Sharks-Flames: What to watch for

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Sharks-Flames: What to watch for

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SAN JOSE There are five games remaining for the Sharks before the NHL breaks for All-Star weekend, and ironically enough, all are against clubs north of the border. It begins tonight at home against the Calgary Flames.

Five games left, all against Canadian teams, which are fun to play against, especially for Canadian kids, Logan Couture said. Looking forward to playing these guys tonight, and hopefully we can get 10 points.

The two meetings with the Flames bookend the stretch before the break, as the Sharks visit the Saddledome on Jan. 24. Calgary is much better there (13-6-2) than it is on the road (8-14-3). The Flames bring a five-game road winless streak into tonight.

Furthermore, the Sharks are 7-1-1 in their last nine home games.

We try and make this building tough to play in, Couture said. Well try and start quick, and if we can get one early it will be good for us to get the crowd involved.

Its the first of four games total between the two teams. The Sharks won three of four last year.

Replacing Clowe: The Sharks will be without forward Ryane Clowe, who will miss the game with an injury related to him getting checked from behind into the boards against Minnesota on Jan. 10.

Curiously, Clowe played in the three games since that hit, but wont be in tonight. That means McLellan is without two of his top six forwards for the first time this season, as Marty Havlat recovers from a partially torn hamstring.

Jamie McGinn skated on the teams top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski at the morning skate, while the second line consisted of Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau and Benn Ferriero.

Well come up with some line combinations that will not be written in stone, Todd McLellan said. Well start from there, and see what the first five or 10 minutes gives us. Whoever is playing well is going to play.

Andrew Desjardins skated for the first time since getting hit in the head on Saturday, but is out indefinitely and listed as day-to-day.

Rebounding from Chicago: The Sharks four-game road trip ended with a whimper in Chicago on Sunday, and Todd McLellan admitted the 4-3 score made the game appear closer than it actually was.

It was the teams third game in four nights, and for most of it, Chicagos top line of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Viktor Stalberg skated circles around the Sharks in combining for five points and a whopping 17 shots.

What was the reason the Sharks were so flat? McLellan likened it to a chicken-or-the-egg scenario.

We were slow, and we werent very smart. I dont know which one triggered it, he said. Were we a little bit sloppy and slow and that made us not very wise with the puck, or were we not very wise with the puck and that made us slow and sloppy?

We can point to fatigue, but teams are playing a tremendous amount of games around the league so we cant use that as an excuse. We expect to see a fresh team tonight.

Niemi vs. Kiprusoff: Antti Niemi will get the start for the Sharks tonight, facing Miikka Kiprusoff.

Niemi has won six of seven career games against Calgary, with a 2.62 goals-against average and .890 save percentage. Surprisingly, though, that save percentage is the lowest of any team hes faced a minimum of five times.

Kiprusoff is 13-11-2 in 26 games against San Jose in his career, with a 2.94 goals-against average, .905 save percentage and two shutouts.

Odds and ends: The Sharks are 4-1-1 against Canadian teams this season. San Jose is 12-3-2 in its last 17 home games against the Flames. The Sharks lead the league in shots per game with 34.7, while the Flames have the fifth fewest (27.7) San Jose is second in the league in faceoff percentage (53.3) trailing only Boston, but has lost 61 of 109 draws in the last two games (44.0 percent). The Sharks are 18-1-3 when leading after two periods. San Jose is a league-best 25 in second periods this season, while Calgary is a league-worst -18.

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

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.”