Sharks-Ducks: What to watch for


Sharks-Ducks: What to watch for

ANAHEIM The Sharks re-took the Pacific Division lead with Mondays 5-1 win over Colorado, but are still no lock to make it to the postseason. If theyd been a little more successful against the Ducks, though, they might be.

The Pacific Division rivals meet for the sixth and final time tonight in Anaheim, and the Ducks have taken four of the first five, all in regulation. That includes what was a momentum-halting 5-3 win at HP Pavilion just nine days ago.

Its not too long ago, and I remember the feeling afterward. Obviously, we were not very thrilled with our performance and some of the things that happened throughout that game, Dan Boyle said on Wednesday morning at Honda Center. Its pretty fresh in our minds, but its a new day and new game, and weve got to bring a better effort.

RELATED: NHL conference standings

Todd McLellan, whose team has won three in a row, said: We talked to our guys about not letting our guard down. This is a team thats had our number, thats played better than we have, and deserved to win the games. Its something were going to have to correct tonight.

San Jose (39-27-10, 88 points) has a one-point lead over Dallas and Phoenix and a two-point edge on Los Angeles.

Were 1-4 against this team. Thats really hurt our opportunity to be a successful team this year, is just our record against Anaheim alone, McLellan said. Thats not any disrespect to them. Theyre played really well.

San Jose has just six games remaining in the regular season, four of which are on the road.

Galiardis return, Niemi starting: The Sharks will make one tweak to their lineup against the Ducks, as TJ Galiardi is returning from a six-game absence with whats believed to be a back injury. Hell likely start on a line with Dominic Moore and Torrey Mitchell, while Michal Handzus comes out of the lineup.
NEWS: Galiardi set to return vs. Ducks

One line McLellan certainly wont tinker with is the Tommy Wingels, Andrew Desjardins and Daniel Winnik trio. That group has scored in three straight games and has brought tremendous hard work and energy to the ice since they were put together before the Sharks 2-1 win over Boston on March 22.

You need those guys to eat up some minutes. Theyre not only doing that, theyre putting the puck in the net, Boyle said. We need that, and theyre a very important part of our team.

McLellan said: Were getting a lot of mileage out of Desjardins line, which maybe we hadnt gotten earlier. It keeps the bigger boys fresher, it keeps them on their toes a little bit more, and I think its more of a team effort than maybe a three-line effort.

Antti Niemi will make his 16th straight start in net, opposing Jonas Hiller. Niemi is 1-3 against the Ducks this season, while Hiller is 1-1. Jeff Deslauriers picked up the win for Anaheim in the most recent matchup, making 27 saves.

Hiller is 6-9-0 in his career against the Sharks with a 2.26 goals-against average and .933 save percentage, while Niemi is 4-5-0 with a 2.50 GAA and .901 SP vs. Anaheim.

Playing spolier: Bruce Boudreau would love to help prevent the Sharks from making it to the postseason, and hopes his team uses that as motivation to keep playing hard despite its playoff chances near zero.

Were playing at home, we have a chance to derail a little bit of San Joses opportunity, so wed like to be able to do that, Boudreau said. Its motivation for us. Its the same thing against Phoenix on Saturday. If we can stop them from going anywhere, thats great.

Anaheim has had an outstanding second half of the year, but a nightmarish first half essentially buried their postseason chances by the end of December.

Teemu Selanne said: We know the situation. Obviously we still just try to play well, and get a little better taste for this season and finish strong. The first half was just too much. We put ourselves so bad behind the 8-ball; no team would come back."

Anaheim did climb to within four points of eight place in the West at one point, but is just 5-8-1 since Feb. 27.

I thought we were close. It was climbing for a long time and I thought we did pretty well, but it was too much, Selanne said.
Shut down the top guys: Selanne, Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry have combined for seven goals of the 13 goals in the five games against San Jose, led by three from Perry.

Theyve given us some trouble. You have to keep the big boys off the scoresheet and theyve had some success against us, so we have to try and slow those guys down, Ryane Clowe said.

Conversely, the Sharks could use some off offense from a few of their big guns, which have been silenced in the season series. Logan Couture has just one assist in five games against Anaheim, as does Patrick Marleau.
Odds and ends: Dallas visits Edmonton while the Kings are in Calgary in other games to monitor in the Pacific tonight. The Sharks visit Phoenix tomorrow night. Joe Pavelski has five goals and one assist in his last six games. Ryan Getzlaf has a six-game point streak, with eight assists over that span. When asked today by a local writer if hes leaning one way or the other when it comes to retirement, Teemu Selanne replied: Not really. Not really.

Five months after taking puck to face, Sharks' Logan Couture 'still pretty sore'


Five months after taking puck to face, Sharks' Logan Couture 'still pretty sore'

Nearly five months after taking a puck to the mouth that resulted in major damage, Logan Couture is still dealing with the aftereffects of his surgically repaired mouth, which now features several false teeth.

Appearing on the NHL Network this week, Couture was asked how he’s feeling with less than one month to go before the Sharks open training camp on Sep. 14.

“There’s good days and bad days,” Couture said. “My bottom teeth are still my real teeth. They’ve tried to keep them so I don’t lose them. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, they’re still pretty sore. My top teeth are all fake now – my front six, I think. So, it’s different. It just feels different in my mouth. 

“But everything else with my face and all that is healed. I’m lucky that it’s an injury that didn’t affect my training, and hopefully won’t affect me going forward.”

Couture was injured on March 25 in Nashville. He was set up just outside the crease in the offensive zone when a Brent Burns point shot hit a stick before squarely battering the now 28-year-old’s mouth.

