Sharks-Ducks: What to watch for

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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.

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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.
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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.

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

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Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic will compete in the upcoming IIHF World Championships for Team Canada, it was announced on Friday.

The tournament runs from May 5-21 in Paris, France and Cologne, Germany. 

Vlasic, 30, a native of Montreal, has played in the tournament twice before in 2009 and 2012. He also represented Canada in the 2014 Olympic Games, helping it to a gold medal, and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which Canada also captured.

In 75 games with the Sharks this season, Vlasic posted 28 points (6g, 22a) and a +4 rating. He was second on the team in shorthanded time on ice (2:04 per game) and blocked shots (146).

A pending restricted free agent in 2018, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson called getting Vlasic signed to a long-term deal an offseason priority for the club. The two sides can begin negotiations on July 1.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” Wilson said. “[He] is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

The Sharks lost in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs to Edmonton, although Vlasic and partner Justin Braun helped to keep Connor McDavid in check at even strength. The league's leading scorer had just one even strength point in the six-game series, an empty net goal with less than one second left in Game 6.

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

SAN JOSE – The Sharks didn’t make any blockbuster moves last summer, content to make another run in 2016-17 with largely the same group that came within two wins of capturing the Stanley Cup.

They still acquired a notable player, though, when Mikkel Boedker was signed on July 1 to add an element that the Sharks knew they needed more of moving forward – speed. Boedker was expected to make the team faster, after the Sharks were exposed for not having enough of that against Pittsburgh in the NHL’s final round, as well as play in a top six role. 

At the time, it was hailed as a slick, under-the-radar move that wasn’t going to change the dynamic of the club but could help push it over the top.

When Boedker was a healthy scratch in games three and four of the first round against Edmonton, the evidence became clear, though, that this was a decision that fell flat on its face. 

Frankly, Boedker – who is signed for three more years with a $4 million salary cap hit – brings back visions of Sharks bust Marty Havlat. You know the skill is there, but the desire to use it on a nightly basis while showing any semblance of a battle level is lacking. 

Should the Sharks give Boedker another chance next season, or should they do everything in their power to try and move him? That’s a question that will likely be debated in the front office over the next several weeks.

On get-away day on Monday, indications were that the Sharks were planning on sticking with the 27-year-old, who finished with 26 points in the regular season (10g, 16a) and added one goal and one assist in four games in the playoffs.

“He has the things we’re looking for: his career scoring average, his speed, [penalty killing] ability,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “Did he meet the expectations that he had for himself [or] that we had for him? No. Can we get that out of him? Pete [DeBoer] believes we can.”

DeBoer has known Boedker since he played for him in 2007-08 in Kitchener (OHL). Despite scratching him in the playoffs, DeBoer said he saw “huge improvement” in Boedker throughout the course of the season after the forward spent nearly all of his NHL career in Arizona.

“There was an adjustment. He’s played 6-7 years a certain way in the NHL,” DeBoer said. “We’ve asked him to play differently here, and there was an adjustment.”

Boedker still believes that he can be a fit in San Jose.

“I think it will be and it can be,” he said. “It’s learning period, but you’ve also got to look in the mirror yourself and see what you can change and what assets you need to bring. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m ready to do that.”

The list of Sharks depth forwads that had frustrating seasons hardly begins and ends with Boedker, though.

Veteran Joel Ward’s production dipped from 43 points last season to 29 in 2016-17, although that probably isn’t too surprising considering he’s 36. Tomas Hertl is proving to be a streaky player, too, although his season was interrupted by another a knee injury.

The bigger disappointment came from players like Chris Tierney and Joonas Donskoi, who both made big impressions in the 2016 playoffs but struggled to produce consistent offense this year. Both were mentioned by name by DeBoer on Monday.

There are some promising youngsters in the pipeline like Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen, but it’s still too early to project any of them as can’t-miss scorers at the NHL level.

“I think we’ve got a large group of guys that I like, but need to step up,” DeBoer said. “Is Sorensen [like] Donskoi next year, where he takes a step back, or [does he take a] step forward? We’ve got a lot of guys that there’s a lot of potential there – Chris Tierney. 

“There’s a lot of those guys, but they need to have big summers and take a step, and show that they’re not just one season or one month players.”