes got to find a way to get himself into scoring situations, said McLellan. Hes got to put himself in spots where he can get second opportunities. Maybe this shuffle will help.

Find the shooting lanes: The Sharks are second in the NHL with 34.2 shots per game, but may find it difficult to generate that many against Montreal. The Canadiens are third in the NHL in shots-against per game with 27.7, and lead the NHL with 231 blocked shots.

In fact, the Canadiens have two of the top six players in the NHL when it comes to blocked shots. Josh Gorges leads the league with 68, while Hal Gill is sixth with 61.

Combine that with Carey Prices steady goaltending, and breaking out of their scoring slump won't be easy.

Theyve got big guys who like to block shots. Obviously, Hal Gill is a huge guy and sometimes hell just lay out there and act like a goalie, almost, said Clowe. But, sometimes it can work to your detriment, if you can lay them out and find someone off the side of the net.

Price, who had the night off in the Canadiens 4-1 loss in Anaheim on Wednesday in favor of Peter Budaj, is considered one of the top goalies in the NHL according to McLellan. Price is 9-8-4 with a 2.26 goals-against average and .916 save percentage.

Hes a hell of a goaltender and has got to be one of the top three or four in the league, and is having a very good year and is very confident, said the Sharks coach. Their team does very well blocking shots in front of him, and eliminating second chances. That part of their game is going to be a real good challenge for us.

Handzus returns: The Sharks will get Michal Handzus back in the lineup tonight, after he has recovered from what he described as a high fever.

Handzus played just 12:34 minutes last Saturday against Vancouver, and missed Mondays game in Los Angeles.

With a high fever, I had headaches and the respiratory system came into play a little bit, so it was longer than I thought, he said.

Monday would have been his first game in Los Angeles since he signed with the Sharks this summer as a free agent. He spent the previous four seasons as a member of the Kings.

It doesnt really matter if its L.A. or somewhere else, he said. I want to play every game.

Odds and ends: This is the first and only meeting between the Canadiens and Sharks this season. They last met on Dec. 3 at Bell Centre, a 3-1 Sharks win. Joe Thornton has six assists in the last five games. Antti Niemi will start in net for the Sharks. Injured Canadiens include Andrei Markov (knee), Jaroslav Spacek (upper body), Scott Gomez (lower body) and Chris Campoli (leg). Max Pacioretty is serving the second of a three-game suspension. San Jose has won its last five games against Montreal at home. The Canadiens last won here on Nov. 13, 1999.

Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes


Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes

It was late in the lockout-shortened 2013 season when Sharks general manager Doug Wilson really started to prepare for the future. Douglas Murray was dealt to Pittsburgh for a pair of second round selections. Ryane Clowe packed his bags for Broadway, in exchange for a second and a third round pick from the Rangers. Michal Handzus went to Chicago for a fourth rounder.

Wilson’s logic was sound, as it typically takes two-to-four years before draft picks have a chance to make an impact at the NHL level. The general manager figured that by then, players like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau either wouldn’t be a part of the team anymore or would be slowing down. Restocking the cupboards was essential.

From 2013-15, the Sharks made 24 selections over the next three NHL entry drafts, including seven total picks in the top two rounds. Some players have shown promise. Others haven’t. A few aren’t in the organization anymore. That’s the nature of the business.

The way the 2017-18 opening night roster is shaping up, though, now is the time that some of these young players in the system simply have to step up. Marleau and his 27 goals last season are gone, Thornton’s numbers are down and he’s coming off of major knee surgery, Joe Pavelski is now 33 years old, and the team’s offense depth is suspect at best. There have been no notable additions in the offseason.

Frankly, this season could be viewed as a referendum on the team’s amateur scouting staff, including longtime director Tim Burke. Wilson handed Burke and his staff a wonderful opportunity to provide the organization with fresh talent with the team approaching an organizational crossroads.

What has transpired so far is a bit concerning, as already two of the team’s first round picks from that span ended up being nothing more than trade bait.

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Mirco Mueller, chosen 18th overall in 2013, was a huge disappointment in San Jose. It’s been well documented that he was mishandled by the organization when he was rushed to the league in 2014-15, but even this past season, regular observers of the Barracuda had Mueller as nothing more than the AHL team’s fourth-best defenseman. He’s now in New Jersey, swapped for a pair of draft picks.

