Sharks-Predators: What to watch for


Sharks-Predators: What to watch for

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Coverage of the Predators vs. Sharks begins with Sharks Pregame Live at 7 p.m. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m., and the game is immediately followed by Sharks Postgame Live. Watch it all on Comcast SportsNet California.

SAN JOSE If the Sharks deserve a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup, well, now is the time to prove it.

The team is as healthy as its been all season, as its getting Marty Havlat back tonight after a three-month absence, and will play six of its next seven games at home as it tries to secure a place in the postseason tournament. The Sharks (34-25-10, 78 points) enter Thursdays game with the Predators (41-21-7, 89 points) on the outside looking in two points back of eighth place Colorado, and tied for ninth with Calgary and Los Angeles.
NEWS: Sharks activate Havlat, will face Nashville

If this is not the time, theres no other time, Ryane Clowe said. We know weve got a couple games in hand, so weve got to win those games and take care of our own business.

Weve got to get some consistency and a streak going at home here. Thats something we probably havent had all year. Get on a hot streak at home, and youve got to win those home games. Were looking forward to this.

It has been a miserable six weeks for the Sharks, who just concluded a four-game road trip with a 1-1-2 mark. San Jose has just one win in its last six games (1-3-3), and three in the last 15 (3-8-4).

We know whats ahead of us. I keep telling you that all along. We believe with the games that we have left we can control where we end up, or at least the input into the games, Todd McLellan said. Cant always control the results the other team has a say in that but we can control what goes into the games and we look forward to that opportunity.

Preds among NHL's best: The Predators have no worries when it comes to making the playoffs, as Nashville is in third place in the loaded Central Division and fifth overall in the West.

Unlike the Sharks, the Predators acquisitions at and before the trade deadline have paid dividends. Andrei Kostitsyn, Paul Gaustad and Hal Gill all help make the Predators a popular sleeper pick to win the Stanley Cup. Kostitsyn has three goals and three assists for six points in his first six games with Nashville, while Gaustad has three assists in five games.

They are 2-1-0 against the Sharks in the season series so far, with tonights game the fourth and final head-to-head matchup.

Joe Thornton said: Theyre just very competitive. Have got great goaltending, solid D, depth up front. This is going to be a big challenge for us tonight.

We know theyre a good team. The first thing you look at is their goaltending. Weve got to get to him tonight, said Clowe, referring, of course, to Nashvilles star netminder, Pekka Rinne.

The Sharks won 3-1 at Nashville on Oct. 21, but lost at home in overtime on Nov. 5, 4-3. The most recent matchup came on San Jose's miserable nine-game road trip, when it lost 6-2 at Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 25.

Where are the goals? The Sharks have just eight goals in their last 12 games, and have gotten hardly any recent contributions outside of big guns Joe Thornton (1g, 5a in last three games) and Logan Couture (3g in last three games).

In the last eight games, Clowe has a single goal; Joe Pavelski has a goal and an assist, while Patrick Marleau has a goal and two assists.

Clowe, who is expected to play with Marleau and Havlat on the second line, hopes Havlats return sparks more offense.

With Marty back our lines are fitting in pretty nice right now. I think its going to be a pretty good time for us to make a move and show our depth, he said.

Niemi to get ninth straight start: McLellan said before the Calgary game on Tuesday that Antti Niemi is his go-to guy" at the "go-to time of year, so its no surprise that Niemi will get his ninth straight start tonight against Nashville.

In eight career games against the Predators, Niemi is 4-3-1 with a 2.71 goals-against average but just an .899 save percentage.

Rinne, of course, goes for Nashville. Hes 5-2-3 in 11 career games against the Sharks, with a 2.43 GAA and .932 SP.
Lineup look: Tommy Wingels remains out for the Sharks with an upper body injury that he said is not related to his nine-game absence earlier this year. He skated with the team on Monday, but offered no timetable for his return.

The Sharks defense will likely remain unchanged from the last two games, with Colin White and Jim Vandermeer sitting out. Based on the morning skate, Michal Handzus and Brad Winchester will also be healthy scratches.

The Predators remain without defenseman Kevin Klein.

Odds and ends: Nashville is 2-0-1 in its last three visits to San Jose. The Predators won in Phoenix on Monday, 5-4 in a shootout, despite surrendering a 4-2 lead in the third period. San Jose is without a power play goal in its last four home games (0-for-8). Other games to watch tonight are Colorado at New Jersey, and Phoenix at Calgary.

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.