Sharks-Canucks: What to watch for

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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).

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

SAN JOSE – The Sharks didn’t make any blockbuster moves last summer, content to make another run in 2016-17 with largely the same group that came within two wins of capturing the Stanley Cup.

They still acquired a notable player, though, when Mikkel Boedker was signed on July 1 to add an element that the Sharks knew they needed more of moving forward – speed. Boedker was expected to make the team faster, after the Sharks were exposed for not having enough of that against Pittsburgh in the NHL’s final round, as well as play in a top six role. 

At the time, it was hailed as a slick, under-the-radar move that wasn’t going to change the dynamic of the club but could help push it over the top.

When Boedker was a healthy scratch in games three and four of the first round against Edmonton, the evidence became clear, though, that this was a decision that fell flat on its face. 

Frankly, Boedker – who is signed for three more years with a $4 million salary cap hit – brings back visions of Sharks bust Marty Havlat. You know the skill is there, but the desire to use it on a nightly basis while showing any semblance of a battle level is lacking. 

Should the Sharks give Boedker another chance next season, or should they do everything in their power to try and move him? That’s a question that will likely be debated in the front office over the next several weeks.

On get-away day on Monday, indications were that the Sharks were planning on sticking with the 27-year-old, who finished with 26 points in the regular season (10g, 16a) and added one goal and one assist in four games in the playoffs.

“He has the things we’re looking for: his career scoring average, his speed, [penalty killing] ability,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “Did he meet the expectations that he had for himself [or] that we had for him? No. Can we get that out of him? Pete [DeBoer] believes we can.”

DeBoer has known Boedker since he played for him in 2007-08 in Kitchener (OHL). Despite scratching him in the playoffs, DeBoer said he saw “huge improvement” in Boedker throughout the course of the season after the forward spent nearly all of his NHL career in Arizona.

“There was an adjustment. He’s played 6-7 years a certain way in the NHL,” DeBoer said. “We’ve asked him to play differently here, and there was an adjustment.”

Boedker still believes that he can be a fit in San Jose.

“I think it will be and it can be,” he said. “It’s learning period, but you’ve also got to look in the mirror yourself and see what you can change and what assets you need to bring. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m ready to do that.”

The list of Sharks depth forwads that had frustrating seasons hardly begins and ends with Boedker, though.

Veteran Joel Ward’s production dipped from 43 points last season to 29 in 2016-17, although that probably isn’t too surprising considering he’s 36. Tomas Hertl is proving to be a streaky player, too, although his season was interrupted by another a knee injury.

The bigger disappointment came from players like Chris Tierney and Joonas Donskoi, who both made big impressions in the 2016 playoffs but struggled to produce consistent offense this year. Both were mentioned by name by DeBoer on Monday.

There are some promising youngsters in the pipeline like Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen, but it’s still too early to project any of them as can’t-miss scorers at the NHL level.

“I think we’ve got a large group of guys that I like, but need to step up,” DeBoer said. “Is Sorensen [like] Donskoi next year, where he takes a step back, or [does he take a] step forward? We’ve got a lot of guys that there’s a lot of potential there – Chris Tierney. 

“There’s a lot of those guys, but they need to have big summers and take a step, and show that they’re not just one season or one month players.”

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

SAN JOSE – Just in case there was any question as to the grisly nature of Logan Couture’s mouth injury, the Sharks forward shared a picture on his personal Instagram account on Monday.

If you haven’t seen it yet, proceed with caution.

The photo was taken the night of his injury on March 25 in Nashville, showing several top teeth missing in a mouth that can accurately be described as a bloody mess, after he was hit with a defected puck while standing in front of the net in a game against the Predators.

Couture revealed on Tuesday in a conference call that there was more to his injury that just damaged teeth. He also has some facial fractures, including one above his upper lip that extends to his nasal area, and another that is under the bottom row of his teeth.

The one that’s higher in his face is still painful. 

“Still struggle to eat and sleep. … It’s not a comfortable state to be in,” said Couture, who missed the final seven games of the regular season before returning for the six-game first round series loss to Edmonton.

As for the next step, Couture has yet to sit down with his dentist, although further work is on the horizon.

“There’s going to be some implants to get the teeth fixed,” he said. “Hopefully get it done in the next few weeks, and then I’ll head back to Canada.”

Couture doesn’t yet know how many teeth need to be replaced.

“All depends on how the teeth respond,” he said.

* * *

Joe Thornton had successful surgery on his left knee on Monday afternoon, NBC Sports California has learned, and according to a team statement released later on Tuesday he is expected to "make a complete recovery and be ready for the start of the 2017-18 season." 

According to a source, the damage to Thornton’s MCL was more significant than his ACL. The team declined to give any details about the surgery in its statement, including who performed it and where it was done. 

Thornton played four playoff games against Edmonton despite damaged knee ligaments, head coach Pete DeBoer revealed on Monday, when he said Thornton was dealing with a “torn MCL and ACL” after getting hurt in Vancouver on April 2.