Sharks-Canucks: What to watch for

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Sharks-Canucks: What to watch for

VANCOUVER (22-12-2) vs. SHARKS (19-11-3)
on Comcast SportsNet California at 7 p.m.

SAN JOSE The Vancouver Canucks are on a roll.

A league-leading power play has helped the Canucks to a 13-3-1 record in their last 17 games, as they visit the Sharks tonight at HP Pavilion. Vancouver sports an even 25-percent success rate with a man advantage, more than three percentage points higher than the second place Nashville Predators (21.6 percent).

Theyve got different looks. Obviously, the Sedins are pretty creative out there, defenseman Dan Boyle said. Theyre a big reason for it, but the guys on the blue line can shoot the puck pretty good. They have a lot of skill and a lot of creativity out there.

The identical twins Boyle is referring to, Henrik and Daniel, have identical power play numbers as well. The Canucks leading scorers each have six goals and 12 assists when on a man advantage.

They support each other really well and read off of each other, Douglas Murray said. They have solutions for a lot of situations they get into, and theyre creative.

RELATED: Handzus mentoring McGinn toward career year

Still, the Canucks have failed to score a power play goal in six of their last seven games, going 2-for-15 over that span. That could help the Sharks penalty kill gain confidence, which is still 28th in the league at 75.2 percent and dead last at home (72.1 percent).

Todd McLellan would rather not give the Canucks a chance to get their power play humming again, though. Discipline will be key, as far as staying out of the penalty box.

Check properly, use your legs instead of your stick, dont reach, no retaliation, that type of stuff, said the coach.

On the other side, the Sharks power play has struggled since they last saw the Canucks on Nov. 26 a 3-2 win for Vancouver at HP Pavilion. San Jose entered that game with the fifth ranked power play in the league at 22.2 percent, but a 4-for-45 stretch over the last 14 games has dropped them down to 13th in the NHL (18 percent).

What happened?

Lack of opportunity, and we havent earned enough power play chances in the game to gather any type of rhythm, McLellan said.

Murrays return: Murray will return to the Sharks lineup tonight after missing the last 10 games with a right hand injury. But, he didnt want to admit that to a Vancouver reporter this morning.

Its actually my left toe, not my wrist, so you can report that over there, he joked.

The beneficial part of Murrays injury is that hes been able to keep up his cardio, so McLellan wont have to limit his minutes against Vancouver.

I dont think hell have any issue physically, McLellan said. Hes probably skated more now than he has in his life. His fitness part of it and the ability to play the minutes is fine. It will be his reads, his anticipation, his puck skills. Tough team to come back against, but I dont worry about his lungs or his legs at all.

Murray said: Theyre a hot team right now, so you might as well get going and get your legs moving right away.

Targeting McGinn? Sharks forward Jamie McGinn was labeled a Canuck hunter after the previous game, when he knocked Canucks defenseman Alex Edler from the game with a hard check along the boards.

Edler didnt miss any time after that, but after what McGinn did to Vancouver in last years Western Conference finals, is he worried about any retaliation tonight?
RELATED: McGinn labeled a 'Canuck hunter' by Vancouver newspaper

Not so much.

Im just going to continue playing my game, and I think those were pretty clean hits, and it was just a freak accident that they got hurt, McGinn said. Im just going to continue to do what I do, and play hard.

McGinn has been providing valuable secondary scoring for the Sharks recently, with six goals and three assists in his last 12 games.

Finishing strong at home: The Sharks conclude their six-game homestand tonight looking for their fifth win.

A 5-1 record looks much healthier than 4-2, especially when you consider that the Sharks will have four days off between tonights game and Jan. 2 when they visit Vancouver.

That would be huge for us. Five out of six looks a whole lot better than four out of six, McGinn said. I think its critical to have a great home record, especially in front of these fans. Theyre great every year and we want to reward them with wins.

McLellan sounds like hell hammer home that point to his team prior to the game.

We know that anything less than an A-game will send us on the road with a 4-2 record. An A-game gives us an opportunity to be successful. Just like going on the Christmas break, youd like to leave your home arena when you leave on a road trip with a win, he said.

Thats what were showing up for and thats what were going to compete for, and at the end of the night we want to look up at the scoreboard and make sure that happens.

Odds and ends: Roberto Luongo will face Antti Niemi in net. Cory Schneider got the win on Nov. 26 for Vancouver, making 43 saves. Luongo is 8-1-1 in his last 10 games. Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture are tied for the Sharks team lead in goals with 15 each. Colin White is out for the Sharks with a lower body injury. Aaron Rome (thumb) and David Booth (knee) remain out for Vancouver.

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

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AP

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

No one asked, but I’m going to begin this week’s mailbag with my prediction for the Stanley Cup Final – Preds in six. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to a few of your questions…

Most likely to be moved this off-season? (Nik @niknisj25)

If the Sharks do make a move – and I’ve argued here that I think it may be time for a shakeup – they’ll surely be looking for someone up front to boost the offense. In that case, they’d likely have to sacrifice a defenseman or two.

