Sharks have options at forward

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Sharks have options at forward

SAN JOSE The Sharks' third and fourth lines have been in a state of flux virtually all season.

Recent acquisitions at the trade deadline, as well as the improving health situation, now gives the coaching staff plenty to choose to fill out its lineup as the season winds down. Tommy Wingels and Michal Handzus both returned for the Bruins game Saturday after five and six-game absences, respectively, due to injury.

Handzus, who has had a difficult season since signing with the team this summer from Los Angeles, centered the third line between Torrey Mitchell and Dominic Moore. He played 15 minutes and 12 seconds, all of it even-strength.

Hes been nagged with things for a fair amount of time, so to shut him down for awhile, hopefully we get a fresh guy back that can play to the end, McLellan said on Friday.

Wingels is a more intriguing individual. There is no doubt that the organization is high on the 23-year-old forward, and its easy to see why. Wingels has shown flashes of offensive ability, is hard on the puck, uses his body well, and already exudes a quiet confidence for a player well beyond his years. His development and maturity likely made Jamie McGinn expendable in the eyes of management.

Still, the coaching staff would not like to rush him. Wingels was seeing time on the top two lines before he suffered a pair of upper body injuries and prior to Marty Havlat making his return. In total, Wingels missed 14 of 29 games before Thursday.

I think Tommy has the ability and skill to play on a top line, McLellan said. Is it fair to put him there? If hes producing and confident, yes. If the burden is on his shoulders alone, then no. As long as he remains healthy and stays healthy, well continue to play him. Hell work his way into where he belongs eventually.

Although he played just 8:49 against the Bruins, McLellan mentioned Wingels versatility is a luxury. In fact, thats true of all his fourth liners from the Boston game, including Daniel Winnik and Andrew Desjardins, both of whom help kill penalties on a regular basis.

Its nice to get penalty killing from your fourth line players. Last night, Winnik and Desjardins were on the fourth line and Tommy Wingels has power play ability, so those fourth line players play more than just a go out on the ice role. They have some responsibility.

Desjardins, of course, helped set up the game-winning goal when he intercepted a back pass by David Krejci and fed Winnik on a rush the other way.

Another rookie, Desjardins seems re-energized since the coaching staff made him a healthy scratch for three straight games at the beginning of the month.

Desi has been a big factor in our team, McLellan said. I think he came to camp desperate to play here, and wanting to play here. We saw that for a nice period of time, and then what happens is you find yourself here and comfortable and you let it slip a little bit. I thought that happened with him, like most players.

He had to be reminded a few times, and now hes been a big part of our team.

Optional skate Friday: The Sharks practice on Friday was not mandatory, and several players did not skate. Ryane Clowe, who didnt skate on Thursday morning yet played in the game, was among the players that stayed off of the ice. Other than TJ Galiardi, who has an upper body injury, everyone should be available for the game against the Coyotes on Saturday according to McLellan.

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.”