Sharks-Coyotes: What to watch for


Sharks-Coyotes: What to watch for

SAN JOSE Thomas Greiss already has one win in the books this season against Phoenix. Hell try for his second tonight, when he returns to the net for the Sharks against the Coyotes at HP Pavilion.

Greiss, who sports an impressive 1.99 goals-against average and .928 save percentage, is making his first start since backstopping a 3-1 win against the Islanders on Oct. 29.

Hes earned the opportunity, and with the long break coming up between now and the Detroit game (on Thursday), and him not having started since our game on the Island, its important to get him back in, said Todd McLellan on Saturday morning.

Although its his first start of the month of November, Greiss came on in relief of Antti Niemi on Nov. 3 against Pittsburgh, helping the Sharks come from behind to defeat the high-powered Penguins. Hes seized his opportunity this season with Antero Niittymaki on the shelf until December at the earliest.

Hes one of just eight goalies in the NHL with a GAA under two.

I feel comfortable calling his number whenever, said McLellan, who mentioned that Griess has improved his game around the net.

Power play rolling at home: Patrick Marleau scored two power play goals against the Wild in the Sharks last home game, and the team now owns the best power play percentage in its own building at 30-percent.

Overall, the Sharks are sixth in the league (23.1 percent).

McLellan was asked on Saturday what has made his club so successful when it has a man advantage.

Were unpredictable, is probably the best way of putting it, he said. Right from entering the zone, we have different breakouts for different lines, and different sets. Were interchangeable parts, and that comes with experience.

One of the biggest qualities of the power play is puck retrieval; the ability to stay in and tire a team out. When were going well, we do that.

The Sharks may not have too many chances to improve those numbers tonight, though. The Coyotes enter the game with the fewest penalty minutes-per-game in the league with 8.5.

Coyotes still howling: After watching the shellacking the Sharks gave them on opening night, combined with the loss of star goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov in the offseason, it would have been easy to assume that the Coyotes would have a firm hold on last place in the Pacific Division by now.

As usual, though, the Coyotes are finding ways to hang around. Since that loss on Oct. 8, Phoenix has dropped just three games in regulation (7-4-3).

They dont have too many marquee players, so to speak, but they find ways to win, said Dan Boyle. The first game of the year was probably one of, if not our best game all year. I expect them to be much better than they were the first time around.

They had an awful opening night, and a good coaching staff, good team and good leadership, they know that, said McLellan. Theyve moved on and played well ever since.

One reason for that is goaltender Mike Smith. Smith got the call in that first game against the Sharks and surrendered six goals in just two periods to take the loss. In his 10 starts since, Smith is 6-1-3 and has allowed two goals or less in seven of them.

First things first: The Sharks have scored the first goal of the game just five times this season, and are a perfect 5-0 when doing so. That includes Thursday night against Minnesota.

The Coyotes have done it nine times, and have yet to lose a regulation game when jumping out to a 1-0 lead (6-0-3).

You dont usually score six goals against Phoenix, they are usually one-goal games, said Ryane Clowe. A lot of times its the first to three goals against Phoenix. Theyre coming in after losing a bad one, so theyre going to be ready to go.
Odds and ends: The Sharks have won six straight home games against the Coyotes. The Sharks are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games, the best mark in the NHL. This is the first game of a season long five-game road trip for the Coyotes. Phoenix is 7-0-0 when leading after two periods, and 0-4-1 when trailing after two. Coyotes defenseman Michal Roszival has not played since getting struck by a puck in the first game of the season against the Sharks.

Sorensen returns to Sharks after having 'positive impact' last season

Sorensen returns to Sharks after having 'positive impact' last season

Editor's Note: The above video is from March 2, 2017

One of the Sharks’ young forwards expected to challenge for a full time roster spot this season has been re-signed.

Marcus Sorensen, who started the year in the AHL before working his way up to the Sharks, signed a two-year contract extension the team announced on Tuesday. A source told NBC Sports California that the deal is worth $700,000 at the NHL level for each of the next two seasons.

In 19 regular season games with the Sharks, Sorensen, 25, posted one goal and three assists. He appeared in all six playoff games against Edmonton, posting one goal and one assist.

In 43 games with the AHL Barracuda, Sorensen had 17 goals and 17 assists for 34 points.

"The time he spent with the Sharks this season, and the positive impact he had, proved that he can be an effective player at the highest level,” assistant general manager Joe Will said in a statement.

Sorensen originally signed with the Sharks as a free agent on May 13, 2016. He was originally drafted by Ottawa in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, but spent six seasons playing in Sweden before joining San Jose.

Sorensen was a restriced free agent. The Sharks have just one RFA left to sign in forward Barclay Goodrow.

Mailbag: Will Sharks miss Marleau's leadership? Thornton to be bumped?

Mailbag: Will Sharks miss Marleau's leadership? Thornton to be bumped?

Now that the dust has settled on the draft and free agency, here’s a meaty offseason Sharks mailbag before my vacation…

Who will replace Patty's leadership? (philip malan‏ @pmalan1979)

Patrick Marleau was a good example for other players in that he always came to camp in great shape and took care of himself between games, allowing him to be very productive into his later years. 

But let’s not overblow it. From what I understand, Marleau preferred to avoid confrontation, and was never the guy in the dressing room challenging other players to step up. That was left more to guys like Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, with Logan Couture growing into that role in recent years, too. When it comes to veteran leadership there are other guys still in the dressing room of more value than Marleau. His leaving town shouldn’t change the dynamic.

