Sharks-Predators: What to watch for

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Sharks-Predators: What to watch for

NASHVILLE, Tenn. When the San Jose Sharks battle the Predators tonight, the game will feature the team with the best shot differential in the league against the team with the worst.

San Jose leads the league in shots per game (38.8), as well as shots against per game (25.3). The Predators? Its the exact opposite, as they are last in the league in shots (22.1) and shots against (33.9).

Of course, you can look at stats all day and they dont mean a thing in the standings. The Sharks (3-3) and Preds (3-3-1) each have three wins and three regulation losses.

All those numbers power play percentage, faceoffs, and all that type of stuff when they post the standings in the newspaper they dont talk about that at all. They talk about winning games and losing games, said Todd McLellan. Thats what were here to do.

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Marc-Edouard Vlasic said: Its a good stat, but were 3-3, so the shots weve been giving up have been good scoring chances. But, it also means were playing tight defensively, so it is a good sign.

McLellan conceded that the shot differential, if it keeps up, should help down the road.

All those little things lead, over time, to more wins than losses, I believe. But right now weve got to put more wins on the board.

Key players returning for Preds: Nashville should get a much-needed boost on offense tonight when Mike Fisher makes his season debut. Fisher, who was acquired via trade last season from Ottawa, has been out since left shoulder surgery in the offseason.

Furthermore, defenseman Francis Bouillon is also likely to play. Hes been sidelined since January with a concussion.

Just as the Sharks did when Martin Havlat got in the lineup, McLellan expects Nashville to get some energy from two good players returning.

They are both veterans that have played a ton of games in the league and they are excited about getting back in the lineup, he said. I think theyll have an impact on the game. They are two very talented players, and well have to be aware of them.

One guy who knows Fisher well is Havlat, as the two played parts of four seasons together with the Senators.

For sure, hes one of the hardest working guys in the league and one of the fastest ones, said Havlat. Hes got a great shot, too, so its nice to see him back.

The Predators could use a jolt, especially offensively. They have just 15 goals in seven games, and managed just four on a recently completed three-game road trip in Western Canada.
Mitchell still out: McLellan wouldnt confirm it, but Torrey Mitchell skated for about a half hour later than his teammates at the morning skate at Bridgestone Arena, so he wont be playing tonight. All signs point to the Sharks using the same lineup as they did in Saturday against Boston, meaning Jim Vandermeer and Justin Braun will be the third pair on defense.

The good news on Mitchell, though, is that he should be good to go by Fridays game in Detroit. He was able to partake in contact drills on Tuesday something he wasnt able to do the day before.

Definitely a good shot for Friday, he said. I feel really good.
Odds and ends: This is the first of four meetings between the Sharks and Predators. They split the four last season, although both of San Joses wins came in overtime. Pekka Rinne will faceAntti Niemi in net. Both goaltenders are coming off of strong games, as Rinne made 33 saves for a shutout win in Calgary Saturday while Niemis 37 saves helped the Sharks to a 4-2 win in Boston the same day.

Marleau back to the middle as Sharks deal with no Couture, Haley

Marleau back to the middle as Sharks deal with no Couture, Haley

SAN JOSE – All four of the Sharks’ lines have been in a blender for much of the season. 

Now, with Logan Couture out for at least one game and probably longer, and Micheal Haley getting tagged with a one-game suspension, the coaching staff has no choice but to mix and match the remaining forwards in time for Tuesday’s home game with the Rangers.

They’ll hope it’s the right recipe to snap out of what has been a miserable six-game losing streak in regulation, including the last two in which the Sharks have been outscored 13-3 by Dallas and Nashville.

The most notable player to be shifted is Patrick Marleau, who will apparently be centering the second line against New York. It will be just the fifth game he starts at center this season, and first since Feb. 11 in Philadelphia, when he was filling in for an ill Couture.

Marleau, of course, has played plenty of center over the years, including the second half of last season and first handful of playoff games when he was in the middle of the third line.

“I don’t think there’s been a year where I haven’t played center, so it’s just one of those things, move in and out,” Marleau said. “We’re interchangeable throughout the whole lineup, anyway.”

