Sharks prepare to face sniper Stamkos

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Sharks prepare to face sniper Stamkos

SAN JOSE Loyal Sharks fans may have missed their chance to see Sidney Crosby when Pittsburgh visited in early November, as the Penguins star was still recovering from a concussion, but that doesnt mean there arent other opportunities to see marquee NHL players from the Eastern Conference.

The Lightnings Steven Stamkos is certainly one of those. The player many consider the NHLs second best behind Crosby makes a rare appearance at HP Pavilion when Tampa Bay visits on Wednesday night.

With goals in three straight games, and seven points total over that span (4g, 3a), the Sharks will likely have their hands full with the guy who has surged to the NHL lead in goal scoring with 20.

Obviously, hes a great young talent, said Colin White, who has the most experience against Stamkos among Sharks defensemen, having played with the New Jersey Devils during Stamkos first three years in the league.

Obviously, his shot comes to mind, and on the power play they look to set him up. Hes got a great release.

Jason Demers may not have as much playing time against Stamkos as White does, but he got a chance to see the former 50-goal scorer last season when the Lightning visited in November. Stamkos scored a power play goal in that game, but it came late in the third period of a 5-2 Sharks win.

Hes just an opportunistic shooter, is the best way to say it, said Demers. You cant give him too many chances because if you give him five shots, theres a good chance one will end up going in. You just have to keep an eye on him and not give him too much separation. Just play hard on him and make it a hard game on him.

Hes a dynamic player. Scores a lot of goals and scores them from familiar spots, so well have to be aware of that, said Todd McLellan.

Tampa Bay (14-16-2) has been among the NHLs biggest disappointments this season after going to the Eastern Conference final last year. The Lightning took the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins a full seven games before a slim 1-0 defeat ended their season in late May.

The biggest reason theyve been unable to duplicate that success this year is an inability to keep the puck out of their own net. The Lightning allow 3.28 goals per game, 28th in the NHL. In their last 10 games, they have held their opponents to under three goals just twice (3-7-0).

Still, with players like Stamkos, Martin St. Louis (9g, 13a) and Vincent Lecavalier (11g, 11a), the Sharks know they cant take Tampa Bay lightly. The Lightning play a very distinct 1-3-1 defense, making it hard at times to get through the neutral zone.

They went to the conference finals last year and even though they havent played that well this year, they still have a lot of firepower and a lot of good players up front and the back end, too, said Michal Handzus. Weve got to be on top of our game.

Odds and ends: Antti Niemi will start in net for the Sharks, his 12th start in the last 13 games. Colin White is expected to play after missing Mondays practice. He was hit in the hand with a shot on Saturday against Edmonton. Defensemen Douglas Murray and Jim Vandermeer are doubtful for the game, but could both be cleared to return by Friday against Los Angeles, according to McLellan.

Once a Sharks pest, Hansen excited to join his new teammates

Once a Sharks pest, Hansen excited to join his new teammates

When Jannik Hansen walks into the Sharks’ dressing room he’ll see a very familiar face in Mikkel Boedker, as the two Denmark natives have known each other since they were kids.

He’ll also see a whole slew of players that he’s battled with for the better part of a decade while playing in the Pacific Division for the Canucks since the 2007-08 season. That includes Brenden Dillon, who fought the gritty Hansen to a draw on March 7, 2015.

Of course, that’s just part of the business in the NHL, and there won’t be any hard feelings. Those battles with Dillon and the other Sharks veterans didn’t prevent Hansen from putting the Sharks on the list of eight teams that he was reportedly willing to join.

“A lot of the stuff that happens on the ice, you step off the ice and it’s bygones,” Hansen said on a conference call Wednesday morning. “Obviously it’s always weird to walk into a dressing room and [for] the first time you shake hands with a guy that you fought with, but it’s almost normal, I think.”

The drive to win a Stanley Cup far outweighs any awkward feelings of joining a longtime rival. The Sharks have that chance, while the Canucks are seemingly beginning a rebuild. Hansen, who turns 31 late this month, was ready to move on.

“That was a big thing for me, going to a team that has the opportunity [to win],” Hansen said. “San Jose obviously has that. That being said, I also have a lot of knowledge of the team playing against them for a lot of years. I feel like I have a pretty good sense as to how they play.”

