Sharks-Predators: What to watch for

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Sharks-Predators: What to watch for

SAN JOSE Antti Niemi will get his wish.

The Sharks goaltender, who said that he would be best suited to play again right away after getting pulled two minutes into the game against Pittsburgh on Thursday, will start in net against the Nashville Predators on Saturday night at HP Pavilion.

Todd McLellan said the decision was not difficult.

It was easy. Hes going to be our goaltender when it counts, said the coach. He hasnt had a lot of time throughout training camp, and he needs to play some games. So, its pretty simple.

Thomas Greiss was arguably the Sharks best player in the 4-3 come-from-behind win against the Penguins. McLellan was quick to point out that Greiss, whose 1.99 goals-against average and .928 save percentage are decidedly better than Niemis stats (2.96, .893) will get more looks down the road.

Thomas played extremely well, we all appreciate his effort and hell get many more opportunities to play this year. But, tonight its about Nemo getting his game back.

Every day Im shufflin: The Sharks third line was finally able to contribute on Thursday, getting a huge goal from Jamie McGinn with less than five minutes to play that tied the game at 3-3.

It was a big goal for the third line last game, to be rewarded and put the puck in the net, so hopefully we can continue that, said McGinn this morning. We got that monkey off our back kind of thing.

McGinn also has a new linemate, if you go by practice yesterday and the skate this morning. Marty Havlat has joined McGinn and Michal Handzus, as McLellan seeks a more balanced attack.

RELATED: Tinkering with third D pair continues

Marty and Zeus have a good relationship, and I think they understand each other, said McLellan. I think they could be a dynamic pair together as the year goes on.

Havlat and Handzus are no strangers, as the two played together on the same line in Chicago for most of the 2006-07 season.

Hes very smart with the puck and his positioning, and a good passer and playmaker, Havlat said of Handzus. He can get you the puck pretty quick. Hes great at both ends.

Avoiding the Big D: There could be another reason that McLellan wants to change his forward lines up, specifically splitting up Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

Actually, make that two reasons Predators defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.

Thornton has skated with Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski the last two days, while Marleau looks to be with Ryane Clowe and Torrey Mitchell.

They have Suter and Weber and will try and match up against one of our big centermen Im assuming Jumbo, explained McLellan. So, that will allow another big body in Patty to play against other pairs.

When you put Patty and Clowie together they are two big men. If they are playing well, theyre a load to handle down low.

As good as the top two lines were on the Sharks successful 5-1 road trip, McLellan sensed even they were getting a little too stale, as he put it.

We werent getting a lot from our third and fourth lines anyhow, and our other two lines for the most part carried the team on the road trip. But, they started to sputter at the end, too, he said.

Pavelski recovering: Joe Pavelski was back on the ice this morning after sitting out Fridays practice with a flu bug, that has been making its way through the team. Marelau and Dan Boyle have also had bouts with the illness.

Pavelski still leads the team with 13 points, but had a six-game scoring streak snapped against the Penguins.

RELATED: Pavelski latest flu victim

Its just something you have to deal with, said Pavelski, who said he wasnt feeling 100 percent during the win over the Penguins, before adding he has to be better than he was in that game.

Odds and ends: The Sharks and Predators met once this season, with San Jose skating to a 3-1 win in Nashville on Oct. 25. Pekka Rinne is expected to start in net for the Preds. Hes started every game so far, and is coming off of a shutout of Phoenix on Thursday. That day also marked his 29th birthday, and he signed a 49 million, seven-year deal with the team before the game. Not a bad day. Nashville is in the middle of a five-game road trip. They are 1-0-1 so far.

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic will compete in the upcoming IIHF World Championships for Team Canada, it was announced on Friday.

The tournament runs from May 5-21 in Paris, France and Cologne, Germany. 

Vlasic, 30, a native of Montreal, has played in the tournament twice before in 2009 and 2012. He also represented Canada in the 2014 Olympic Games, helping it to a gold medal, and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which Canada also captured.

In 75 games with the Sharks this season, Vlasic posted 28 points (6g, 22a) and a +4 rating. He was second on the team in shorthanded time on ice (2:04 per game) and blocked shots (146).

A pending restricted free agent in 2018, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson called getting Vlasic signed to a long-term deal an offseason priority for the club. The two sides can begin negotiations on July 1.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” Wilson said. “[He] is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

The Sharks lost in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs to Edmonton, although Vlasic and partner Justin Braun helped to keep Connor McDavid in check at even strength. The league's leading scorer had just one even strength point in the six-game series, an empty net goal with less than one second left in Game 6.

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.”