Sharks-Lightning: What to watch for

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Sharks-Lightning: What to watch for

SAN JOSE One advantage the Sharks will have tonight as they prepare to face the Tampa Bay Lightning is that by playing at home, San Jose will get the last change.

In other words, expect to see Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic out there as much as possible when the NHLs leading scorer, Steven Stamkos, is on the ice.

We dont play them much so I just watch him, but he gets open all the time, said Vlasic of Stamkos, who has 20 goals already this season, and three goals and four assists in his last three games. He has a quick release and a very good shot. Thats what he does. He finds the open spots, and if he has an opening, its going in the net every time.

Todd McLellan cautions against focusing too much on one player, though. Although Martin St. Louis is still out, recovering from a puck to the face earlier this month, Tampa Bay still has some proven veteran scorers like Vincent Lecavalier and Ryan Malone.

Its always important to have that last change, but teams can do other things to get away from that," said the coach. "Its not necessarily Boyle and Vlasic Ive really liked Justin Braun and Colin White, and I think they can defend some of the teams top pairs, as well.

The biggest reason the Lightning have been a disappointment this season is an inability to keep the puck out of their own net. Tampa Bay enters Wednesday night as the 28th-ranked NHL team in goals-against per game (3.28).

Staying hot at home: The Sharks are in the midst of a six-game homestand, and have managed to squeak out a pair of one-goal victories in the first two. After the Lightning, San Jose hosts Los Angeles on Friday, Anaheim next Monday and Vancouver on Dec. 28.

After that, nine of the teams next 13 games will be away from HP Pavilion.

When youre on an extended period of home games you want to win as many as you can. We know how tough it is to win on the road in this league, said Logan Couture. This building is tough for teams to come in and play, and weve got to play well on our home rink. Obviously, winning the first two helps, so weve got to stay on this roll.

The Sharks are 3-1-2 in their last six games, getting eight of a possible 12 points. They have not lost in regulation since a 1-0 defeat on Dec. 10 in St. Louis.

It seems like when you win you hardly make up any ground, but when you lose, you drop out, said Brent Burns. Obviously, its nice to be at home in front of our fans and get that home cookin'.

Improving special teams: Patrick Marleaus power play goal in the third period was the difference in Saturdays 3-2 win over the Oilers, ending a brutal stretch in which the Sharks were just two for their last 35 with a man advantage.

My biggest concern is our special teams play right now, said McLellan. Early in the year, it was obviously the penalty kill, and of late its been a little bit more of the power play.

Since the win over the Oilers, the Sharks enjoyed two practice days on Monday and Tuesday to work on the power play and their 29th-ranked penalty kill unit.

Big power play goal the other night, and a lot of work on special teams once again over the last couple of days, said McLellan. Hopefully, well see the fruits of our labor tonight.

Ferrieros opportunity: Marty Havlats injury will provide a huge chance for recent recall Benn Ferriero to establish himself as an every day player, while Havlat recovers from a left leg injury.

Ferriero, who flew in from Worcester on Monday, will get a look on the wing with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski.

Basically, I really just have to try and keep up with them, get the puck to them and let them go to work, Ferriero said after the morning skate. I get the chance to come up here and play with guys like this, its only going to help me.

This is Bennys opportunity, said McLellan. A lot of times, when you bring that type of player up you plop him on the third line or fourth line, and it doesnt always fit what his strengths are. This is his chance to play in a top-six role for a little while."

Its Ferrieros second stint with the Sharks this season. He scored the game-winning goal on Oct. 22 in Boston in a 4-2 Sharks win, but just two games later, was among a group of Sharks benched in the second half of a 4-2 win in Detroit.

I really think hell be fine for three or four games. Its what hes going to do long term, if we keep him here, that will really make it or break it for him.

Odds and ends: Sharks general manager Doug Wilson will update the status of Marty Havlat at 6:15 prior to tonights game. San Jose leads the league in shots per game with 34.2. The Sharks have won their last three home games against the Lightning, including a 5-2 win last November. Antti Niemi will start for the Sharks. Hes s 8-2-0 with a 2.10 goals-against average over his last 10 home games. Mathieu Garon is expected to start in net for the Lightning, as he was the first goalie off in the morning skate.

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.”

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

SAN JOSE – Just in case there was any question as to the grisly nature of Logan Couture’s mouth injury, the Sharks forward shared a picture on his personal Instagram account on Monday.

If you haven’t seen it yet, proceed with caution.

The photo was taken the night of his injury on March 25 in Nashville, showing several top teeth missing in a mouth that can accurately be described as a bloody mess, after he was hit with a defected puck while standing in front of the net in a game against the Predators.

Couture revealed on Tuesday in a conference call that there was more to his injury that just damaged teeth. He also has some facial fractures, including one above his upper lip that extends to his nasal area, and another that is under the bottom row of his teeth.

The one that’s higher in his face is still painful. 

“Still struggle to eat and sleep. … It’s not a comfortable state to be in,” said Couture, who missed the final seven games of the regular season before returning for the six-game first round series loss to Edmonton.

As for the next step, Couture has yet to sit down with his dentist, although further work is on the horizon.

“There’s going to be some implants to get the teeth fixed,” he said. “Hopefully get it done in the next few weeks, and then I’ll head back to Canada.”

Couture doesn’t yet know how many teeth need to be replaced.

“All depends on how the teeth respond,” he said.

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Joe Thornton had successful surgery on his left knee on Monday afternoon, NBC Sports California has learned, and according to a team statement released later on Tuesday he is expected to "make a complete recovery and be ready for the start of the 2017-18 season." 

According to a source, the damage to Thornton’s MCL was more significant than his ACL. The team declined to give any details about the surgery in its statement, including who performed it and where it was done. 

Thornton played four playoff games against Edmonton despite damaged knee ligaments, head coach Pete DeBoer revealed on Monday, when he said Thornton was dealing with a “torn MCL and ACL” after getting hurt in Vancouver on April 2.