Sharks-Canucks: What to watch for

627982.jpg

Sharks-Canucks: What to watch for

VANCOUVER Its time to start playing some hockey games.

After another odd break in the Sharks schedule that has seen them dormant in the last four days, a quick glance at the standings shows that San Jose has played the fewest games in the NHL with 34. A handful of teams have already played 40.

The Sharks will begin 2012 in Vancouver against the rival Canucks, and over the next three weeks, will play 13 games in 22 days leading up to the NHL All Star break. And thats just fine with Todd McLellan.

Its time to catch up with the rest of the league and play every second night, and get a grind going. Just be part of whats going on everywhere else, said the coach. We need to do that on a consistent basis, establish our game, and carry it through for the next couple of months.

The Sharks are a combined 0-4-1 against the two teams they face on this short trip to Vancouver and Anaheim. Theyve dropped two games to Vancouver, including Wednesday nights 3-2 overtime loss, and all three in regulation to the last place Ducks. San Jose visits Anaheim on Wednesday.

Harness the stored energy: The Sharks should have an advantage in that they havent played since last Wednesday at home against Vancouver, while the Canucks won in Anaheim and lost in Los Angeles in two subsequent games last week.

San Jose held three practices in the meantime.

Well take any advantage we can, Patrick Marleau said. We should have fresh legs going into tonights game. We expect their best, so well have to be ready.

Michael Handzus isnt convinced the time off is helpful, though.

I dont think its any advantage. Sometimes its better to play more games, sometimes its better to have a break, he said.

What could help is that the Sharks know they wont have any time to feel their way into the game against the Canucks. Even though they lost to the Kings, 4-1 on Saturday, Vancouver is still 15-4-1 in its last 20 games and just two points out of the Western Conference lead.

If the Sharks dont play with the kind of early energy they showed in last Wednesdays wildly entertaining affair, this one could be over early.

Its nice to face a top team. I think it will make us rise to the challenge, Ryane Clowe said. We know weve got to be prepared. Theyre hot, and probably the hottest team in the league.

RELATED: NHL standings

Its going to be a lot of emotions and its going to be fun, Handzus said. Sometimes after four days you feel sloppy, but you want that crowd in Vancouver and the emotion is going to be good for us. Its a good way to start the new year.

Special teams...as usual: Its starting to get repetitive, but the Sharks need to start playing better in both aspects of special teams.

The Sharks are 15th and 28th in power play and penalty kill, respectively, while Vancouver has the top power play in the league and seventh best PK.

Each team was 1-for-4 on the power play on Wednesday, which was a minor victory in itself for the Sharks. What irked them, though, were two late man advantages in which they had a chance to get the go-ahead goal that went by the wayside.

Between the pipes: Roberto Luongo will start again for the Canucks, and its all but certain hell oppose Antti Niemi for San Jose. The Sharks did not have a morning skate in Vancouver with the early start time.

Luongo has put a poor start to the season behind him, and is 9-3-1 since reclaiming the starting job from Cory Schneider in early December.

The Canucks have given Niemi fits in his career, as hes just 2-5-2 with a 3.19 goals-against average against Vancouver.

Odds and ends: Logan Couture, the Sharks leading goal scorer with 16, has seven points in the last seven games (4g, 3a). Defenseman Jim Vandermeer remains on injured reserve, and Colin White is out with a lower body injury. The Sharks are 7-4-2 on the road, and winless in their last four (0-2-2). They havent won away from HP Pavilion since Nov. 20 in Colorado. Tonights game at 5:00 p.m. PST is the inaugural hockey broadcast on the new NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus).

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.”