Sharks-Kings: What to watch for

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Sharks-Kings: What to watch for

SAN JOSE The Los Angeles Kings, last in the NHL in goals, have led after the first period just four times in their first 34 games. One of those was on Nov. 28 at Staples Center against the Sharks, in what was one of the weakest efforts of the season for San Jose in a 2-0 loss.

The Kings have since changed coaches, but that game is still fresh in the minds of the Sharks and their head coach as the Pacific Division rivals meet tonight at HP Pavilion.

It wasnt a great game for us. We didnt have the start we wanted and dug ourselves a hole. I know they were a lot more intense and physical, and won a lot more battles, said Ryane Clowe. They wanted that game more and they were ready to start.

We know how L.A. plays, weve played them enough. We have to have a good start, and we have a couple days off after this game, so there are no excuses tonight.

Todd McLellan expects a fired up Kings group that will be playing its second game under new head coach Darryl Sutter, but thinks the Sharks should match that based on what happened the last time these teams met.

I know theyll be a motivated group with a new coach, and that coach having some ties to San Jose. Im sure theyll want to play for him, said McLellan. At the same breath, we should be matching that because of our poor effort in L.A. a couple weeks ago. We werent very good, and were outworked and out-battled for two complete periods.

Building momentum: The Sharks will be looking to build off of their most lopsided win of the season when they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, 7-2, on Wednesday night. In was their third straight win, all at home, as San Jose improved to a perfect 3-0 on its six-game homestand.

Well try and do a lot of the same things that worked well, said Joe Pavelski, who will play tonight after missing Thursdays practice with the flu. I think the simple part of our game was good. When we get our opportunities we have to be ready. Thats the biggest thing, guys had some good looks and finished on them.

When you get on rolls and start to get on a winning streak, things come naturally, it seems, said Clowe. You get those bounces around the net. We want to keep that momentum on our side. Theyve got a different look over there with a new coach who is fresh in there, so its a good opportunity to establish our game early and dictate, like weve been doing.

Although the Kings score just 2.12 goals-per game, 30th in the NHL, no one expects the score to be as lopsided as it was on Wednesday.

These are two teams that are more familiar with each other. I dont think there will be any surprises, and that prevents games from getting to 7-2 or 7-3 or whatever it might be, said McLellan.

The Kings have won back-to-back games via the shootout, including a 3-2 win over Anaheim on Thursday night in Sutters first game behind the bench. Los Angeles has a brutal streak of 13 straight games without scoring more than two goals in regulation, though.

You have ups and down, same way sometimes as we have a tough time scoring goals. You have to reestablish your game on a nightly basis, find ways to the net, said Pavelski. We dont know exactly whats going on over there. Were worried more about ourselves.

Special teams improving: The Sharks spent two days at their practice facility on Monday and Tuesday with some intense work on special teams play. The power play and penalty kill had both been floundering before Wednesdays game against Tampa Bay.

They saw some fruits from their labor with two power play goals and none allowed on the penalty kill in five Lightning chances.

That probably was the best number that we had in here, for us, said Pavelski of the 5-for-5 on the PK. Its something thats just a start, and hopefully going in the right direction. We have to build on that.

Roster update: Douglas Murray and Jim Vandermeer both remain on injured reserve and will not play with their respective broken hands.

Goaltender Antero Niittymaki, though, has returned from his conditioning stint in Worcester, and the Sharks now officially have three goalies on their roster.

Whats the immediate plan?

Antti Niemi tonight, Thomas Greiss backing up, and the Christmas break tomorrow, said McLellan.

Niemi will be making his 13th start in the last 14 games.

Odds and ends: This is the third game between the Sharks and Kings. San Jose won the first at HP Pavilion on Nov. 7, 4-2. They dont meet again until March 20 at Staples Center, and finish the season with a home-and-home against one another. Kings forward Mike Richards returned from an eight-game absence last night with a concussion, and scored one of the Kings two regulation goals Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski each have four-game scoring streaks, with five points apiece over that span. Jonathan Quick is expected to start for Los Angeles. He made 33 saves in shutting out the Sharks on Nov. 28. Dustin Brown has the shootout winner in each of the last two Kings wins.

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

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AP

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

No one asked, but I’m going to begin this week’s mailbag with my prediction for the Stanley Cup Final – Preds in six. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to a few of your questions…

Most likely to be moved this off-season? (Nik @niknisj25)

If the Sharks do make a move – and I’ve argued here that I think it may be time for a shakeup – they’ll surely be looking for someone up front to boost the offense. In that case, they’d likely have to sacrifice a defenseman or two.

