Sharks

Sharks hold off Wings for 4-2 win

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Sharks hold off Wings for 4-2 win

BOX SCORE

DETROIT, MI Whether the Sharks want to admit it or not, and even though its early in the year, theres still something special about beating the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.

Against what is perhaps their biggest rival, the Sharks used a breakaway goal by Joe Thornton and then an empty-netter by the captain to claim a 4-2 victory in Detroit - their fourth straight regular season win here. The Sharks remain perfect on their road trip (4-0), and moved two games over .500 for the first time this season (5-3-0).

It was, in all probability, the biggest win of the young season.

Just because they are an elite team and they are competitive, coming in and getting a win does feel nice, said Patrick Marleau, who had a goal and an assist. That said, its always a hard-fought game.

Two good teams just going at it, said Thornton.

The names on the score sheet were familiar ones. Along with the pair from Thornton and one from Marleau, Ryane Clowe scored a power play goal in the second period for the Sharks. Detroits goals came from Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom.

In a game with two teams that are so narrowly matched, it often comes down to who makes the biggest blunder. Thats what happened to Detroit on Thorntons breakaway goal at 18:18 of the second period that broke a 2-2 tie.

Joe Pavelski played a wrap around pass around the boards from Marleau, and quickly wheeled and found Thornton all alone, streaking down the middle of the ice. Ian White, Dan Cleary and Nicklas Lidstrom all somehow lost track of the Thornton, and he fired it through the five hole of Jimmy Howard for what ended up being the game-winner.

Thornton actually turned around once he received the pass, probably out of shock that he could be left so alone.

I saw Pav grab the puck and I just bolted out, Thornton said. I was a zone and a half away from everybody. I dont know how I got that open.

McLellan joked that he was just happy to see one of the games best passers fire the puck.

It was nice to see Jumbo shoot it, he had nobody to pass to. But he did look behind him, which worried me, said the head coach.

Thornton and Marleau werent the only ones putting up multiple-point nights, though. Marty Havlat registered two more assists, and now has five in four games with the Sharks.

Hes the first San Jose player to register an assist in his first four games with the club since Thornton did it in eight straight in December 2005.

Marty had his best night as a Shark, in my opinion, said McLellan. Very slippery on the ice and very smart with the puck. Logan Couture and Clowe benefited from it. The trust between him and I, and him and his teammates, is growing on a daily basis.

Havlat helped the Sharks even the game in the second period after Zetterberg had given Detroit the lead in the first. On a Sharks power play, Marc-Edouard Vlasic threw the puck towards the slot, and it ended up bounding onto Havlats stick. Havlat quickly backhanded it to his left to an open Clowe, who easily fired in his third goal of the year at 2:10 of the middle frame.

San Jose took its first lead when Marleau outraced former teammate White to a puck that was tossed high into the zone off of the glass by Douglas Murray. Marleau was able to chip the bouncing puck past the glove hand of Jimmy Howard at 7:57 of the second.

Dougie got a play off the glass and out, and just a couple pretty fortunate bounces on my side, said Marleau. Unfortunately for Whitey, it bounced over his stick there. I was just able to get it for a split second and get a shot off.

Holmstrom re-tied the score with a deflection of a shot by Pavel Datsyuk at 14:44 of the second on the power play, but was all Detroit would get past Niemi, who finished with 30 saves.

The Sharks' goalie, making his fifth straight start, was a bit fortunate in the first period when an apparent goal by Holmstrom was waved off as the referee ruled incidental contact. That would have made it 2-0, Red Wings.

Niemi was asked if he thought the call was legitimate, or if he felt the Sharks caught a break.

A little of both, he said. Youve gotta be lucky when you get one waved off.

McLellan made a couple tweaks to his lineup, both before the game and during it. Colin White played after a two-game absence, paired with Justin Braun as the third defense pair.

Forwards Andrew Desjardins, Benn Ferreiro and Jamie McGinn did not see the ice at all in the third period, as McLellan shortened his bench. Michal Handzus skated between Brad Winchester and Andrew Murray for the second half of the game.

Halfway through the night I wasnt overly pleased with a couple guys, McLellan explained. I thought they could make a bigger difference in the game, and rewarded some others that were going well. It will allow us to make some changes Saturday, and look at getting some better efforts out of a few people.

That was the lone blemish on the night. For now, mark it down as another win for the Sharks in one of the best matchups the NHL has to offer.

We always enjoy playing them and they always enjoy playing us, and its been a pretty good rivalry over the years, said Thornton.

Odds and ends: Torrey Mitchell and Jim Vandermeer were the scratches for San Jose, but look for Mitchell to get back in the lineup on Saturday against the Islanders Niemi may get the night off on Saturday for the second of back-to-back games. Thomas Greiss has not played since a 4-2 loss to St. Louis on Oct. 15. The Sharks won just 20 of 54 faceoffs. San Jose was 1-for-3 on the power play, and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill.

Five months after taking puck to face, Sharks' Logan Couture 'still pretty sore'

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AP

Five months after taking puck to face, Sharks' Logan Couture 'still pretty sore'

Nearly five months after taking a puck to the mouth that resulted in major damage, Logan Couture is still dealing with the aftereffects of his surgically repaired mouth, which now features several false teeth.

Appearing on the NHL Network this week, Couture was asked how he’s feeling with less than one month to go before the Sharks open training camp on Sep. 14.

“There’s good days and bad days,” Couture said. “My bottom teeth are still my real teeth. They’ve tried to keep them so I don’t lose them. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, they’re still pretty sore. My top teeth are all fake now – my front six, I think. So, it’s different. It just feels different in my mouth. 

“But everything else with my face and all that is healed. I’m lucky that it’s an injury that didn’t affect my training, and hopefully won’t affect me going forward.”