On Tuesday night a few Sharks players, including Dillon, spoke about how Hansen is a pest to play against. He’ll finish his checks, try to get underneath the other team’s skin, isn’t afraid to stick his nose in the middle of a post-whistle scrum, and can contribute offensively, too. Hansen has experience playing with Daniel and Henrik Sedin on Vancouver’s top line, and was frequently in the top six.

He’s the type of player whose value tends to increase in the postseason.

“Everything intensifies once playoff roll around,” Hansen said. “Every inch is so important, and you fight for everything. I think that’s just how I’ve always played. It’s how I’ve found that I’m most successful. If I’m not successful, that’s one of the first areas that I tend to look at, is probably not doing the things I’m supposed to. It’s definitely a part of my game, and something you try to bring on a nightly basis.”

Although he’s played just 28 games this season with 13 points (6g, 7a), battling through rib and knee injuries, Hansen had been in Vancouver’s lineup for the past three-and-a-half weeks before he was held out on Tuesday for precautionary reasons.

“I feel like it’s turning a corner here now and have played for almost a month,” he said.

Hansen revealed he will not be available to skate against the Canucks on Thursday at SAP Center due to the paperwork required to work in the United States for the first time, so his debut will have to wait until Sunday in Minnesota, at the earliest.

He’s now in a position, though, to play much later into the spring than had he remained in Vancouver.

“It’s been cut short a little bit, my season here, so to say,” Hansen said. “Hopefully I get to extend it quite a bit now.”

Sharks stick with it, rewarded with late score to beat Leafs

Sharks stick with it, rewarded with late score to beat Leafs

SAN JOSE – Not only did the Sharks add to their roster on Tuesday night, they added another two points, too.

After it was revealed late in the second period that the club acquired gritty forward Jannik Hansen from the Canucks for Nikolay Goldobin and a conditional fourth round draft pick, Tomas Hertl broke a 1-1 tie with a perfectly placed wrist shot late in the third period in pushing the Sharks to a 3-1 win over the Maple Leafs. Brenden Dillon and Joe Pavelski (empty net) also scored for San Jose, which got 20 saves from goalie Martin Jones, too.

The Sharks improved to 4-0-3 in their last seven games, winning their first two games coming out of the bye week, and have won nine in a row over the Maple Leafs.

"I thought we played a pretty good 60 minutes,” Logan Couture said. “One of our better games in a while.”

The winning goal from Hertl came at 18:36. Patrick Marleau fought off a couple defenders in the offensive zone before pushing the puck to Hertl charging in after a change, and Hertl flicked a quick shot over Frederik Andersen’s nearside shoulder for his eighth of the season.

"I wasn't sure if it was in, but Patty made a great play to hold the puck,” Hertl said. “He gives the pass, and I just shoot and score."

The ending was fitting from San Jose’s perspective, as the Sharks believed they outplayed Toronto for most of the night. They outshot the Maple Leafs, 37-21, and out-attempted them 71-55.

“We outlasted them, for sure,” Pavelski said. “We found a player that makes a big shot there at the end. Patty’s play through the neutral zone into the o-zone, and dishes off to Hertl, and he makes a big time shot. It was pretty rewarding, I think, with how the game was played tonight.”

The Sharks had the better chances in the first period, outshooting the Leafs 13-5, but failing to get on the board due to some skillful saves by Andersen. He made a pad stop on Hertl midway through the frame, and later denied Joel Ward on a two-on-one rush with Kevin Labanc with four minutes to go.

That allowed Toronto to get on the board in the second period on the power play. After Auston Matthews' hard work resulted in a hook on Justin Braun, the rookie buzzed in a shot after some sloppy Sharks defense at 6:41 of the middle frame for his 31st of the season.

Brenden Dillon responded for the Sharks, though, powering a slap shot through Andersen after Labanc set him up nicely less than six minutes after Matthews' score.

“We were kind of buzzing down low,” Dillon said. “I think we got them a little tired, and [Labanc] made a great play through the middle. I kind of got my head up, and a little bit of time, so I thought I'd try the slapper instead of the wrist shot and I was fortunate to find a hole."

San Jose came out for the third period with renewed energy, and outshot the Maple Leafs 14-4 over the final frame, including Hertl’s game-winner.

DeBoer said: “We were unfortunate to be out of that [first] period without being up. .... Second period I thought they pushed back a little, and I thought the third we put our foot right back on the gas again and finally got rewarded. 

“That’s playoff hockey, you’re going to hit a hot goalie once in awhile. … It took 58-59 minutes, but we found a way.”