Marleau has been one of the few effective Sharks players lately, with three of the team’s last five goals. He has 26 goals on the season, third on the team, and is fifth on the Sharks in points with 44.

“Patty is playing great. I don’t think we could ask for more from him,” said coach Pete DeBoer. “Arguably a lot of nights this year he’s been our best forward. He’s playing hard, he’s playing strong. He’s been a real valuable piece for us. We wouldn’t be in the spot we’re in this year without him and the way he’s played this year.”

Marleau is set to skate with Melker Karlsson and Mikkel Boedker, as Karlsson is good to go after missing the last eight games with a lower body injury. The 26-year-old Swede is having a nice season with 19 points (9g, 10a) in 60 games.

The third line featured Tomas Hertl between Joel Ward and Marcus Sorensen, while Chris Tierney will center the fourth line with Timo Meier and Joonas Donskoi.

Karlsson, who confirmed he was ready to return, said: “Cooch is out, and we’ll see how long he’s going to be out, but I’ll do my best. I’m going to work hard, and hopefully can get going here.”

Marleau described Karlsson as “tenacious on the forecheck, causes a lot of turnovers. He’s hungry on that puck. He’s going to get his opportunities, and I’m sure he’ll put a few in the back of the net.”

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Of course, the Sharks don’t care who scores the goals, just as long as it’s someone. It’s been a season-long issue for them to get their depth scorers to do more, and if they want any chance at reclaiming first place in the Pacific Division while Couture is out, that will be a necessity.

Among the players that will bring their scoring woes into Tuesday’s game will be Donskoi (no points 13 games), Hertl (no points in 12 games), Boedker (no points in 10 games), Ward (no points in six games), Sorensen (one assist in 10 games) and Tierney (one goal in 12 games).

Could Couture’s absence be a wake up call for those guys?

“I would hope it doesn’t take an injury to get that. That’s something we’re looking for, it’s something we’ve challenged the group to get more out of them,” DeBoer said. 

“They’re the first guys to recognize they’ve got to give us a little bit more. That’s been an ongoing process. The good news is they’ve all done it before. I feel that they all have the ability to raise their level another notch here before the playoffs. I think they have enough character that we’ll see that.”

Time is growing short, as the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin in a little more than two weeks.

Marleau said: “When you go into playoffs, [secondary scoring] is usually what makes a difference. We need everybody contributing and guys stepping up at different times. We know that in this room, and guys are looking forward to doing that.”

Sharks' Haley suspended one game for punch on Jarnkrok

Sharks' Haley suspended one game for punch on Jarnkrok

SAN JOSE – Sharks forward Micheal Haley has been suspended one game for punching Nashville’s Calle Jarnkrok on Saturday in San Jose’s 7-2 loss, and will miss Tuesday's home game with the Rangers.

After absorbing a borderline hit from behind into the glass by Jarnkrok, Haley tracked down the Predators forward and promptly delivered a left jab to Jarnkrok’s face at 12:56 of the final frame. He received a match penalty for intent to injure on the play.

According to the video released by the league, Haley “was seeking retribution” for the hit by Jarnkrok, who was already being penalized for boarding, and delivered a “forceful punch on an opponent who was not able to defend himself at the time.”

The 30-year-old Haley, who has never been fined or suspended before in his career, gave his perspective of what happened on Monday.

“We were breaking out there and next thing I know I was face first in the glass,” Haley said. “Just emotions [took over]. Kind of scared from the hit and I just went after him. Looked at him right in the eyes. He saw me. By the time I swung at him his face might have turned a bit. When I went at him I saw him clearly look at me, and I thought he knew I was coming.”

Haley expected Jarnkrok to engage him after the Predators forward delivered the bad check.

“I thought it was a pretty dirty hit, and I thought I gave him ample amount of time. I think he [had] enough time to know what I was trying to do, and trying to get him to fight.”

He added: “In hindsight, I wish none of it happened. I wish I didn’t get hit and I wish I didn’t punch him, but it happened. I don’t think I started it. It wasn’t premeditated or anything. If I missed that punch then we probably don’t have this conversation.”

In 54 games this season, Haley has two goals and nine assists for 11 points. His 110 penalty minutes is fifth in the league.