Sharks fourth line prompts Oilers to adjust attack

Sharks fourth line prompts Oilers to adjust attack

SAN JOSE – There was rampant speculation after Game 2 that Sharks coach Pete DeBoer would dress tough guy Micheal Haley on Sunday in Game 3, after his club was outhit and on the receiving end of some borderline checks from Zack Kassian. If there is one guy at DeBoer’s disposal that could answer Kassian, Haley is the guy.

Instead, the coach stuck with a fourth line of Chris Tierney centering rookies Timo Meier and Marcus Sorensen, and it proved to be the right move. They were especially good in the first period, playing in the offensive end, finishing their checks and getting some good looks at the net. 

The line has been together since the start of the series, and according to NBC analyst Keith Jones, it’s “been [the Sharks’] best” line through three games.

"They were good. They had a lot of chances in that first period,” Logan Couture said. “Timo played really well. He cycled the puck, he was hard on pucks. ‘Tierns’ had a couple good looks, and so did Marcus. Obviously if you ask them I'm sure they'd say they'd like to score on a couple of those chances, but I thought they created them and did a good job."

Tierney had the best chance of all, getting the puck in the high slot with nothing between him and Cam Talbot, but he fired high and wide in the opening frame.

“It comes down to just burying your chances. We had a couple,” Tierney said. “I would have liked to bury that one in the first. I think we need to create more dirty opportunities to get goals. I don’t expect the two teams to give any more leeway, it’s going to be tight the rest of the series.”

Joe Thornton’s return to the lineup, along with the effectiveness of the fourth line, prompted Oilers coach Todd McLellan to make an adjustment to his attack. Leon Draisaitl, who had been on Connor McDavid’s wing, was shifted to the third line center with Kassian and Drake Caggiula. 

That was the line on the ice when Kassian took advantage of David Schlemko’s turnover in scoring the only goal in Edmonton’s 1-0 win. The Sharks had just eight shots on goal after the move, too, which occured about six minutes into the second period.

When asked about the line change, McLellan told the Edmonton Journal: “With [Thornton] coming back into the game, they’re big and strong down the middle. It’s one of their strengths. We started the night a certain way and I didn’t think it was working in our favor so we moved a few things around.”

DeBoer downplayed Edmonton's strategic decision.

“You guys want this boxed up so one change made a difference in the game. I don’t think that’s the reality,” he said. “It was an evenly played game all the way through. They make adjustments, we make adjustments. Their adjustment worked last night.”

There were no indications on Monday as to whether DeBoer - who had Tomas Hertl back on the Thornton/Joe Pavelski line late in Game 3 - would make any adjustments to his lines for Game 4, as the team held an optional skate with many players staying off of the ice. But, expect that fourth line to remain together, at least to start.

“I thought they had great energy,” DeBoer said. “I thought they were excellent in the first period. Probably forced them to make a change, which they did. We’ve just got to continue to keep going at it.”

* * *

Mikkel Boedker, who was a healthy scratch for one game in the regular season, was the odd man out for Game 3. He was on the ice longer than any other Sharks forward on Monday’s off-day.

Whether he returns for Game 4 is unclear.

“Those are tough decisions. It wasn’t easy,” DeBoer said. “I don’t think it’s been all bad. I think he was really good in Game 1. He could easily be back in there tomorrow.”

Sharks conclude 2017 NHL Draft with five more forwards in the system

Sharks conclude 2017 NHL Draft with five more forwards in the system

CHICAGO – After nabbing a center in the first round on Friday, the Sharks added four more forwards and one defenseman to conclude the second day of the annual NHL Entry Draft on Saturday, held this year at United Center.

The Sharks weren’t explicitly trying to restock their forward cabinet, according to general manager Doug Wilson and scouting director Tim Burke, although the club did make two separate moves in surrendering some later round picks to move up in the fourth round (to take center Scott Reedy) and sixth round (to take left wing Sasha Chmelevski).

First, though, it was defenseman Mario Ferraro in the second round at 49th overall. The offensive defenseman was a player that the Sharks targeted, using the pick they acquired from New Jersey last Friday as part of the trade for Mirco Mueller.

“He’s got a lot of speed, offensive guy, exciting,” Burke said. “Puck-moving type of guy.”

