Sharks-Flames: What to watch for


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.

Sorensen returns to Sharks after having 'positive impact' last season

Sorensen returns to Sharks after having 'positive impact' last season

Editor's Note: The above video is from March 2, 2017

One of the Sharks’ young forwards expected to challenge for a full time roster spot this season has been re-signed.

Marcus Sorensen, who started the year in the AHL before working his way up to the Sharks, signed a two-year contract extension the team announced on Tuesday. A source told NBC Sports California that the deal is worth $700,000 at the NHL level for each of the next two seasons.

In 19 regular season games with the Sharks, Sorensen, 25, posted one goal and three assists. He appeared in all six playoff games against Edmonton, posting one goal and one assist.

In 43 games with the AHL Barracuda, Sorensen had 17 goals and 17 assists for 34 points.

"The time he spent with the Sharks this season, and the positive impact he had, proved that he can be an effective player at the highest level,” assistant general manager Joe Will said in a statement.

Sorensen originally signed with the Sharks as a free agent on May 13, 2016. He was originally drafted by Ottawa in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, but spent six seasons playing in Sweden before joining San Jose.

Sorensen was a restriced free agent. The Sharks have just one RFA left to sign in forward Barclay Goodrow.

Mailbag: Will Sharks miss Marleau's leadership? Thornton to be bumped?

Mailbag: Will Sharks miss Marleau's leadership? Thornton to be bumped?

Now that the dust has settled on the draft and free agency, here’s a meaty offseason Sharks mailbag before my vacation…

Who will replace Patty's leadership? (philip malan‏ @pmalan1979)

Patrick Marleau was a good example for other players in that he always came to camp in great shape and took care of himself between games, allowing him to be very productive into his later years. 

But let’s not overblow it. From what I understand, Marleau preferred to avoid confrontation, and was never the guy in the dressing room challenging other players to step up. That was left more to guys like Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, with Logan Couture growing into that role in recent years, too. When it comes to veteran leadership there are other guys still in the dressing room of more value than Marleau. His leaving town shouldn’t change the dynamic.

Will Thornton be bumped from the top line center role? Who do you think will replace Marleau on the PP? (Elle‏ @LikeShiningOil)

The whole “top line” designation is something that us writers and broadcasters like to use, and I’m going to keep using it for Thornton so long as he and Pavelski are on the same line. That said, there will be plenty of games where the Couture line gets more even-strength ice time than the Thornton line. I guess my point here is don’t read too much into the labels. I don’t expect Thornton’s ice time to go down from what it was last season. He’s averaged 18 minutes and change in each of the past five seasons, and probably will again.

As for replacing Marleau on the power play, I would tab Tomas Hertl as the frontrunner, but I’m sure the Sharks will try a number of different looks there in training camp. After finishing 25th in the NHL last season they pretty much have to, right?

How will the lines roll this season, if you were to prognosticate now? (Erik Kuhre @Puckguy14)

It seems like we say this every year, but it depends on where the Sharks see Hertl slotting in. Last season Hertl started out on the wing of the top line after offseason knee surgery before moving to center fairly quickly. I know he battled through yet another knee injury during the season, but Hertl’s 22 points in 49 games was a disappointing total.

If the season were starting today, I’d put Hertl on the wing of the Thornton line again with, of course, Pavelski on the other side. Here’s what I’ve got in that scenario:

Tomas Hertl – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Timo Meier – Logan Couture – Joonas Donskoi
Jannik Hansen – Chris Tierney – Mikkel Boedker
Melker Karlsson – Ryan Carpenter – Joel Ward

Extras: Marcus Sorensen, Kevin Labanc, Barclay Goodrow

(One guy who is really going to have to fight to keep his spot is Ward. I could see him getting pushed out, but for now I’m leaving him in).

Will there be a tough guy in the lineup to protect the kids? (Jim Kelley)

The Sharks signed free agent Brandon Bollig a couple weeks ago to replace Micheal Haley, but I don’t seem him as a regular in the NHL lineup. Bollig could be a guy they recall if they think it’s necessary to dress a pugilist, like when Pete DeBoer brought up Haley late in the 2015-16 season for the sole reason of fighting Darnell Nurse, who had jumped Sharks defenseman Roman Polak just two weeks earlier for no real reason.

Do you think Chris Tierney is capable of more point production at this point in his career? (Ian Stephenson)

Count me among those that thought Tierney was ready to have a better season last year after his strong performance in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Still, he’s just 23 years old, and his line in the series against Edmonton with Meier and Sorensen was a very effective one for long stretches of play. This is a huge year for Tierney, who had to settle for the Sharks’ one-year, $735,000 qualifying offer. Perform, and he’ll get paid. Struggle, and he could be on the move.

Do you think the Sharks will trade either Grosenick or Dell? Doesn't seem Grosenick has much more to prove in AHL. (Chris Greni)

No, they’ll hold on to all three for the time being. Getting Troy Grosenick re-signed to a one-year deal was a nice move on the Sharks’ part, considering Aaron Dell still has just 20 games of NHL experience. Perhaps if they both continue to play well the Sharks could dangle one as trade bait later in the year, but it wouldn’t make sense at this point. 

Any thoughts on DW using the offer sheet to bring in scoring help? There’s several serviceable RFAs out there still waiting for contracts. (Tony Martinico)

Keep in mind that some of those high end RFAs, like Colton Parayko, Nino Niederreiter and Tomas Tatar are currently headed for arbitration, which takes the offer sheet off the table.

Purely speculation here, but I have to wonder if the Sharks have at least kicked around trying to ink Leon Draisaitl to an offer sheet. You have to think Berlin native Hasso Plattner would love to add the “German Gretzky” to the roster. I know we're settling into the part of the NHL offseason where typically nothing happens, but it was July 19 when the Flyers signed Shea Weber to a monster offer sheet five years ago.

And, of course, Doug Wilson has used the power of the offer sheet in the past, signing Niklas Hjalmarsson in 2010 and then using the threat of an offer sheet with Boston to acquire Martin Jones.

Which Cuda player, aside from Meier, Labanc and Sorensen, would you expect to be a dark horse and could make the big team out of camp? (olin @sleepymofo)

Keep in mind that the sixth and defensemen spots are open, too. I would presume that Dylan DeMelo is the frontrunner to replace David Schlemko, but Tim Heed and Joakim Ryan are coming off of strong seasons in the AHL. Perhaps one of them overtakes DeMelo in training camp.

As for other forwards than those you mentioned, Goodrow could end challenging for a spot on the fourth line. I get plenty of questions about Danny O’Regan, too, and perhaps he makes a push. The issue with O’Regan is that although he’s a skilled player in the minors, he’s probably not quite skilled enough to make up for his small frame at the NHL level. I view him more as a fill-in guy.

Any word on [Barclay] Goodrow and [Marcus] Sorenson? I'm assuming they didn't sign their QO's? (DaveBPilot‏ @DaveBPilot)

Yes, that’s safe to assume, since the deadline was Saturday. They remain RFAs, and negotiations will surely continue.

Still, it’s worth mentioning what happened last year with Matt Nieto. The forward didn’t sign his qualifying offer, as he was pushing for a multi-year deal, and ended up signing for one year for less than he would have made had he accepted the original offer. He was waived and claimed by Colorado.