Sharks-Coyotes: What to watch for

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Sharks-Coyotes: What to watch for

SAN JOSE In been quite awhile since the San Jose Sharks found success against the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Sharks cruised to a 6-3 win over Phoenix Coyotes back on opening night, 6-3. Since then, Phoenix has taken the next three by a combined score of 11-3, including a 3-0 shutout two weeks ago at Jobing.com Arena.

Do the Sharks owe the Coyotes a beating?

We owe ourselves one. We havent played well against this team, Todd McLellan said on Saturday morning. Weve been a little bit lethargic, weve mismanaged the game, weve turned pucks over all of the things that lead into them having success. Theyre built around capitalizing on that. We owe ourselves a good game, we dont owe them a good game.

Tonight is a big test for us. Weve lost the last three games against them, so well be ready tonight, Marc-Edouard Vlasic said.

There are eight regular season games remaining for the 10th place Sharks (37-27-10, 84 points), who are two points behind the seventh place Coyotes (37-26-12, 86 points) with one game in hand.

Of the eight, seven are against Pacific Division opponents. San Jose, which visits Phoenix on March 29, is just 7-9-1 against its own division.

Coyotes hanging tough: Unlike the Sharks, the Coyotes werent supposed to be in playoff position this late in the regular season, especially after losing goalie Ilya Bryzgalov over the summer.

But here they are, a surprise to many once again, led by players like goaltender Mike Smith and veteran forward Ray Whitney.

Daniel Winnik spent a year with the Coyotes, so he has a good bit of perspective on coach Dave Tippetts philosophy.

Theyre extremely patient. They way Tippett coaches, they dont care if they ice the puck seven times in a row. Their whole bench isnt getting frustrated, said Winnik, who scored his first goal as a Shark on Thursday against Boston. They try and slow the game down and make it boring enough that you get disinterested and try plays that create turnovers, and thats how they score goals.

Smith (33-18-9, 2.36 GAA, .925 SP) presents a challenge more than just his steady play in the net. Hes known as one of the best puck-handlers in the NHL for a goalie, so the Sharks will try and prevent him from gaining possession.

You really have to be very cautious of your dumps and try to keep it away from him, Winnik said. If they do go to him, you know its an easy breakout for them. Its definitely like having a third defenseman back there. And obviously, hes been really good in the net for them, too.

McLellan said: You dont always get to enter the zone with possession, so when you do have to give it up, you better put it in an area where you can retrieve it and at least contest it. Mike is maybe the best in the NHL at handling pucks and setting up defensemen.

Smith has two shutouts against the Sharks this season the previous game on March 10, and Nov. 12 at HP Pavilion, both 3-0 finals. Antti Niemi (29-20-9, 2.46 GAA, .913 SP) will be in net for the Sharks, making his 14th straight start.

Doan out: The Coyotes will be missing forward and captain Shane Doan. Doan is serving the second of a three-game suspension for hitting Stars forward Jamie Benn during a game on March 20. Hes their third-leading scorer with 47 points (12g, 26a).

He is a big loss for them, mostly on the power play. They lose his one-timer on that side, and hes been a threat for him there, Winnik said. Hes really the heartbeat of the team and the organization because hes been there forever.

Thats not something the Sharks are focusing on, though.

Joe Pavelski said: Someones going to step up in his position. It doesnt make our approach any different. Hes a good player for them and obviously theyd like to have him, but were not too worried about that. Were trying to take care of ourselves.

Phoenix registered a key victory over another team battling for a playoff spot on Thursday, beating Colorado in regulation, 3-2.

Theyve already played without him and theyve had some success, McLellan said.
Paging Patrick Marleau: One player the Sharks would like to get going is Patrick Marleau. The forward has just one goal in his last 14 games, and said recently that the opportunities are there, but hes just not burying them.

McLellan addressed it this morning.

He is getting chances. I think theres been times in the past where his scoring has dried up a little bit and he hasnt been getting chances. Youre wondering what hes thinking or what hes doing. In this situation he has been getting some opportunities five-on-five and the power play, said the head coach.

Theres no doubt that hes due. When he gets the one, he always scores in bunches so thats a good sign for us, but lets get the one first.
Odds and ends: The Coyotes and Sharks are both 4-3-3 in their last 10 games. Phoenixs leading goal-scorer Radim Vrbata hasnt found the back of the net in 12 straight games. Ray Whitney leads the Coyotes with 70 points (23g, 47a), and has points in 23 of his last 27 games. Joe Thornton has 19 goals and 59 points in 55 career games versus the Coyotes.

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.

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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.”

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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.”