Wilson said: “We’re very pleased with the d-man. He’s a very dynamic, athletic guy, great skater. He was a guy that we moved up a little bit aggressively to get because that round, you could see people going after who they wanted. He is a guy that we identified.”

After moving up from the fifth round to the fourth round last Friday, again because of the Mueller trade, the Sharks jumped up 21 more spots in the fourth round by obtaining the Rangers pick at 102nd overall for the 123rd and 174th selections.

Center Scott Reedy is a player that Burke has high hopes for, projecting the Minnesota native as a “second line right winger [with] high-end potential.” Burke pointed out that Reedy, who is friends with first round pick Josh Norris, occasionally played on the same line with Norris for each of the last two seasons with the U.S. Under-18 team.

“He’s a big, strong forward that can play both positions (center and right wing),” Burke said.

Right wing Jacob McGrew, an Orange, CA native, went to the Sharks in the fifth round despite missing all of his first season in junior with a lower body injury suffered in training camp with Spokane (WHL).

“We knew about him before he went up there,” Burke said. “He’s a California kid. … If he was healthy he probably would have gone earlier.”

The Sharks again moved up to snag Huntington Beach native and center Chmelevski at 185 overall, and made their sixth and final pick in the 212th position by taking left wing Ivan Chekhovich in the seventh round. Both players look to have some offensive skill, based on their numbers and Youtube highlights.

Burke was surprised that both players were around so late.

“I thought they had pretty good years and they kind of slipped in the draft,” he said. “We weighed that versus some other more project-type guys, and we thought they had more offense and finish to their game. They just kept sliding, so we took a chance on them.”

Wilson said: “We moved up for the guys we wanted, and then there were some skilled guys at the end that we were surprised were still there. … We’ll go back and take a look how it all went, but we feel, I think, really good about where we ended up with this.”

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

CHICAGO – Ilya Kovalchuk is still reportedly mulling over a return to the NHL, four years after he surprisingly walked away from a monstrous contract with the New Jersey Devils to play in the KHL.

The Sharks have been linked to Kovalchuk, in large part because of Pete DeBoer, who was Kovalchuk’s most recent head coach. In 2011-12, Kovalchuk was a dangerous scoring winger under DeBoer, helping the Devils reach the Stanley Cup Final.

It was apparently a good working relationship between the player and the coach for the two seasons they were together, DeBoer said on Friday at the NHL Entry Draft at United Center.

“I loved Kovy in New Jersey,” DeBoer said. “We went to a Stanley Cup Final together. He was a huge piece for us there. I really enjoyed coaching him. I haven’t seen him in four or five years now. I’m sure there’s still a lot of game left there.”

DeBoer said he’s had no contact with the 34-year-old Kovalchuk, who would have to be traded by New Jersey before signing a new contract with any other NHL club. Still, it seems like the Sharks’ coach might welcome a reunion with Kovalchuk, who posted 78 points in 60 games with SKA Saint Petersburg last season, and has 816 points (417g, 399a) in 816 career NHL games with Atlanta and New Jersey.

“I had a really good relationship with him. I had a lot of respect for him as a player and a person,” DeBoer said.

* * *

DeBoer seemed as uncertain as everyone else as to whether Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will return to the Sharks or move on to other clubs as free agents.

But, naturally, it’s on his mind.

“You think about it all the time,” DeBoer said. “They’re obviously important pieces in the history of the franchise, and in our group. I also understand the business side of this, and there’s always tough decisions to make. The way I approach these type of things is I’m going to go to Canada and relax, and Doug [Wilson] is going to make those decisions. I’m sure we’ll have a good group come training camp.”

“We’ve got a really good core group of guys and some tough decisions that have to be made. The one thing Doug and his group has shown over the years is their ability to stay competitive, to find a way even after making tough decisions. I have all the faith in the world in that, and I’m excited about training camp.”

* * *

The Sharks lost David Schlemko in the expansion draft earlier in the week. Vegas then flipped him to the Canadiens for a fifth round pick in 2019.

“I think for David, it’s a great opportunity for him, especially going to Montreal,” DeBoer said. “For us, it’s an opportunity for a young guy to jump in. The one thing we have in the organization is some depth. There’s a lot of guys knocking on the door, and guys hungry to grab that job.”