Sharks get first look at Kings Richards

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Sharks get first look at Kings Richards

SAN JOSE The Los Angeles Kings made arguably the biggest single acquisition this summer, when they landed Mike Richards in a blockbuster trade. L.A. sent highly regarded prospect Brayden Schenn, along with forward Wayne Simmonds and a draft pick, to Philadelphia in exchange for the player who was the Flyers captain at the time.

Tonight, the Sharks will get their first look at Richards in a Kings sweater. Along with Anze Kopitar, he provides L.A. with a superb one-two punch at center.

Hes a great passer, and obviously he can play a physical game, too, said Colin White, who has the most experience of anyone on the Sharks roster playing against Richards, as a long-time member of the New Jersey Devils. Hes a great player. He makes people around him better, and calms the play down. He knows when to slow it down and speed it up.

Even though he played on the East Coast for the first six years of his career, a couple of Sharks stars are pretty familiar with Richards from the Olympics. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were teammates of Richards when they won gold together at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Thornton, especially, was surprised when Richards was dealt from Philadelphia.

I thought he did a great job in Philly, said Thornton. When I saw that trade, I was kind of like, Wow. They traded Mike Richards? I was kind of surprised.

Thornton has something in common with Richards. Both were named captains of their respective teams when they were just 23 years old, and both were scrutinized, either fairly or unfairly, for not living up to the expectations of wearing the C.

Thornton was asked if it was harder for a young guy like Richards to be a captain in a hockey-crazed town, as he was.

I dont think so. He has a pretty good personality where nothing fazed him, from what I saw at the Olympics, said Thornton. I think being a captain in a good hockey town wouldnt affect him at all.

Regardless, Richards is now on the other side of the country, trying to help the Kings unseat the Sharks as reigning Pacific Division champs. Hes off to a good start, with 10 points (2g, 8a) in his first 13 games, tying him with Justin Williams for second on the team.

Kings head coach Terry Murray thinks Richards is adjusting well to the West Coast and to his new team.

Its always a difficult move for a player of that caliber, and he was an impact player with the Flyers, said Murray. Now, you join a new hockey club, and its an emotional roller coaster you have to go through from the time that happens.

"But, his adjustment has been good. Hes settling in every day. I think hes really becoming a confident player with the L.A. Kings and hes having a big contribution to our hockey club now.

Richards himself admitted to not knowing a whole lot about the rivalry, but is looking forward to his first Sharks-Kings matchup.

When you have a divisional game and play each other this many times, with two good teams, it obviously becomes a rivalry. Im looking forward to getting my feet wet tonight, he said.

And, as for playing in HP Pavilion? Hes a little used to hostile environments when he was still in the highly competitive Atlantic Division.

Its a tough building to play in, and from what Ive heard it amps up that much more. I dont think its going to be any difference to what Im used to playing in Pittsburgh and New York, but its going to be nice just to get in this building to see what its all about, he said.

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.”