Sharks-Red Wings: What to watch for


Sharks-Red Wings: What to watch for

PROGRAMMINGALERT: Watch the Sharks take on the Red Wings on Hockey Day in America on NBC at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday.

DETROIT The Sharks can achieve two things with a win in Detroit on Sunday afternoon. They can put an end to the Red Wings NHL record 22-game home winning streak, as well as get their longest road trip of the season back on the right track.
Its not hard to figure out which is more important to the players themselves.Were going to approach it like most other games. Obviously, we know whats going on here in Detroit, but we need to get some points on this road trip, Patrick Marleau said. Weve let a couple slip away.

That couple includes losses to two of the weaker teams in the Eastern Conference. The Sharks dropped a 3-2 decision to Carolina on Friday night in Raleigh, following a 6-5 overtime loss to the Lightning the night prior.
Now, theyll enter a building that hasnt seen the home team lose there in more than three months. Detroits last loss at Joe Louis Arena came on Nov. 3 vs. Calgary.

Theyre in your conference. You know theyre an elite team. Theyre in first place overall in the league, so you do pay attention to them, Todd McLellan said. The added awareness is the streak itself.
It would be great to stop their roll and get us going in the right direction, Justin Braun said.
The Sharks are 1-2-1 on their season-long nine-game road trip, which also takes them to Columbus, Toronto, Nashville and Minnesota.
Niemi starting: McLellan wasnt saying, but word in the Sharks locker room after their afternoon skate at Joe Louis Arena was that Antti Niemi will get a chance to rebound from his worst start of the season in Thursdays loss to the Lightning. The Sharks netminder allowed six goals on 25 shots, and has lost four of his last five starts overall (1-3-1).
Its a huge game coming back after the Tampa game, Niemi said.
Hes one of just two goalies to have a regulation win in Detroit, helping the Sharks to a 4-2 victory here on Oct. 28 with 30 saves. Niemi also was in net at HP Pavilion, stopping 40 shots in a 5-2 San Jose win over the Red Wings.
He was asked what he has to do personally to get his game going back in the right direction.
Just see the puck, wait for the puck and stop it. Just be patient, I think thats it, he said. We can make this still a pretty good road trip, so lets go.
Detroit, which beat Nashville on Friday at home, 2-1, will go with backup Joey McDonald. It will be the third time in four games the Sharks face a backup goaltender, as Carolina'a Jason Peters and Washington's Braden Holtby played for their respective teams.

Starter Jimmy Howard has been out since Feb. 2 with a broken index finger, but is available to play.

Changes on D: The Sharks will remain without Douglas Murray. The burly blueliner took a puck to the throat early in the Lightning game and will miss his second straight contest with a fractured Adams apple, although he is with the team here in Detroit.
Meanwhile, Jason Demers appears ready to go. Demers has missed the last nine games, and 11 of the last 13, with an unspecified lower body injury. McLellan said that its very likely Demers will be available against Detroit.
Demers return could mean that Colin White will come out of the lineup. White has been generally ineffective for the Sharks, especially since the All-Star break, and has been on the ice for six of the nine goals that San Jose has surrendered in its last two losses.
More Moore: Sharks forward Dominic Moore had a successful debut with his new team on Friday, setting up the tying goal by Brent Burns before San Jose eventually surrendered the game-winning goal shortly after. Moore began the night as the third line center between Torrey Mitchell and Jamie McGinn, but McLellan drastically shuffled up his bottom three lines before the game was over.
One thing McLellan mentioned after the game was that he liked Moore and Clowe together, after he separated Clowe and Logan Couture early in the second period. Benn Ferriero was the other winger with Moore and Clowe.
Couture finished the game with Wingels and Jamie McGinn, while Michel Handzus centered Mitchell and Andrew Desjardins.
We didnt have much going, so we decided to start flipping guys around, McLellan said after the loss in Carolina.
Whether or not the coach sticks with that lineup or goes back to his original lines to start Sundays game will be something to monitor.

Five months after taking puck to face, Sharks' Logan Couture 'still pretty sore'


Five months after taking puck to face, Sharks' Logan Couture 'still pretty sore'

Nearly five months after taking a puck to the mouth that resulted in major damage, Logan Couture is still dealing with the aftereffects of his surgically repaired mouth, which now features several false teeth.

