Sharks-Ducks: What to watch for


Sharks-Ducks: What to watch for

Sharks (20-11-4) vs. Anaheim (10-21-6) at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California.

ANAHEIM The Sharks are feeling confident after a 3-2 shootout win over Vancouver on Monday. Theyll try to keep building upon that tonight against another team they've struggled with recently.

Anaheim, in 29th place overall in the NHL standings, has beaten San Jose all three times this season. That includes a 3-2 win less than two weeks ago at HP Pavilion.

Anaheim has basically owned us all year, Jamie McGinn said after Wednesdays morning skate at Honda Center. "Also, I think theres a lot of pride on the line. You dont want to lose every single game against a division rival.

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"With such a big rivalry at Anaheim, we know were going to have Sharks fans here tonight, and we need to get a win.

Get the first goal: The Ducks have scored first in each of the three games vs. the Sharks, which for them, is huge. Anaheim is 1-16-2 when giving up the first goal but a respectable 9-5-4 when taking a 1-0 lead.

Confidence is a huge thing in any sport or life. When you feel good about yourselves individually and collectively, things tend to go better, Todd McLellan said. When you earn that opportunity or that right to feel good as the game goes on, the likelihood of success goes way up. Playing with the lead is something we all want to do in the league.

Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau liked what he saw from his club the day after Christmas at HP Pavilion. That was Anaheims only win in its last seven games (1-5-1).

The Ducks were able to maintain a slim lead, after Andrew Cogliano's goal midway through the second period held up as the game-winner.

Our work ethic against them was great. We worked hard for 60 minutes and we had a solid goaltending game, Boudreau said. You add that with the fact that we got the lead, and we never relinquished the lead. When you dont relinquish the lead when youre mentally fragile, thats a real big thing.
Limit the mistakes: The Sharks havent necessarily played terribly in their three one-goal losses to Anaheim, but key errors at inopportune times have cost them. That includes Joe Thorntons turnover that led to a Bobby Ryan breakaway goal early in the second period on Dec. 26.

We havent played poorly, we just havent been on top of those one-goal games, Thornton said.

The last time San Jose was in this building, a missed assignment by Andrew Desjardins led to a goal by the Ducks fourth line in the only marker of the game.

When you look at the opportunities that weve given them, there havent been many. When were erred, weve erred ugly, McLellan said.
Tracking Teemu: Boudreau had nothing bad to say about the Ducks leading scorer, Teemu Selanne, on Wednesday morning.

And why should he? The 41-year-old Selanne leads Anaheim with 36 points (11g, 25a) and has done nothing but impress his new head coach since Boudreau took over in late November.

When you call it a freak of nature at 41 when hes doing what hes doing, it is, Boudreau said. He still skates as well as anybody, doesnt want to miss any optional skates, doesnt take time off. Hes definitely one of a kind.

Selanne has 13 points in the 15 games Boudreau has been behind the bench.
Niemi vs. Hiller: Sharks goalie Antti Niemi will make his 13th straight start in net, opposing Anaheims Jonas Hiller.

Hiller, who has lost five of his last six decisions, has two wins against the Sharks this season with a 1.00 goals-against average and .971 save percentage. Hes 5-0-0 with a 1.71 goals-against average with two shutouts in his last six appearances against San Jose.

Niemi is 5-1-1 in his last seven starts, but 3-4 career against Anaheim.

Thomas Greiss will backup Niemi.

Odds and ends: Jason Blake is returning for Anaheim. Blake hasnt played since he was accidentally stepped on the arm by Brent Burns on Oct. 14. Colin White remains out for the Sharks with a lower body injury, and is not on the trip. The Sharks have points in eight of their last nine games (5-2-3).

Marleau wants to return, but extension with Sharks could be tricky

Marleau wants to return, but extension with Sharks could be tricky

SAN JOSE – Just like his longtime teammate and fellow pending unrestricted free agent Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau said on Monday that he would like to return to the Sharks next season.

“Yeah, it would be nice. We’ll see if that’s an option,” Marleau said. “A lot of time here before this decision needs to be made.”

When asked if there have been any talks yet about an extension, Marleau said: “Not really, no.” Marleau, who was actively exploring his options to leave the Sharks early in the 2015-16 season, would be eligible to sign with another team on July 1.

The 37-year-old forward said he still feels like he has “at least five good years in me, or maybe more.”

“I still think I can contribute and play,” he said. “Until I think I can’t do that anymore, I’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

Marleau has spent his entire 19-year NHL career with the Sharks. He’s the franchise leader in just about every offensive statistical category, including games played (1,493) goals (508) and points (1,082). Marleau became just the 45th player in NHL history to reach 500 career goals on Feb. 2 in Vancouver. In 82 games this season, he posted 27 goals (third on the team) and 46 points (fifth).

He was asked what it would mean to spend his entire career in San Jose.

“There’s only a few people who have ever done that in their careers,” he said. “That’s something special.”