The Sharks defense is the strength of the organization at the moment, as they had one of the best one-through-seven groups in the NHL this season. But it’s also an expensive one. The Sharks have nearly $27 million committed to their top seven defensemen next season, while Marc-Edouard Vlasic is due for a hefty raise beginning in 2018-19.

One name that could be intriguing to other teams is Justin Braun. The 30-year-old has been a part of the Sharks’ top shut down pair with Vlasic for several seasons now, and is signed for the next three years at a reasonable $3.8 million cap hit. The Sharks could potentially move him for offensive help, and slot in a guy like David Schlemko alongside Vlasic, while finally giving Dylan DeMelo a chance to play on a nightly basis on the third pair. A Vlasic-Schlemko pair could be more offensive than Vlasic-Braun, too, because as adept as they were at keeping the puck out of their own net, the Sharks didn’t get many goals from their defenders outside of Burns.

Of course, the upcoming expansion draft all but assures that nothing will happen until Las Vegas selects its team on June 21. If the Sharks lose a defenseman to the Golden Knights, they’ll be more reluctant to move another one. Still, with guys like Joakim Ryan, Tim Heed, Julius Bergman, Mirco Mueller and now Radim Simek in the pipeline, the club might be able to handle a couple departures.

How do we fix the power play next season? Bring in a coach that could help us? Change up the lines, or style of play? (adam smith @kickback408)

One thing that won’t be happening is a new coach, as Doug Wilson recently confirmed that Steve Spott would be back alongside Pete DeBoer. Bob Boughner could move on if he gets hired as a head coach elsewhere, but Boughner’s focus is the team’s defense and penalty kill.

Obviously, the future of the power play depends on who is on the roster, beginning with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Both saw their power play production dip this season.

Thornton went from 29 power play points in 2015-16 to 19 this season (he had eight power play goals in 2015-16, and just one this season). Marleau saw a decline from 25 power play points in 2015-16 to 16 last season. Even if both return, it may be time to try other bodies on the top unit.

Do you see Meier, Labanc and/or Sorensen having a breakout season next year? Or anyone else on the Barracuda? (Colin Dunn @ColinDunnACA)

Someone better had, because this team needs to start getting younger, and soon. One of the bigger disappointments of the 2016-17 season is that none of them apparently showed the coaching staff that they were prepared to play on a nightly basis at the NHL level.

Timo Meier and Marcus Sorensen, I would surmise, are at the top of the depth chart as far as forwards go. Their line in the playoffs with center Chris Tierney was the Sharks’ best through the early part of the series with Edmonton. As for Kevin Labanc, I think he’s fallen a bit since he had a brief run of success for the Sharks in December.

While the Sharks did a good job stockpiling some young players through the 2013-15 drafts, they’ve traded away a number of picks in recent years. In last year’s draft they didn’t have a first or third round pick; this year they don’t have any picks in the second, third or fourth rounds; and in 2018 they are already without their second and third round picks. 

It’s great to accumulate young players, but at some point they have to break through. Now is the time.

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

After five seasons with the Sharks, Larry Robinson is leaving the organization.

Robinson, 65, spent the last three seasons as the club's director of player development. He served as an associate coach from 2012-14.

TSN in Montreal and the Montreal Gazette originally reported the news.

The Sharks confirmed that Robinson's contract would be expiring, and general manager Doug Wilson told NBC Sports California that the divorce was amicable, and "because of geography." Robinson lives in Florida.

According to the Montreal Gazette

Robinson’s contract with the Sharks expires on July 1, but agent Donnie Cape said Thursday that San Jose general manager Doug Wilson has given him permission to speak with other teams. Robinson lives in Bradenton, Fla., and the long travel distance to San Jose is one of big the reasons he’s looking for a new team to work for.

Robinson seemed to ponder retirement in 2014, but signed a three-year extension to remain in the Sharks' front office. He worked mostly from his home in Florida the past two seasons, making occasional trips to San Jose, including during training camp.

In the summer of 2015, Robinson underwent surgery for skin cancer.

Recognized as one of the best defensemen in NHL history, Robinson won six Stanley Cup championships with the Montreal Canadiens as a player, and holds the NHL record for playing 20 straight seasons in the playoffs. A 10-time All-Star and two-time Norris Trophy winner, Robinson was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995.

Robinson was the head coach of the Los Angeles Kings from 1995-99, and the New Jersey Devils from 1999-2002 and again in 2005-06. He led the Devils to the Stanley Cup in 2000. Robinson has nine Stanley Cup rings as a player and coach.

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The Sharks did not renew the contract of pro scout Jason Rowe, who had been with the organization for the past nine seasons. Rowe focused on eastern NHL and AHL teams.