Sharks-Phoenix: What to watch for

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Sharks-Phoenix: What to watch for

PHOENIX Thursday nights Sharks-Coyotes game is the latest in the string of most important games the season, and head coach Todd McLellan needs everyone on board.

Thats something he didnt have in Wednesdays 3-1 loss to Anaheim, which sent the Sharks tumbling from the Pacific Division lead and third seed in the conference to eighth place, just a point ahead of tonights opponent.

RELATED: Conference standings

At this time of the year you cant miss bodies. You have jerseys, you have bodies that are wearing jerseys, but if thats all they are, then youre going to be short, said the head coach on Thursday morning. We had a couple key people that I thought could have produced more and given us a little bit more on Wednesday and well need that from them tonight.

The coach, as is his standard style, didnt want to name any names, though guys like Patrick Marleau, Marty Havlat and Brent Burns were hardly noticeable. Instead, he wanted to focus on what has to be done to beat what will be a well rested, rejuvenated and perhaps very healthy Coyotes lineup.

The start is going to be real important, McLellan said. Were going to have to be very conscious of what we do the first 10 or 15 minutes of the game. They are a much different team when they play with the lead.

The Coyotes will be getting captain Shane Doan back now that hes done serving a three-game suspension. Leading goal-scorer Radim Vrbata is possible to return from a two-game absence, and big-minute defenseman Adrian Aucoin could also play after missing the last six games.

Its good to get a lot of guys back, coach Dave Tippett told the Arizona Republic on Wednesday.

The Sharks, meanwhile, will be without defenseman Douglas Murray, who suffered a lower body injury in the first period of Wednesdays loss in Anaheim. Colin White will be back in for the Sharks on defense.

NEWS: Sharks without Murray against Coyotes

Road weary: The Sharks are just 1-5-2 in their last eight road games. McLellan was asked if he could pinpoint a reason why.

We havent scored enough goals on the road, in my opinion, he said. A lot of the games have been 2-1, 1-0, 3-2. Weve got to get some offense. Our defensive play on the road has not been bad.

San Jose has 16 goals in its last eight road games. Of the Sharks final five games, three are away from HP Pavilion. The team concludes its season with a home-and-home against Dallas and another against Los Angeles.

RATTO: Sharks' path to palyoffs runs through Dallas

The Sharks will also be trying to beat a Coyotes team that hasnt played since Sunday, while San Jose is playing for the second time in two nights.

Sometimes when you play back-to-back that second game youre a little looser, if you will. You just flow right into that next game, and that can work in your favor, if you get off to the start that you want to have. Thats what well be looking for, McLellan said.

The Sharks will be trying to put their loss to the Ducks behind them, quickly.

Thats how it is in the playoffs. You have to quickly move on, learn your lesson, take what you can from losses, or even from wins, and move on, Marleau said.

Embrace the pressure: With another playoff appearance far from a sure thing at this point, McLellan would like to see his club embrace the situation they find themselves in. The playoffs have essentially started already.

This is professional sport, its not just hockey. The really elite players and elite teams thrive in these situations, and weve done it before, McLellan said. Weve been through first rounds, weve been through second rounds. Theres no more pressure than playing in Game 7 at home against the Detroit Red Wings last year when we responded.

If we take that same approach and we have that same excitement about potential success, well give ourselves a chance.

TJ Galiardi is one player taking that to heart.

I think theres something wrong with you if you dont enjoy it. This is what we pay for, he said. We wish we were in a playoff position already, but I think that well be better for it.

Odds and ends: Phoenix is 3-1-1 against San Jose in the season series, although the Sharks won in a shootout at HP Pavilion on March 24, 4-3. Ryane Clowe has two goals in the last two games. Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris will be honored before the game for playing in his 1000th NHL game last week. ... Antti Niemi will start in net.

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.