Will Thornton be bumped from the top line center role? Who do you think will replace Marleau on the PP? (Elle‏ @LikeShiningOil)

The whole “top line” designation is something that us writers and broadcasters like to use, and I’m going to keep using it for Thornton so long as he and Pavelski are on the same line. That said, there will be plenty of games where the Couture line gets more even-strength ice time than the Thornton line. I guess my point here is don’t read too much into the labels. I don’t expect Thornton’s ice time to go down from what it was last season. He’s averaged 18 minutes and change in each of the past five seasons, and probably will again.

As for replacing Marleau on the power play, I would tab Tomas Hertl as the frontrunner, but I’m sure the Sharks will try a number of different looks there in training camp. After finishing 25th in the NHL last season they pretty much have to, right?

How will the lines roll this season, if you were to prognosticate now? (Erik Kuhre @Puckguy14)

It seems like we say this every year, but it depends on where the Sharks see Hertl slotting in. Last season Hertl started out on the wing of the top line after offseason knee surgery before moving to center fairly quickly. I know he battled through yet another knee injury during the season, but Hertl’s 22 points in 49 games was a disappointing total.

If the season were starting today, I’d put Hertl on the wing of the Thornton line again with, of course, Pavelski on the other side. Here’s what I’ve got in that scenario:

Tomas Hertl – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Timo Meier – Logan Couture – Joonas Donskoi
Jannik Hansen – Chris Tierney – Mikkel Boedker
Melker Karlsson – Ryan Carpenter – Joel Ward

Extras: Marcus Sorensen, Kevin Labanc, Barclay Goodrow

(One guy who is really going to have to fight to keep his spot is Ward. I could see him getting pushed out, but for now I’m leaving him in).

Will there be a tough guy in the lineup to protect the kids? (Jim Kelley)

The Sharks signed free agent Brandon Bollig a couple weeks ago to replace Micheal Haley, but I don’t seem him as a regular in the NHL lineup. Bollig could be a guy they recall if they think it’s necessary to dress a pugilist, like when Pete DeBoer brought up Haley late in the 2015-16 season for the sole reason of fighting Darnell Nurse, who had jumped Sharks defenseman Roman Polak just two weeks earlier for no real reason.

Do you think Chris Tierney is capable of more point production at this point in his career? (Ian Stephenson)

Count me among those that thought Tierney was ready to have a better season last year after his strong performance in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Still, he’s just 23 years old, and his line in the series against Edmonton with Meier and Sorensen was a very effective one for long stretches of play. This is a huge year for Tierney, who had to settle for the Sharks’ one-year, $735,000 qualifying offer. Perform, and he’ll get paid. Struggle, and he could be on the move.

Do you think the Sharks will trade either Grosenick or Dell? Doesn't seem Grosenick has much more to prove in AHL. (Chris Greni)

No, they’ll hold on to all three for the time being. Getting Troy Grosenick re-signed to a one-year deal was a nice move on the Sharks’ part, considering Aaron Dell still has just 20 games of NHL experience. Perhaps if they both continue to play well the Sharks could dangle one as trade bait later in the year, but it wouldn’t make sense at this point. 

Any thoughts on DW using the offer sheet to bring in scoring help? There’s several serviceable RFAs out there still waiting for contracts. (Tony Martinico)

Keep in mind that some of those high end RFAs, like Colton Parayko, Nino Niederreiter and Tomas Tatar are currently headed for arbitration, which takes the offer sheet off the table.

Purely speculation here, but I have to wonder if the Sharks have at least kicked around trying to ink Leon Draisaitl to an offer sheet. You have to think Berlin native Hasso Plattner would love to add the “German Gretzky” to the roster. I know we're settling into the part of the NHL offseason where typically nothing happens, but it was July 19 when the Flyers signed Shea Weber to a monster offer sheet five years ago.

And, of course, Doug Wilson has used the power of the offer sheet in the past, signing Niklas Hjalmarsson in 2010 and then using the threat of an offer sheet with Boston to acquire Martin Jones.

Which Cuda player, aside from Meier, Labanc and Sorensen, would you expect to be a dark horse and could make the big team out of camp? (olin @sleepymofo)

Keep in mind that the sixth and defensemen spots are open, too. I would presume that Dylan DeMelo is the frontrunner to replace David Schlemko, but Tim Heed and Joakim Ryan are coming off of strong seasons in the AHL. Perhaps one of them overtakes DeMelo in training camp.

As for other forwards than those you mentioned, Goodrow could end challenging for a spot on the fourth line. I get plenty of questions about Danny O’Regan, too, and perhaps he makes a push. The issue with O’Regan is that although he’s a skilled player in the minors, he’s probably not quite skilled enough to make up for his small frame at the NHL level. I view him more as a fill-in guy.

Any word on [Barclay] Goodrow and [Marcus] Sorenson? I'm assuming they didn't sign their QO's? (DaveBPilot‏ @DaveBPilot)

Yes, that’s safe to assume, since the deadline was Saturday. They remain RFAs, and negotiations will surely continue.

Still, it’s worth mentioning what happened last year with Matt Nieto. The forward didn’t sign his qualifying offer, as he was pushing for a multi-year deal, and ended up signing for one year for less than he would have made had he accepted the original offer. He was waived and claimed by Colorado.