Sharks-Flames: What to watch for

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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.

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.”

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

SAN JOSE – Just in case there was any question as to the grisly nature of Logan Couture’s mouth injury, the Sharks forward shared a picture on his personal Instagram account on Monday.

If you haven’t seen it yet, proceed with caution.

The photo was taken the night of his injury on March 25 in Nashville, showing several top teeth missing in a mouth that can accurately be described as a bloody mess, after he was hit with a defected puck while standing in front of the net in a game against the Predators.

Couture revealed on Tuesday in a conference call that there was more to his injury that just damaged teeth. He also has some facial fractures, including one above his upper lip that extends to his nasal area, and another that is under the bottom row of his teeth.

The one that’s higher in his face is still painful. 

“Still struggle to eat and sleep. … It’s not a comfortable state to be in,” said Couture, who missed the final seven games of the regular season before returning for the six-game first round series loss to Edmonton.

As for the next step, Couture has yet to sit down with his dentist, although further work is on the horizon.

“There’s going to be some implants to get the teeth fixed,” he said. “Hopefully get it done in the next few weeks, and then I’ll head back to Canada.”

Couture doesn’t yet know how many teeth need to be replaced.

“All depends on how the teeth respond,” he said.

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Joe Thornton had successful surgery on his left knee on Monday afternoon, NBC Sports California has learned, and according to a team statement released later on Tuesday he is expected to "make a complete recovery and be ready for the start of the 2017-18 season." 

According to a source, the damage to Thornton’s MCL was more significant than his ACL. The team declined to give any details about the surgery in its statement, including who performed it and where it was done. 

Thornton played four playoff games against Edmonton despite damaged knee ligaments, head coach Pete DeBoer revealed on Monday, when he said Thornton was dealing with a “torn MCL and ACL” after getting hurt in Vancouver on April 2.