The Sharks defense is the strength of the organization at the moment, as they had one of the best one-through-seven groups in the NHL this season. But it’s also an expensive one. The Sharks have nearly $27 million committed to their top seven defensemen next season, while Marc-Edouard Vlasic is due for a hefty raise beginning in 2018-19.

One name that could be intriguing to other teams is Justin Braun. The 30-year-old has been a part of the Sharks’ top shut down pair with Vlasic for several seasons now, and is signed for the next three years at a reasonable $3.8 million cap hit. The Sharks could potentially move him for offensive help, and slot in a guy like David Schlemko alongside Vlasic, while finally giving Dylan DeMelo a chance to play on a nightly basis on the third pair. A Vlasic-Schlemko pair could be more offensive than Vlasic-Braun, too, because as adept as they were at keeping the puck out of their own net, the Sharks didn’t get many goals from their defenders outside of Burns.

Of course, the upcoming expansion draft all but assures that nothing will happen until Las Vegas selects its team on June 21. If the Sharks lose a defenseman to the Golden Knights, they’ll be more reluctant to move another one. Still, with guys like Joakim Ryan, Tim Heed, Julius Bergman, Mirco Mueller and now Radim Simek in the pipeline, the club might be able to handle a couple departures.

How do we fix the power play next season? Bring in a coach that could help us? Change up the lines, or style of play? (adam smith @kickback408)

One thing that won’t be happening is a new coach, as Doug Wilson recently confirmed that Steve Spott would be back alongside Pete DeBoer. Bob Boughner could move on if he gets hired as a head coach elsewhere, but Boughner’s focus is the team’s defense and penalty kill.

Obviously, the future of the power play depends on who is on the roster, beginning with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Both saw their power play production dip this season.

Thornton went from 29 power play points in 2015-16 to 19 this season (he had eight power play goals in 2015-16, and just one this season). Marleau saw a decline from 25 power play points in 2015-16 to 16 last season. Even if both return, it may be time to try other bodies on the top unit.

Do you see Meier, Labanc and/or Sorensen having a breakout season next year? Or anyone else on the Barracuda? (Colin Dunn @ColinDunnACA)

Someone better had, because this team needs to start getting younger, and soon. One of the bigger disappointments of the 2016-17 season is that none of them apparently showed the coaching staff that they were prepared to play on a nightly basis at the NHL level.

Timo Meier and Marcus Sorensen, I would surmise, are at the top of the depth chart as far as forwards go. Their line in the playoffs with center Chris Tierney was the Sharks’ best through the early part of the series with Edmonton. As for Kevin Labanc, I think he’s fallen a bit since he had a brief run of success for the Sharks in December.

While the Sharks did a good job stockpiling some young players through the 2013-15 drafts, they’ve traded away a number of picks in recent years. In last year’s draft they didn’t have a first or third round pick; this year they don’t have any picks in the second, third or fourth rounds; and in 2018 they are already without their second and third round picks. 

It’s great to accumulate young players, but at some point they have to break through. Now is the time.

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

After five seasons with the Sharks, Larry Robinson is leaving the organization.

Robinson, 65, spent the last three seasons as the club's director of player development. He served as an associate coach from 2012-14.

TSN in Montreal and the Montreal Gazette originally reported the news.

The Sharks confirmed that Robinson's contract would be expiring, and general manager Doug Wilson told NBC Sports California that the divorce was amicable, and "because of geography." Robinson lives in Florida.

According to the Montreal Gazette

Robinson’s contract with the Sharks expires on July 1, but agent Donnie Cape said Thursday that San Jose general manager Doug Wilson has given him permission to speak with other teams. Robinson lives in Bradenton, Fla., and the long travel distance to San Jose is one of big the reasons he’s looking for a new team to work for.

Robinson seemed to ponder retirement in 2014, but signed a three-year extension to remain in the Sharks' front office. He worked mostly from his home in Florida the past two seasons, making occasional trips to San Jose, including during training camp.

In the summer of 2015, Robinson underwent surgery for skin cancer.

Recognized as one of the best defensemen in NHL history, Robinson won six Stanley Cup championships with the Montreal Canadiens as a player, and holds the NHL record for playing 20 straight seasons in the playoffs. A 10-time All-Star and two-time Norris Trophy winner, Robinson was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995.

Robinson was the head coach of the Los Angeles Kings from 1995-99, and the New Jersey Devils from 1999-2002 and again in 2005-06. He led the Devils to the Stanley Cup in 2000. Robinson has nine Stanley Cup rings as a player and coach.

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The Sharks did not renew the contract of pro scout Jason Rowe, who had been with the organization for the past nine seasons. Rowe focused on eastern NHL and AHL teams.