If Marleau wants a multi-year contract, which is likely, it could make it tricky for Doug Wilson to keep him, though. Players such as Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are due sizable raises in their next contracts, as both will enter the final year of their current bargain deals in 2017-18.

Wilson called it “a priority” to get Jones and Vlasic signed before training camp. He can begin talks on July 1, per NHL CBA rules.

“Certainly Martin Jones is everything we expected him to be, and he’s crucial,” Wilson said. “Marc-Edouard Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league. You saw what he did against one of the top players in the league (Connor McDavid). Marc-Edouard is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world. 

“Both of them are extremely important to get under contract, and we can start those discussions in the next little while.”

Both Jones and Vlasic indicated they would like to stay in San Jose past next season, too, and it’s conceivable that the combined price tag for those players will be somewhere in the $13-$15 million range. Both made just a combined $7.25 million in 2016-17 ($4.25 million for Vlasic, $3 million for Jones).

“Oh, absolutely,” Jones said, when asked if he could see himself with the Sharks long term. “I love it here. The guys are great. It’s a lot of fun coming to the rink every day. City has been great. The fans are awesome, and we have a great team. I’m excited.”

Vlasic said on March 14 that he would like to play his whole career with the Sharks, and confirmed that sentiment again on Monday, although the timing of an extension gets seemed of little importance to the 30-year-old.

“When it happens it will happen. It doesn’t matter if it’s July 1 or during the season,” he said.

The Sharks also have several pending restricted free agent forwards this summer in Chris Tierney, Marcus Sorensen, Melker Karlsson and Joonas Donskoi. It’s likely that they’d prefer to keep all of those players, and some multi-year contracts could be the result. Other players like Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc showed flashes of becoming solid NHL contributors, too.

Along with the salary cap (still yet to be revealed), Thornton’s future, and which player the Sharks lose in the upcoming expansion draft, there are plenty of factors both sides need to weigh before any decision on Marleau gets made.

“[Marleau and Thornton] have been cornerstones of this franchise for a long time, not only as players, but as people,” Wilson said. “There’s a lot of variables that go into that decision, and the first one is me sitting down and talking with both of them. We haven’t had a chance to do that, so we’ll get there.”

DeBoer: Joe Thornton played through torn knee ligaments in playoffs

DeBoer: Joe Thornton played through torn knee ligaments in playoffs

SAN JOSE – There was finally some clarification on Monday on what Joe Thornton was playing through, as the Sharks gathered one final time at their practice facility before the offseason.

And, it was significant, as the 37-year-old was dealing with a “torn MCL and ACL” in his left knee, according to coach Pete DeBoer.

“I don’t know if the injury report has come out yet, but I’ve never seen a player play with a torn MCL and ACL,” DeBoer said. “Basically, his knee is floating there. It was as courageous an effort, him doing what he did, as I’ve ever seen.”

Thornton was scheduled to have surgery on the knee later on Monday afternoon, according to general manager Doug Wilson. Prior to that, the longtime centerman met with the local media.

"I'm going to go see the doctors right after this and see what they say,” he said. “So, I'll know more about it today. I just know it was pretty sore playing."

Wilson said: “I’ve been in the business a long time. To see a player play with that type of injury tells you everything you need to know about him.”

As for a timeframe for Thornton to return, Wilson said: “Don’t know. We’ll know after [surgery].”

Thornton, an unrestricted free agent who has spent the last 12 seasons with the Sharks, said that he would like to return.

"Yeah, I want to come back. I think this is a Stanley Cup caliber team and I think I'm a little bit older and I realize how good this team is,” he said. “Of course I'd like to [return]. But, we'll have to see. I'm sure we'll be talking. But right now I haven't been a dad for a long time. I need to turn into a family man for a couple months."

Thornton said there have not been any talks yet about a contract extension.

“I just wanted to focus on hockey this year,” he said. “There's no hurry, but yeah, I want to be back. This team is a real talented team, and I love playing here."

Wilson said: “We have lots of time … We’ve got four-and-a-half months until we’re back at it.”

Thornton, who has been downplaying the injury since it occurred on April 2 – including when he said three days later that there was “no doubt” he would return for the playoff opener, and then missing the first two games of the first round series with Edmonton – struck the same tune on Monday when asked what he had to go through to suit up.

"Just the normal stuff that hockey players deal with,” he said. “It was just unfortunate, the time of the year, that it happened three games before the end of the season and the playoffs [and] you’ve got to deal with something like that. 

“Hockey players are a different breed. There's probably five or six guys that had to deal with different stuff. But it is what it is. I'll go get it checked out today, and go from there."

Although Thornton’s was the most severe, there were other Sharks playing through injury as is commonplace at the end of any NHL season. 

Tomas Hertl suffered a broken foot in the same game as Thornton on April 2 in Vancouver, while forward Patrick Marleau had a broken thumb. Logan Couture played through a mouth injury that he has already revealed will require extensive dental work this summer, while Joonas Donskoi separated his left shoulder twice over the second half of the regular season.