After missing the final seven games of the regular season, Couture returned for the Sharks’ playoff opener. He managed to play in all six games of the first round loss, posting two goals and one assist for three points, although he struggled at times and was seemingly targeted by the Oilers.

Couture is currently in his hometown of London, Ontario where he’s staging a casino event for brain research. Fellow Sharks Chris Tierney and Dylan DeMelo will take part, as will other NHL stars like the Kings’ Drew Doughty.

Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes


Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes

It was late in the lockout-shortened 2013 season when Sharks general manager Doug Wilson really started to prepare for the future. Douglas Murray was dealt to Pittsburgh for a pair of second round selections. Ryane Clowe packed his bags for Broadway, in exchange for a second and a third round pick from the Rangers. Michal Handzus went to Chicago for a fourth rounder.

Wilson’s logic was sound, as it typically takes two-to-four years before draft picks have a chance to make an impact at the NHL level. The general manager figured that by then, players like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau either wouldn’t be a part of the team anymore or would be slowing down. Restocking the cupboards was essential.

From 2013-15, the Sharks made 24 selections over the next three NHL entry drafts, including seven total picks in the top two rounds. Some players have shown promise. Others haven’t. A few aren’t in the organization anymore. That’s the nature of the business.

The way the 2017-18 opening night roster is shaping up, though, now is the time that some of these young players in the system simply have to step up. Marleau and his 27 goals last season are gone, Thornton’s numbers are down and he’s coming off of major knee surgery, Joe Pavelski is now 33 years old, and the team’s offense depth is suspect at best. There have been no notable additions in the offseason.

Frankly, this season could be viewed as a referendum on the team’s amateur scouting staff, including longtime director Tim Burke. Wilson handed Burke and his staff a wonderful opportunity to provide the organization with fresh talent with the team approaching an organizational crossroads.

What has transpired so far is a bit concerning, as already two of the team’s first round picks from that span ended up being nothing more than trade bait.

* * *

Mirco Mueller, chosen 18th overall in 2013, was a huge disappointment in San Jose. It’s been well documented that he was mishandled by the organization when he was rushed to the league in 2014-15, but even this past season, regular observers of the Barracuda had Mueller as nothing more than the AHL team’s fourth-best defenseman. He’s now in New Jersey, swapped for a pair of draft picks.

The scouting staff was so high on Mueller on draft day that Wilson traded a valuable second round pick to Detroit to move up just two places to select him. With those acquired picks, the Red Wings took Anthony Mantha 20th overall and Tyler Bertuzzi 58th overall – two forwards that have shown a whole lot more NHL potential than Mueller (especially Mantha, who has 39 points in 70 career NHL games so far).

Perhaps more concerning, though, is that the Sharks 2013 draft class as a whole is looking like a dud. Second round pick Gabryel Boudreau suffered a wrist injury and is no longer in the organization anymore, but he was trending downward even before he got hurt. None of the remaining players selected from rounds four-through-seven look to be NHL quality, either.

The next year brought Nikolay Goldobin, chosen 27th overall after the Sharks traded down in the first round, and he ended up being the key piece in the Jannik Hansen acquisition from Vancouver. Goldobin showed some flashes of offensive talent during his time in the organization, but his lack of hockey sense and on-ice work ethic helped lead to his exit. Whether Goldobin becomes an NHL regular, even with a fresh start in Vancouver, is highly uncertain.

Had the Sharks stayed at 20th overall, they could have selected Nick Schmaltz (20th overall), Robby Fabbri (21st overall), or David Pastrnak (25th overall). Instead, they moved down and took Goldobin, making it back-to-back first round failures.

* * *

Still, unlike 2013, other players from Goldobin’s draft class have shown some promise. Second rounder Julius Bergman was a steady blueliner for a good Barracuda team last season, and although he’s probably not NHL-ready yet, he could be on the right track. Late in the draft the team found Kevin Labanc in the sixth round with the 171st overall selection, and Labanc had some nice moments with the Sharks last season. His shot and his hands make him a solid prospect, although Labanc still probably has to get a bit bigger and stronger to play in the NHL full-time.

Noah Rod (second round, 53rd overall) and Rourke Chartier (fifth round, 149th overall) are also still developing, with Rod playing against men in the Swiss league the past few seasons and Chartier a valuable player for the Barracuda last year.

In 2015, the draft provided the Sharks with Timo Meier at ninth overall, as the club drafted in the top 10 for the first time since 2007. At this point, Meier is far and away the best prospect in the organization, and he’ll likely be relied upon to play a top nine (or even a top six) role for the Sharks this season.

The 2015 draft brought other decent prospects, too. Defenseman Jeremy Roy was selected 31st overall, and after suffering a serious knee injury in juniors this year, he’ll get a chance to play for the Barracuda this year. Fourth rounder Adam Helewka and fifth rounder Rudolfs Balcers have also developed nicely since draft day. It’s still a bit too early to evaluate that draft as a whole.

It should also be mentioned that while their draft day record may be suspect the past few seasons, the Sharks have brought in European free agents like Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen. Karlsson has developed into a versatile, hard-working forward; Donskoi has shown flashes of offensive brilliance despite a disappointing second year in the NHL last season; and Sorensen looks primed to make the opening night roster after his speed and tenacity shined through during the Sharks’ first round series loss to Edmonton.

The Sharks scouting staff has helped to keep the team competitive for a long time, and they’re as big a reason as any that the team has missed the playoffs just once in the past 11 seasons. But this is also a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, and now is the time that the Sharks need to see some results from players that were chosen by Burke and company.