Sharks control Pacific Division fate, for now

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Sharks control Pacific Division fate, for now

SAN JOSE The Sharks got some help on Friday night.

Coach Todd McLellan, whose club is battling for a playoff spot, was probably well aware when certain games concluded as Dallas and Calgary both failed to record a point in the standings against Chicago and Edmonton, respectively.

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We watch games every night. Thats what we do. When youre watching them youre checking scores elsewhere, especially this time of year and the position were in, McLellan said.

The Sharks sit in ninth place headed into Saturdays game with the Red Wings, and are just three points behind the Pacific Division-leading Stars, with two games in hand. Win those two games, and the Sharks are right back up in the third position and would get home ice advantage in the first round.
KURZ: Red Wings-Sharks, what to watch for
McLellan doesnt want his team to focus on that just yet, though.

The premium that we put on anything is a win tonight, he said on Saturday morning. Not Pacific titles or even getting into the playoffs. One mile at a time.

If thats truly the case, he may not want to read on. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, for example, thinks its necessary to take a peek at whats goin down elsewhere.

You need to, to know where you are. Were not that far off of third place in our division, so we need to put some wins together here to secure ourselves a playoff spot and gain ground on others, he said.

His defense partner agrees.

You want to get in the playoffs, but youve got to try and get home ice advantage. Its not like its out of reach for us, its right there in front of us. Were going to get to control if we want it or not, Dan Boyle said. We dont have to look around and wait for other teams to do their job, weve just got to do ours.

What may be more important than seeding, though, is playing well when the postseason tournament begins. Thats true of whether the Sharks finish in third, seventh, or eighth, which seem to be the only real possibilities left.

Vlasic hammered that point home with a bad memory for Sharks fans.

Weve lost to a number eight seeds before, so when you get in, it starts over, he said of the Sharks loss to Anaheim in 2009. For us, were trying to go into the playoffs on a winning note and carry momentum going into it.

Step one, of course, is making it in the first place.

Report: Division rival interested in Joe Thornton

Report: Division rival interested in Joe Thornton

The mere thought of Joe Thornton wearing a Kings sweater may be enough to cause some Sharks fans to lose their lunch.

But it might be a possibility.

According to LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen, the Kings consider Thornton to be a “priority” should be hit the open market as a free agent. While the two sides are currently allowed to express mutual interest, NHL rules forbid them from discussing terms of any deal until Saturday at 9 a.m. PT.

Rosen points to a number of individuals in the Kings' organization that have ties to Thornton, including general manager Rob Blake, who played on the Sharks with Thornton from 2008-10. Mike O’Connell was Thornton’s general manager in Boston and currently serves as the Kings’ senior advisor to the general manager. Glen Murray, a former teammate and frequent linemate of Thornton’s with the Bruins for three-and-a-half seasons, is in Kings player development.

The Kings, under new management since replacing Dean Lombardi with Blake, and head coach Darryl Sutter with John Stevens, have put a priority on finding players this offseason that can get pucks to dangerous scoring areas. 

Adding one of the best passers in the history of the NHL would surely help in that regard. Thornton sits 13th in the NHL all-time with 1,007 assists.

Rosen writes: “Los Angeles has been a dominant possession team without being a high scoring team for the better part of the last six-plus seasons, and it was articulated earlier in the off-season that the team needed to do a better job of taking advantage of that possession discrepancy. In trying to find players with the ability to turn possession into actual production, the team has placed an emphasis on finding players capable of distributing the puck into high-danger in the attacking zone. There might not be another player in the NHL – let alone unrestricted free agents – who is as gifted of a passer of Thornton, which places the team’s needs in concert with the future Hall of Famer’s skill set.”

As reported here previously Thornton, who turns 38 on Sunday, is seeking a deal of three years. That might not be agreeable to the Sharks, who are likely to sign Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to long-term and expensive contract extensions that would kick in with the 2018-19 season.

Of course, Thornton could also be using the Kings as leverage to get a new deal in San Jose, where he would prefer to remain.

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

The Sharks have issued qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Chris Tierney, Marcus Sorensen and Barclay Goodrow, while cutting ties with three players in the system.

Tierney, 22, posted 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 80 games last season, serving primarily as the fourth line center. He has 64 points (24g, 40a) in 202 career games over three NHL seasons, all with the Sharks.

Sorensen posted one goal and three assists in 19 games with the Sharks last season, his first in the NHL. The 25-year-old played in all six playoff games against Edmonton, scoring one goal and one assist.

Goodrow, 24, skated in three games for the Sharks last season with one assist. He has 16 points (4g, 12a) in 77 games over three seasons with the Sharks, although has played in just 17 NHL games since the start of the 2015-16 season.

Forward Nikita Jevpalovs, defenseman Patrick McNally and goalie Mantas Armalis - also known for his career as a male model - were left unqualified and are now unrestricted free agents.

Earlier in the offseason, the Sharks signed pending restricted free agents Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson. Donskoi received a two-year deal at a salary cap hit of $1.9 million, while Karlsson was signed to a three-year deal at $2 million annually.