The scouting staff was so high on Mueller on draft day that Wilson traded a valuable second round pick to Detroit to move up just two places to select him. With those acquired picks, the Red Wings took Anthony Mantha 20th overall and Tyler Bertuzzi 58th overall – two forwards that have shown a whole lot more NHL potential than Mueller (especially Mantha, who has 39 points in 70 career NHL games so far).

Perhaps more concerning, though, is that the Sharks 2013 draft class as a whole is looking like a dud. Second round pick Gabryel Boudreau suffered a wrist injury and is no longer in the organization anymore, but he was trending downward even before he got hurt. None of the remaining players selected from rounds four-through-seven look to be NHL quality, either.

The next year brought Nikolay Goldobin, chosen 27th overall after the Sharks traded down in the first round, and he ended up being the key piece in the Jannik Hansen acquisition from Vancouver. Goldobin showed some flashes of offensive talent during his time in the organization, but his lack of hockey sense and on-ice work ethic helped lead to his exit. Whether Goldobin becomes an NHL regular, even with a fresh start in Vancouver, is highly uncertain.

Had the Sharks stayed at 20th overall, they could have selected Nick Schmaltz (20th overall), Robby Fabbri (21st overall), or David Pastrnak (25th overall). Instead, they moved down and took Goldobin, making it back-to-back first round failures.

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Still, unlike 2013, other players from Goldobin’s draft class have shown some promise. Second rounder Julius Bergman was a steady blueliner for a good Barracuda team last season, and although he’s probably not NHL-ready yet, he could be on the right track. Late in the draft the team found Kevin Labanc in the sixth round with the 171st overall selection, and Labanc had some nice moments with the Sharks last season. His shot and his hands make him a solid prospect, although Labanc still probably has to get a bit bigger and stronger to play in the NHL full-time.

Noah Rod (second round, 53rd overall) and Rourke Chartier (fifth round, 149th overall) are also still developing, with Rod playing against men in the Swiss league the past few seasons and Chartier a valuable player for the Barracuda last year.

In 2015, the draft provided the Sharks with Timo Meier at ninth overall, as the club drafted in the top 10 for the first time since 2007. At this point, Meier is far and away the best prospect in the organization, and he’ll likely be relied upon to play a top nine (or even a top six) role for the Sharks this season.

The 2015 draft brought other decent prospects, too. Defenseman Jeremy Roy was selected 31st overall, and after suffering a serious knee injury in juniors this year, he’ll get a chance to play for the Barracuda this year. Fourth rounder Adam Helewka and fifth rounder Rudolfs Balcers have also developed nicely since draft day. It’s still a bit too early to evaluate that draft as a whole.

It should also be mentioned that while their draft day record may be suspect the past few seasons, the Sharks have brought in European free agents like Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen. Karlsson has developed into a versatile, hard-working forward; Donskoi has shown flashes of offensive brilliance despite a disappointing second year in the NHL last season; and Sorensen looks primed to make the opening night roster after his speed and tenacity shined through during the Sharks’ first round series loss to Edmonton.

The Sharks scouting staff has helped to keep the team competitive for a long time, and they’re as big a reason as any that the team has missed the playoffs just once in the past 11 seasons. But this is also a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, and now is the time that the Sharks need to see some results from players that were chosen by Burke and company.

Report: Former Sharks forward awarded millions in suit against former agent


Report: Former Sharks forward awarded millions in suit against former agent

Dany Heatley last played in the NHL in the 2014-15 season, but he's still raking in hefty paychecks.

The former Sharks forward was awarded $6.5 million on Wednesday, when a judge ruled in his favor in a lawsuit filed against Heatley's former agent, Stacey McAlpine, and McAlpine's parents. 

The lawsuit, filed in 2012, claimed that McAlpine coaxed Heatley into unwise real-estate investments and withdrew over $4 million from Heatley's accounts without authorization.

After a five-year legal battle, Heatley was awarded $4.1 million from defendant company Presidential Suites Inc. and $2.3 million from the second defendant company Waterfront Development Inc, according to CTV Calgary.

Heatley, 36, played two of his 13 NHL seasons in San Jose, where he totaled 146 points (65 goals and 81 assists) in 162 games.

McAlpine was also sued in 2016 by former Senators defenseman Chris Phillips.