Sharks-Ducks: What to watch for


Sharks-Ducks: What to watch for

Anaheim (9-19-6) vs. Sharks (19-10-3)
at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California

SAN JOSE The two-day Christmas break could probably have come at a better time for the Sharks.

The team was on a roll after winning its fourth straight game on Friday night, extending the Sharks point streak to six consecutive games (4-0-2). The Sharks, along with every other team in the league, had Saturday and Sunday completely off from hockey.

Theyll try to recapture that momentum tonight at home against the Anaheim Ducks after a 2-1 shootout win over the Los Angeles Kings on Friday.

Its just about re-establishing our game and the intensity level. Thats the big one, we dont want to waste minutes and want to have a good start, said Joe Pavelski. Just get right back into the flow of things.

The players know these two days are coming up, and as soon as youre done that last game they turn everything off -- which they should. Theyve earned the right to do that, said Todd McLellan. Then, you have to think about all the goodies over Christmas that everybody seems to consume.

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"Physically, it will take a little while for them to adjust, I believe. Most players will tell you one day off is fine, but two days off it takes a little bit longer to get the engine going.

One advantage the Sharks should have over the Ducks is that they didnt have to fly in on the morning of a game, as Anaheim did today -- a rarity for NHL road teams, which are typically required to be in the cities in which they are playing the night before the game.

Other than the two-day break, its just another normal game day for the Sharks. The same can't be said for Anaheim.

Its always nice because you can have a typical game day. You dont have to travel and play on the same day, said Pavelski.

Patrick Marleau said: Im glad Im not the team flying, but I think were all pretty much in the same boat. Everybodys had two days off coming in, and you have to get back in that mindset right away of a hard hockey game.

McLellan, though, pointed out some advantages to being the road team tonight.

Id maybe prefer to be on the road. I think theres too many distractions at home right now, said the coach. Everybody goes home to the Christmas tree again, and there are still toys to be put together and leftovers to finish off. Being on the road and being in a hotel away from everything is sometimes a nice thing.

Still a perfect homestand: The Sharks will try and remain perfect on their six-game stretch at HP Pavilion after winning the first four. San Jose has won three one-goal games over Colorado, Edmonton and Los Angeles in a shootout, as well as a convincing 7-2 victory against a bad Tampa Bay team.

How have they been able to do it?

Were had some pretty good games, I think. Good starts, which were kind of a problem early in the season, said Dan Boyle. Were finding ways to win. Whether it was Tampa, winning 7-2, or grinding it out until the very last second in the L.A. win the other night.

The four-game winning streak comes after the team returned from a 0-1-2 road trip. McLellan saw signs of improvement even then, despite the losses.

We played well enough to win those games, but didnt. Its the old saying that youre coming out of it, but still losing, he said. Weve carried that over here to the homestand.

It cant end now because of a break. It feels like a long time ago since we played, but we have to continue on. Were in no position to give ourselves permission for an extended vacation.

Rivals reunited: The Ducks have just nine wins this season, but two of those came over the Sharks in October. Jonas Hiller shut them out in the Sharks second game of the season, 1-0, on Oct. 14 at Honda Center and won 3-2 at HP Pavilion just three nights later.

That may have been the high point of their season, though. Since that win at HP Pavilion, the Ducks have won just five games and replaced head coach Randy Carlyle with Bruce Boudreau. They also bring a 0-9-4 losing streak on the road into tonights matchup, having not won away from home since Oct. 27 in Minnesota.

Although its been months since theyve seen Anaheim, the Sharks remember those early matchups against their in-state rivals.

It was a little while back, but I just remember that we lost. At the end of the day thats what we all remember, said Boyle. Although theyre struggling in the standings, they seem to get up and get ready to play us all the time so we have to be ready.

McLellan isnt worrying as much about what adjustments the Ducks have made since their coaching change, as he is his own club after the two-day layoff.

Systematically Im sure there are some minor changes that theyve been able to implement that well have to watch out for, but this is probably a game and Im sure Boudreau will tell you this, too you just have to try and establish your own game for at least the first 20 minutes and worry about the other team after that.

Roster update: Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi will make his 14th start in the last 15 games, and will be backed up by Thomas Greiss. Antero Niittymaki will not dress.

In his last 17 stars, Niemi is 11-4-2 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. In six career games against Anaheim, hes 3-3-0 with a 2.19 GAA and .905 SP.

Jonas Hiller is expected to start for the Ducks. In 14 career regular season games against the Sharks, Hiller is 5-8-0 with a 2.21 GAA and .933 SP.

Sharks defensemen Jim Vandermeer (hand) and Douglas Murray (hand) remain on injured reserve.

Odds and ends: The Ducks are 2-6-2 under Bruce Boudreau. The Sharks lead the NHL in shots per game with 34.5. The Sharks are tied with St. Louis for fewest goals allowed 5-on-5 (42). San Jose has killed off nine of the last 10 power plays against. The Ducks are 1-14-2 when their opponent scores first.

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?


Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

No one asked, but I’m going to begin this week’s mailbag with my prediction for the Stanley Cup Final – Preds in six. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to a few of your questions…

Most likely to be moved this off-season? (Nik @niknisj25)

If the Sharks do make a move – and I’ve argued here that I think it may be time for a shakeup – they’ll surely be looking for someone up front to boost the offense. In that case, they’d likely have to sacrifice a defenseman or two.

The Sharks defense is the strength of the organization at the moment, as they had one of the best one-through-seven groups in the NHL this season. But it’s also an expensive one. The Sharks have nearly $27 million committed to their top seven defensemen next season, while Marc-Edouard Vlasic is due for a hefty raise beginning in 2018-19.

One name that could be intriguing to other teams is Justin Braun. The 30-year-old has been a part of the Sharks’ top shut down pair with Vlasic for several seasons now, and is signed for the next three years at a reasonable $3.8 million cap hit. The Sharks could potentially move him for offensive help, and slot in a guy like David Schlemko alongside Vlasic, while finally giving Dylan DeMelo a chance to play on a nightly basis on the third pair. A Vlasic-Schlemko pair could be more offensive than Vlasic-Braun, too, because as adept as they were at keeping the puck out of their own net, the Sharks didn’t get many goals from their defenders outside of Burns.

Of course, the upcoming expansion draft all but assures that nothing will happen until Las Vegas selects its team on June 21. If the Sharks lose a defenseman to the Golden Knights, they’ll be more reluctant to move another one. Still, with guys like Joakim Ryan, Tim Heed, Julius Bergman, Mirco Mueller and now Radim Simek in the pipeline, the club might be able to handle a couple departures.

How do we fix the power play next season? Bring in a coach that could help us? Change up the lines, or style of play? (adam smith @kickback408)

One thing that won’t be happening is a new coach, as Doug Wilson recently confirmed that Steve Spott would be back alongside Pete DeBoer. Bob Boughner could move on if he gets hired as a head coach elsewhere, but Boughner’s focus is the team’s defense and penalty kill.

Obviously, the future of the power play depends on who is on the roster, beginning with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Both saw their power play production dip this season.

Thornton went from 29 power play points in 2015-16 to 19 this season (he had eight power play goals in 2015-16, and just one this season). Marleau saw a decline from 25 power play points in 2015-16 to 16 last season. Even if both return, it may be time to try other bodies on the top unit.

Do you see Meier, Labanc and/or Sorensen having a breakout season next year? Or anyone else on the Barracuda? (Colin Dunn @ColinDunnACA)

Someone better had, because this team needs to start getting younger, and soon. One of the bigger disappointments of the 2016-17 season is that none of them apparently showed the coaching staff that they were prepared to play on a nightly basis at the NHL level.

Timo Meier and Marcus Sorensen, I would surmise, are at the top of the depth chart as far as forwards go. Their line in the playoffs with center Chris Tierney was the Sharks’ best through the early part of the series with Edmonton. As for Kevin Labanc, I think he’s fallen a bit since he had a brief run of success for the Sharks in December.

While the Sharks did a good job stockpiling some young players through the 2013-15 drafts, they’ve traded away a number of picks in recent years. In last year’s draft they didn’t have a first or third round pick; this year they don’t have any picks in the second, third or fourth rounds; and in 2018 they are already without their second and third round picks. 

It’s great to accumulate young players, but at some point they have to break through. Now is the time.

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

After five seasons with the Sharks, Larry Robinson is leaving the organization.

Robinson, 65, spent the last three seasons as the club's director of player development. He served as an associate coach from 2012-14.

TSN in Montreal and the Montreal Gazette originally reported the news.

The Sharks confirmed that Robinson's contract would be expiring, and general manager Doug Wilson told NBC Sports California that the divorce was amicable, and "because of geography." Robinson lives in Florida.

According to the Montreal Gazette

Robinson’s contract with the Sharks expires on July 1, but agent Donnie Cape said Thursday that San Jose general manager Doug Wilson has given him permission to speak with other teams. Robinson lives in Bradenton, Fla., and the long travel distance to San Jose is one of big the reasons he’s looking for a new team to work for.

Robinson seemed to ponder retirement in 2014, but signed a three-year extension to remain in the Sharks' front office. He worked mostly from his home in Florida the past two seasons, making occasional trips to San Jose, including during training camp.

In the summer of 2015, Robinson underwent surgery for skin cancer.

Recognized as one of the best defensemen in NHL history, Robinson won six Stanley Cup championships with the Montreal Canadiens as a player, and holds the NHL record for playing 20 straight seasons in the playoffs. A 10-time All-Star and two-time Norris Trophy winner, Robinson was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995.

Robinson was the head coach of the Los Angeles Kings from 1995-99, and the New Jersey Devils from 1999-2002 and again in 2005-06. He led the Devils to the Stanley Cup in 2000. Robinson has nine Stanley Cup rings as a player and coach.

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The Sharks did not renew the contract of pro scout Jason Rowe, who had been with the organization for the past nine seasons. Rowe focused on eastern NHL and AHL teams.