Sharks-Jets: What to watch for


Sharks-Jets: What to watch for

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Sharks (23-11-5, 51 points) at the Winnipeg Jets (20-17-5, 45 points). Coverage begins tonight at 5:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California, and the puck drops at 5:30.

WINNIPEG The Sharks have heard all the chatter surrounding Winnipegs MTS Centre, specifically how loud it gets and how difficult it can be to play here.

Theyll get to experience it first-hand for the first and only time this season tonight when they take on the Jets.

Weve heard from other teams and other players this building is a lot of fun, and pretty loud, and an exciting building to play in, Dan Boyle said.

Its always nice to come back to Canada, to your hockey roots, if you will, for a lot of players. The weather outside we dont experience that in California so youre back into hockey weather, Todd McLellan said, referring to the -2 degrees Fahrenheit temperature outside the building.

San Jose got a chance to practice on the MTS Centre ice on Wednesday, and held an optional sate on Thursday morning in which the majority of the players were on the ice.

That could help them adjust better to some unfamiliar surroundings, according to Jamie McGinn.

Its just hockey. Im sure thats why we had practice yesterday and the pregame skate this morning, to get used to things. Its an NHL ice surface, people have been playing on it all year, McGinn said.

Early energy: McLellan would like to see his club come storming out of the gates on Thursday night, especially after a lackluster effort through the first two periods of Tuesdays 5-4 shootout loss to Minnesota.

The Jets are playing at home for the first time since New Years Eve, and after a 1-3 road trip that concluded with a 5-3 loss at Boston on Tuesday.

Well probably talk about a 10 minute game and a 50 minute game, McLellan said. Knowing that theyre coming off a road trip, playing in front of their own fans, I understand that the energy in the building is second to none. Well have to be on our toes very early, so Id expect a strong start for them, but also for our team.

Ryane Clowe was among the Sharks players dissatisfied with Tuesdays loss, which ended a four-game winning streak.

Its not so much frustrating as it was disappointing. You need to have the coach come in and light a fire under your ass between periods and get you going, he said. We turned it up and completely dominated the third period once we got going. Thats the disappointing part.

Were focused tonight being more competitive and more of a gritty team. Well be better.

More from the grinders: The Sharks had strong games from several of their top players on Tuesday, with multiple-point games from Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle. Leading goal-scorer Logan Couture also scored in the third period.

It was the effort from the third and fourth liners, though, that has had the coach in an ornery mood for the past two days.

If you look at the third and fourth lines, I didnt think we started well last game. I can put the onus on myself, and I didnt think I had a very strong first period but got better as the game went on, McGinn said. I think tonight one of the main focuses is going to be starting strong and making sure Todd has confidence in us right away.

It wasnt just McGinn.

We were actually quite disappointed with a number of our players, McLellan repeated this morning. We didnt get the effort that we needed. Well look, first of all, to individuals to improve their input into the game, and after that a strong defensive effort and rely on our opportunities at the other end to get us to three goals.

McLellan didnt say if there would be any lineup changes, and it was hard to tell at the optional morning skate.

Niemi vs. Pavelec: Antti Niemi will face Winnipegs Ondrej Pavalec in goal tonight.

Niemi, who has just one regulation loss in his last 12 starts, is 1-1 with a 3.90 goals-against average and .855 save percentage against the JetsThrashers, while Pavelec has never started against the Sharks.

Niemi allowed four goals for the second time in just 23 games in the loss to Minnesota on Tuesday, including a pair of stoppable shots that beat him to the glove side.

Odds and ends: Ryane Clowe will wear a full cage for about a week after going face-first into the boards during the second period in Minnesota. The Sharks have points in 12 of their last 13 games (8-1-4). Patrick Marleau has a six-game scoring streak (3g, 6a). The Jets Evander Kane has just two assists in the last five games. Blake Wheeler has 11 points in the last nine games. Dustin Byfuglien remains out for Winnipeg with a knee injury. The Sharks are 9-1-1- with two ties all-time against WinnipegAtlanta.

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.”