Sharks-Kings: What to watch for


Sharks-Kings: What to watch for

SAN JOSE The Sharks and Kings will meet for the first of six games this season, and the first since San Jose eliminated L.A. in the first round of the playoffs last April.

The matchup between the two California clubs has been pretty good for awhile, but those who were around for that hard-fought postseason battle agree it takes a playoff series to really get a rivalry going.

Last year with the playoffs, thats usually is what develops rivalries when you get to go at it in an intense environment like that, said Ryane Clowe. Its always been a good game, and now the fact that we did get to play them last year in the playoffs will only up the ante a little bit.

Im sure there will be some motivational carryover from the playoffs last year, said Todd McLellan. I think both teams have a tremendous amount of respect for each other and the way they play.

The Kings will be trying to snap a four-game winless streak, while San Jose will attempt to rebound from losing a third period lead to Nashville on Thursday.

In the crease: Sharks goalie Antti Niemi will look to rebound from a couple of rough outings in a row. The Kings have had trouble on the scoreboard lately, but there are no such problems in their net.

One only has to look at the numbers to see the difference. Niemi has a 3.09 goals-against average and .892 save percentage, while Jonathan Quick is fifth in the league with a 1.68 GAA and .941 save percentage.

Quick brings another element to his game other than just stopping the puck, according to Todd McLellan.

Hes very good at initiating the breakouts so you have to be more aware of where youre placing the puck, he said.

Could the Sharks will try and use those lively new boards to their advantage again, as they did when Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture teamed up for a goal against Nashville?

Line it up: It appears the Sharks and Kings will both be trying out some new line combinations for tonights game. For San Jose, look for Marty Havlat to play on the right side of Patrick Marleau and Ryane Clowe. The top line of Thornton, Pavelski and Couture remains untouched, while the third and fourth lines are the same as how they were two games ago.

Los Angeles, which has scored two goals or less in regulation in 11 of its 13 games, is also tinkering. Anze Kopitar, Simon Gagne and Justin Williams form the teams top line, while Mike Richards will be with Dustin Brown and Dustin Penner.

Penner, specifically, is a guy that the Kings would like to get going as he has just one assist in 11 games.

Mike sees the ice and makes plays, and Im hoping that generates some more opportunities for Penner and his game, to get his confidence on track on the scoring part of it, said Kings coach Terry Murray.

With as much skill as the Kings possess up front, its probably just a matter of time before they get the offense going. McLellan points out, though, that L.A. is a team that can get away with scoring slumps thanks to defensive depth and goaltending. The Kings are third in the league in goals-against per game (2.00).

When youre only giving up two a night, you can afford to struggle on offense a little bit and win some games, said McLellan. Its a very good team over there, one of the best well play, I think, during the year.
Improve the PK: The Sharks have allowed at least one power play goal in five of their last six games (14-for-20, 70 percent). The one game they didnt, however, was against Pittsburgh which oddly enough didnt have a single power play all game.

Thats dropped them to 29th in the NHL in that category (73.2 percent overall).

Patrick Marleau isnt hitting the panic button just yet, though.

Our numbers dont show it, but weve done a lot of good things, he said. We want those numbers to get better, and theres only one way to do it by doing it right and making sure we work hard. But, we dont need to take extra penalties to prove that point.

One thing the Sharks do have going for them is that they have stayed out of the box. They have been shorthanded just 41 times, the third fewest in the league.
Odds and ends: The Sharks won the regular season series last year with L.A., posting a 3-1-2 record. That includes two shootout wins. Kopitar has six points in the last five games. Joe Pavelski has 15 points in his last eight games (7g, 6a). The teams meet again on Nov. 28 in Los Angeles.

Sorensen returns to Sharks after having 'positive impact' last season

Sorensen returns to Sharks after having 'positive impact' last season

Editor's Note: The above video is from March 2, 2017

One of the Sharks’ young forwards expected to challenge for a full time roster spot this season has been re-signed.

Marcus Sorensen, who started the year in the AHL before working his way up to the Sharks, signed a two-year contract extension the team announced on Tuesday. A source told NBC Sports California that the deal is worth $700,000 at the NHL level for each of the next two seasons.

In 19 regular season games with the Sharks, Sorensen, 25, posted one goal and three assists. He appeared in all six playoff games against Edmonton, posting one goal and one assist.

In 43 games with the AHL Barracuda, Sorensen had 17 goals and 17 assists for 34 points.

"The time he spent with the Sharks this season, and the positive impact he had, proved that he can be an effective player at the highest level,” assistant general manager Joe Will said in a statement.

Sorensen originally signed with the Sharks as a free agent on May 13, 2016. He was originally drafted by Ottawa in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, but spent six seasons playing in Sweden before joining San Jose.

Sorensen was a restriced free agent. The Sharks have just one RFA left to sign in forward Barclay Goodrow.

Mailbag: Will Sharks miss Marleau's leadership? Thornton to be bumped?

Mailbag: Will Sharks miss Marleau's leadership? Thornton to be bumped?

Now that the dust has settled on the draft and free agency, here’s a meaty offseason Sharks mailbag before my vacation…

Who will replace Patty's leadership? (philip malan‏ @pmalan1979)

Patrick Marleau was a good example for other players in that he always came to camp in great shape and took care of himself between games, allowing him to be very productive into his later years. 

