Sharks-Oilers: What to watch for


Sharks-Oilers: What to watch for

EDMONTON After a pair of key divisional losses, the Sharks will get yet another chance to try and reverse what is becoming a dramatic downfall tonight in Edmonton.

San Jose has won just four of its last 18 games (4-11-3) and sits in 11th place in the Western Conference. The Sharks lost in Dallas on Thursday, 4-3 in a shootout, and in Phoenix on Saturday, 3-0, in the first two games of a four-game trip that concludes tomorrow night in Calgary.

With a win and a Colorado loss in Anaheim, the Sharks would move back into eighth place in the West.

Its a fight. Today we sit in the 11th spot and we have to win some games, Joe Thornton said. The good thing is fate is in our hands, so as long as we win well be fine. Well be in the party. Weve been playing better as of late. Were just not scoring, but the urgency is there right now.

The Sharks have fired 178 shots on net during their five game losing streak (0-3-2), but have scored just seven times. They believe the chances are there, and that the goals will soon follow.

Patrick Marleau said: If we were only putting up 20 shots a night and not getting many goals it would be a little bit concerning, but were getting the chances and getting the shots so weve got to stick with it.

Weve still got to get some more guys in front of the net. We keep putting 40, 45 shots on net well be fine, Thornton said. A lot of guys are squeezing their sticks, theyve just got to relax and let ability take over.

Playing loose: The Edmonton Oilers are out of the playoff race, and, consequently, are playing a looser brand of hockey and taking more chances as they try to play the role of spoiler down the stretch. Theyve won just once in their last six games (1-4-1, with the lone victory a 3-2 shootout win over the Sharks last Tuesday), but still have some of the more talented young players in the game like Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Theyve got a lot of young players that like to make a lot of plays. They obviously dont have a lot of pressure on them so theyre playing loose, Ryane Clowe said.

Todd McLellan thinks that the frustrated Sharks could take notice of the Oilers attitude.

We know theyre fast, we know theyre skilled, and we know theyre playing very loose right now and can just come out and really have fun and enjoy the game, said the head coach. Thats something that Id like our guys to do, but with the situation were in, they seem to squeeze the sticks a little bit too much.

Clowe agreed.

As much as you can relax, I think thats a good thing, he said.

New look lines: In an effort to generate more offense, McLellan mixed up his lines for the full-team morning skate at Rexall Place on Monday morning.

Thornton skated between Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski; Marleau was in the middle of Clowe and Daniel Winnik; Dominic Moore centered Torrey Mitchell and Tommy Wingels, while the fourth line looks to be Andrew Desjardins, TJ Galiardi and Benn Ferriero.

Trying to find some goals. Trying to continue with good defensive play. Were looking for maybe some of the unusual suspects to maybe come up with one or two, McLellan said.

Moving Marleau from the top line to the second line center, and putting Couture on Thorntons line are the most noticeable changes.

Marleau has got some size and he can have some speed through the middle. Maybe he can help a guy like Ryane Clowe out, McLellan said. Coutch, on the other hand, has dried up a little bit so well try and mix him up with some different players and see if we can get him going, as well.

Marleau has just one goal in the last six games (his only point), while Couture has one assist in four games since returning from a lower body injury.

For those keeping track, that would leave Michal Handzus and Brad Winchester as the odd men out against Edmonton.

Playoffs starting now: With just 15 games in the regular season and the Sharks sinking in the standings every day, the team is trying to embrace a playoffs start now philosophy. That includes the proverbial one-game-at-a-time mantra.

Thats where you get in trouble, when you start counting down the games and say you have this many games to turn it around, Wingels said. I think our whole team looks at one game at a time. You cant look past tonights game. Obviously, if you dont win the games in hand, it just puts you in a bigger hole.

McLellan likened the pressure the Sharks are feeling now to getting down in a playoff series.

Weve been in this situation before, it just so happens that its usually in the first round, where were fighting for our lives and where the stress is a little bit higher than it normally is. Its a month earlier, he said. Weve been through this before for many years straight, it just happens that it comes in April.

Were dealing with it well. Guys are working hard and trying to play a team game. A lot of times when its not going well, you find guys turning to individuals trying to do too much. For the most part were playing in a team game and we believe in each other, so we have an opportunity to get where we want to go.

In the net: Antti Niemi will make his seventh straight start in net for the Sharks. Hes won just one of those six, but has a 1.96 goals-against average and .928 save percentage over that span.

Niemi is 2-0-1 in his career against Edmonton, with a 1.44 GAA and .936 save percentage.

Devan Dubnyk, who made 28 saves through overtime and then stopped all three Sharks attempts in the shootout on March 6, starts for the Oilers.

Odds and ends: This is the fourth and final game between the teams this season. The last time the Sharks were out of playoffs position this late in the year was in 2006. They finished the season 14-4-2 and ended up as the fifth seed in the West. Marty Havlat remains out for the Sharks.

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.