Couture was injured on March 25 in Nashville. He was set up just outside the crease in the offensive zone when a Brent Burns point shot hit a stick before squarely battering the now 28-year-old’s mouth.

After missing the final seven games of the regular season, Couture returned for the Sharks’ playoff opener. He managed to play in all six games of the first round loss, posting two goals and one assist for three points, although he struggled at times and was seemingly targeted by the Oilers.

Couture is currently in his hometown of London, Ontario where he’s staging a casino event for brain research. Fellow Sharks Chris Tierney and Dylan DeMelo will take part, as will other NHL stars like the Kings’ Drew Doughty.

Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes

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Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes

It was late in the lockout-shortened 2013 season when Sharks general manager Doug Wilson really started to prepare for the future. Douglas Murray was dealt to Pittsburgh for a pair of second round selections. Ryane Clowe packed his bags for Broadway, in exchange for a second and a third round pick from the Rangers. Michal Handzus went to Chicago for a fourth rounder.

Wilson’s logic was sound, as it typically takes two-to-four years before draft picks have a chance to make an impact at the NHL level. The general manager figured that by then, players like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau either wouldn’t be a part of the team anymore or would be slowing down. Restocking the cupboards was essential.

From 2013-15, the Sharks made 24 selections over the next three NHL entry drafts, including seven total picks in the top two rounds. Some players have shown promise. Others haven’t. A few aren’t in the organization anymore. That’s the nature of the business.

The way the 2017-18 opening night roster is shaping up, though, now is the time that some of these young players in the system simply have to step up. Marleau and his 27 goals last season are gone, Thornton’s numbers are down and he’s coming off of major knee surgery, Joe Pavelski is now 33 years old, and the team’s offense depth is suspect at best. There have been no notable additions in the offseason.

Frankly, this season could be viewed as a referendum on the team’s amateur scouting staff, including longtime director Tim Burke. Wilson handed Burke and his staff a wonderful opportunity to provide the organization with fresh talent with the team approaching an organizational crossroads.

What has transpired so far is a bit concerning, as already two of the team’s first round picks from that span ended up being nothing more than trade bait.

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Mirco Mueller, chosen 18th overall in 2013, was a huge disappointment in San Jose. It’s been well documented that he was mishandled by the organization when he was rushed to the league in 2014-15, but even this past season, regular observers of the Barracuda had Mueller as nothing more than the AHL team’s fourth-best defenseman. He’s now in New Jersey, swapped for a pair of draft picks.

The scouting staff was so high on Mueller on draft day that Wilson traded a valuable second round pick to Detroit to move up just two places to select him. With those acquired picks, the Red Wings took Anthony Mantha 20th overall and Tyler Bertuzzi 58th overall – two forwards that have shown a whole lot more NHL potential than Mueller (especially Mantha, who has 39 points in 70 career NHL games so far).

Perhaps more concerning, though, is that the Sharks 2013 draft class as a whole is looking like a dud. Second round pick Gabryel Boudreau suffered a wrist injury and is no longer in the organization anymore, but he was trending downward even before he got hurt. None of the remaining players selected from rounds four-through-seven look to be NHL quality, either.

The next year brought Nikolay Goldobin, chosen 27th overall after the Sharks traded down in the first round, and he ended up being the key piece in the Jannik Hansen acquisition from Vancouver. Goldobin showed some flashes of offensive talent during his time in the organization, but his lack of hockey sense and on-ice work ethic helped lead to his exit. Whether Goldobin becomes an NHL regular, even with a fresh start in Vancouver, is highly uncertain.

Had the Sharks stayed at 20th overall, they could have selected Nick Schmaltz (20th overall), Robby Fabbri (21st overall), or David Pastrnak (25th overall). Instead, they moved down and took Goldobin, making it back-to-back first round failures.

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Still, unlike 2013, other players from Goldobin’s draft class have shown some promise. Second rounder Julius Bergman was a steady blueliner for a good Barracuda team last season, and although he’s probably not NHL-ready yet, he could be on the right track. Late in the draft the team found Kevin Labanc in the sixth round with the 171st overall selection, and Labanc had some nice moments with the Sharks last season. His shot and his hands make him a solid prospect, although Labanc still probably has to get a bit bigger and stronger to play in the NHL full-time.

Noah Rod (second round, 53rd overall) and Rourke Chartier (fifth round, 149th overall) are also still developing, with Rod playing against men in the Swiss league the past few seasons and Chartier a valuable player for the Barracuda last year.

In 2015, the draft provided the Sharks with Timo Meier at ninth overall, as the club drafted in the top 10 for the first time since 2007. At this point, Meier is far and away the best prospect in the organization, and he’ll likely be relied upon to play a top nine (or even a top six) role for the Sharks this season.

The 2015 draft brought other decent prospects, too. Defenseman Jeremy Roy was selected 31st overall, and after suffering a serious knee injury in juniors this year, he’ll get a chance to play for the Barracuda this year. Fourth rounder Adam Helewka and fifth rounder Rudolfs Balcers have also developed nicely since draft day. It’s still a bit too early to evaluate that draft as a whole.

It should also be mentioned that while their draft day record may be suspect the past few seasons, the Sharks have brought in European free agents like Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen. Karlsson has developed into a versatile, hard-working forward; Donskoi has shown flashes of offensive brilliance despite a disappointing second year in the NHL last season; and Sorensen looks primed to make the opening night roster after his speed and tenacity shined through during the Sharks’ first round series loss to Edmonton.

The Sharks scouting staff has helped to keep the team competitive for a long time, and they’re as big a reason as any that the team has missed the playoffs just once in the past 11 seasons. But this is also a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, and now is the time that the Sharks need to see some results from players that were chosen by Burke and company.