But let’s not overblow it. From what I understand, Marleau preferred to avoid confrontation, and was never the guy in the dressing room challenging other players to step up. That was left more to guys like Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, with Logan Couture growing into that role in recent years, too. When it comes to veteran leadership there are other guys still in the dressing room of more value than Marleau. His leaving town shouldn’t change the dynamic.

Will Thornton be bumped from the top line center role? Who do you think will replace Marleau on the PP? (Elle‏ @LikeShiningOil)

The whole “top line” designation is something that us writers and broadcasters like to use, and I’m going to keep using it for Thornton so long as he and Pavelski are on the same line. That said, there will be plenty of games where the Couture line gets more even-strength ice time than the Thornton line. I guess my point here is don’t read too much into the labels. I don’t expect Thornton’s ice time to go down from what it was last season. He’s averaged 18 minutes and change in each of the past five seasons, and probably will again.

As for replacing Marleau on the power play, I would tab Tomas Hertl as the frontrunner, but I’m sure the Sharks will try a number of different looks there in training camp. After finishing 25th in the NHL last season they pretty much have to, right?

How will the lines roll this season, if you were to prognosticate now? (Erik Kuhre @Puckguy14)

It seems like we say this every year, but it depends on where the Sharks see Hertl slotting in. Last season Hertl started out on the wing of the top line after offseason knee surgery before moving to center fairly quickly. I know he battled through yet another knee injury during the season, but Hertl’s 22 points in 49 games was a disappointing total.

If the season were starting today, I’d put Hertl on the wing of the Thornton line again with, of course, Pavelski on the other side. Here’s what I’ve got in that scenario:

Tomas Hertl – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Timo Meier – Logan Couture – Joonas Donskoi
Jannik Hansen – Chris Tierney – Mikkel Boedker
Melker Karlsson – Ryan Carpenter – Joel Ward

Extras: Marcus Sorensen, Kevin Labanc, Barclay Goodrow

(One guy who is really going to have to fight to keep his spot is Ward. I could see him getting pushed out, but for now I’m leaving him in).

Will there be a tough guy in the lineup to protect the kids? (Jim Kelley)

The Sharks signed free agent Brandon Bollig a couple weeks ago to replace Micheal Haley, but I don’t seem him as a regular in the NHL lineup. Bollig could be a guy they recall if they think it’s necessary to dress a pugilist, like when Pete DeBoer brought up Haley late in the 2015-16 season for the sole reason of fighting Darnell Nurse, who had jumped Sharks defenseman Roman Polak just two weeks earlier for no real reason.

Do you think Chris Tierney is capable of more point production at this point in his career? (Ian Stephenson)

Count me among those that thought Tierney was ready to have a better season last year after his strong performance in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Still, he’s just 23 years old, and his line in the series against Edmonton with Meier and Sorensen was a very effective one for long stretches of play. This is a huge year for Tierney, who had to settle for the Sharks’ one-year, $735,000 qualifying offer. Perform, and he’ll get paid. Struggle, and he could be on the move.

Do you think the Sharks will trade either Grosenick or Dell? Doesn't seem Grosenick has much more to prove in AHL. (Chris Greni)

No, they’ll hold on to all three for the time being. Getting Troy Grosenick re-signed to a one-year deal was a nice move on the Sharks’ part, considering Aaron Dell still has just 20 games of NHL experience. Perhaps if they both continue to play well the Sharks could dangle one as trade bait later in the year, but it wouldn’t make sense at this point. 

Any thoughts on DW using the offer sheet to bring in scoring help? There’s several serviceable RFAs out there still waiting for contracts. (Tony Martinico)

Keep in mind that some of those high end RFAs, like Colton Parayko, Nino Niederreiter and Tomas Tatar are currently headed for arbitration, which takes the offer sheet off the table.

Purely speculation here, but I have to wonder if the Sharks have at least kicked around trying to ink Leon Draisaitl to an offer sheet. You have to think Berlin native Hasso Plattner would love to add the “German Gretzky” to the roster. I know we're settling into the part of the NHL offseason where typically nothing happens, but it was July 19 when the Flyers signed Shea Weber to a monster offer sheet five years ago.

And, of course, Doug Wilson has used the power of the offer sheet in the past, signing Niklas Hjalmarsson in 2010 and then using the threat of an offer sheet with Boston to acquire Martin Jones.

Which Cuda player, aside from Meier, Labanc and Sorensen, would you expect to be a dark horse and could make the big team out of camp? (olin @sleepymofo)

Keep in mind that the sixth and defensemen spots are open, too. I would presume that Dylan DeMelo is the frontrunner to replace David Schlemko, but Tim Heed and Joakim Ryan are coming off of strong seasons in the AHL. Perhaps one of them overtakes DeMelo in training camp.

As for other forwards than those you mentioned, Goodrow could end challenging for a spot on the fourth line. I get plenty of questions about Danny O’Regan, too, and perhaps he makes a push. The issue with O’Regan is that although he’s a skilled player in the minors, he’s probably not quite skilled enough to make up for his small frame at the NHL level. I view him more as a fill-in guy.

Any word on [Barclay] Goodrow and [Marcus] Sorenson? I'm assuming they didn't sign their QO's? (DaveBPilot‏ @DaveBPilot)

Yes, that’s safe to assume, since the deadline was Saturday. They remain RFAs, and negotiations will surely continue.

Still, it’s worth mentioning what happened last year with Matt Nieto. The forward didn’t sign his qualifying offer, as he was pushing for a multi-year deal, and ended up signing for one year for less than he would have made had he accepted the original offer. He was waived and claimed by Colorado.