Sharks-Flames: What to watch for


Sharks-Flames: What to watch for

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Insider Kevin Kurz will host a Sharks chat at 3 p.m. Hop in there and get all the information you need before tonight's game with the Flames.

SAN JOSE Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi admits that he gets a kick out of facing the 35-year-old Miikka Kiprusoff, as the two are both natives of Finland.

They're expected to go head-to-head tonight when the Sharks host the Flames at HP Pavilion.

I remember him being a young goalie in Finland and going to Sweden and coming to the Sharks a long time ago, being one of the first Finnish number one goalies in the league, Niemi said, referring to the three seasons Kiprusoff spent in the Swedish Elite League before coming to North America to join the Sharks organization.

Playing Finnish guys and veteran goalies who have been in the league for a long time, who you remember from a long time ago, of course you get a little extra energy playing against those guys.

The Sharks and Flames have combined for just three regulation goals in their first two meetings, both San Jose wins. Niemi and Kiprusoff played in both of those games for their respective teams.

Both goaltenders have played well in those matches, and special teams havent given up much, in particular the penalty kill, obviously, Todd McLellan said. Its been a five-on-five battle, very tight-checking, waiting for an opportunity to attack and counter-punch, possibly. We anticipate that kind of game, but who knows what comes out of it.

Kiprusoff, who began his professional career with the Sharks a decade ago, failed to get his 300th win in a Flames shootout loss to Anaheim on Monday, 3-2. Hes trying to become just the 27th goaltender to reach that plateau.

Niemi has had some success against the Flames in his career, including a 1-0 shutout on Jan. 24 in which he made 25 saves. Hes 8-1-0 against Calgary, with a 2.07 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. Kiprusoff, meanwhile, is 13-12-3 with a 2.79 goals-against average and .909 save percentage against his former team.

Nine of the last 12 games between the Sharks and Flames have been decided by one goal, with San Jose winning six of them.
Goals at a premium: San Jose has won the first two games of the season series, on Jan. 17 at home, 2-1 in a shootout, and Feb. 4 at the Saddledome, 1-0, in what was the final game before the NHL All-Star break for both teams.

Will goals be hard to come by again in this one?

I thought the games we played them this year they were fast, really competitive, and they were on a lot of puck battles. There wasnt much room on the ice and I dont expect anything less today, Michal Handzus said.

They dont give you much, so just protect the puck when you have it, Joe Pavelski said. Theyre going to be in your face, so you cant have the turnovers because theyll be going the other way in a hurry. Kipper has been really good for them, so try to get some traffic in front of him, throw a few pucks to the net, and try to get that second opportunity.

The teams are trending in opposite directions when it comes to scoring, though. San Jose has 14 in its three games since the All-Star break, while Calgary has just six in three games. Overall, the Flames have failed to score more than two goals in seven of their last nine games.
Couture still hot: No one has been producing more on the scoresheet lately for the Sharks than their lone All-Star, Logan Couture. The 22-year-old forward brings a six-game point-scoring streak into tonights game, with four goals and five assists over that span.

I thought going into that Vancouver-Edmonton-Calgary trip that we were on leading up to the All-Star break, he played very well. He was our best player on that trip, and hit the scoresheet more than anybody. The fact that he felt good at the All-Star game and fit in very well, I think does wonders for a young players confidence.

McLellan was a bit worried that exhaustion could hinder Couture after the hectic weekend in Ottawa, but that hasnt happened.

I was concerned about his fatigue factor coming home like all the other players, but he hasnt looked tired or sloppy by any means. He continues to be one of our top guys.

Pavelski reaches milestone: Sharks forward Joe Pavelski will play in his 400th career NHL game tonight, all with San Jose. Hes just the 14th player in franchise history to reach that mark, and fifth forward, joining Patrick Marleau, Jeff Friesen, Marco Sturm and Jonathan Cheechoo.

Its happened quick. Six years ago it started, and its amazing how fast it goes, said Pavelski, who has 19 goals and 19 assists for 38 points.

Its even more special that they have come all with San Jose.

My family really enjoys being here, and thats the biggest thing, whether its with one team or not. Weve really enjoyed the time here, the city, the team and the organization, everything, he said. Its been fun, and you hope for another 400, or another 600 like Patty.

Road trip looming: Its hard not to look ahead to the Sharks monstrous road trip that begins on Sunday in St. Louis, and will take San Jose to nine cities in 15 days.

The players, though, insist they are focused on a pair of home games before that. The Sharks host the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday.

I know were leaving, but actually I was thinking, yesterday when do we leave? I know we have two more games here, so you dont look too much ahead, Handzus said. Its going to be a lot of games from now on, but there is no point to look ahead. We need to win these two games at home and we need these four points.

Were enjoying our time at home right now. We know that trip is ahead of us, but we have two games at home. Its important we get these points in the bank, said Pavelski.

Odds and ends: San Jose leads the NHL with 34.8 shots per game. The Sharks have the second-best faceoff percentage in the NHL (53.2 percent). Joe Thornton has six points in the last three games (3g, 3a). Patrick Marleau has five points in the last three games (3g, 2a). Brent Burns has four assists in the last two games. Olli Jokinen has six points in his last six games (1g, 5a). Curtin Glencross (knee) and Lee Stempniak (high ankle sprain) remain out for Calgary. Jason Demers (lower body) and Tommy Wingels (left shoulder) are out for San Jose.

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.