Appearing on the NHL Network this week, Couture was asked how he’s feeling with less than one month to go before the Sharks open training camp on Sep. 14.

“There’s good days and bad days,” Couture said. “My bottom teeth are still my real teeth. They’ve tried to keep them so I don’t lose them. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, they’re still pretty sore. My top teeth are all fake now – my front six, I think. So, it’s different. It just feels different in my mouth. 

“But everything else with my face and all that is healed. I’m lucky that it’s an injury that didn’t affect my training, and hopefully won’t affect me going forward.”

Couture was injured on March 25 in Nashville. He was set up just outside the crease in the offensive zone when a Brent Burns point shot hit a stick before squarely battering the now 28-year-old’s mouth.

After missing the final seven games of the regular season, Couture returned for the Sharks’ playoff opener. He managed to play in all six games of the first round loss, posting two goals and one assist for three points, although he struggled at times and was seemingly targeted by the Oilers.

Couture is currently in his hometown of London, Ontario where he’s staging a casino event for brain research. Fellow Sharks Chris Tierney and Dylan DeMelo will take part, as will other NHL stars like the Kings’ Drew Doughty.

Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes


Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes

It was late in the lockout-shortened 2013 season when Sharks general manager Doug Wilson really started to prepare for the future. Douglas Murray was dealt to Pittsburgh for a pair of second round selections. Ryane Clowe packed his bags for Broadway, in exchange for a second and a third round pick from the Rangers. Michal Handzus went to Chicago for a fourth rounder.

Wilson’s logic was sound, as it typically takes two-to-four years before draft picks have a chance to make an impact at the NHL level. The general manager figured that by then, players like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau either wouldn’t be a part of the team anymore or would be slowing down. Restocking the cupboards was essential.

From 2013-15, the Sharks made 24 selections over the next three NHL entry drafts, including seven total picks in the top two rounds. Some players have shown promise. Others haven’t. A few aren’t in the organization anymore. That’s the nature of the business.

The way the 2017-18 opening night roster is shaping up, though, now is the time that some of these young players in the system simply have to step up. Marleau and his 27 goals last season are gone, Thornton’s numbers are down and he’s coming off of major knee surgery, Joe Pavelski is now 33 years old, and the team’s offense depth is suspect at best. There have been no notable additions in the offseason.

Frankly, this season could be viewed as a referendum on the team’s amateur scouting staff, including longtime director Tim Burke. Wilson handed Burke and his staff a wonderful opportunity to provide the organization with fresh talent with the team approaching an organizational crossroads.

What has transpired so far is a bit concerning, as already two of the team’s first round picks from that span ended up being nothing more than trade bait.

* * *

Mirco Mueller, chosen 18th overall in 2013, was a huge disappointment in San Jose. It’s been well documented that he was mishandled by the organization when he was rushed to the league in 2014-15, but even this past season, regular observers of the Barracuda had Mueller as nothing more than the AHL team’s fourth-best defenseman. He’s now in New Jersey, swapped for a pair of draft picks.

The scouting staff was so high on Mueller on draft day that Wilson traded a valuable second round pick to Detroit to move up just two places to select him. With those acquired picks, the Red Wings took Anthony Mantha 20th overall and Tyler Bertuzzi 58th overall – two forwards that have shown a whole lot more NHL potential than Mueller (especially Mantha, who has 39 points in 70 career NHL games so far).

Perhaps more concerning, though, is that the Sharks 2013 draft class as a whole is looking like a dud. Second round pick Gabryel Boudreau suffered a wrist injury and is no longer in the organization anymore, but he was trending downward even before he got hurt. None of the remaining players selected from rounds four-through-seven look to be NHL quality, either.

The next year brought Nikolay Goldobin, chosen 27th overall after the Sharks traded down in the first round, and he ended up being the key piece in the Jannik Hansen acquisition from Vancouver. Goldobin showed some flashes of offensive talent during his time in the organization, but his lack of hockey sense and on-ice work ethic helped lead to his exit. Whether Goldobin becomes an NHL regular, even with a fresh start in Vancouver, is highly uncertain.

Had the Sharks stayed at 20th overall, they could have selected Nick Schmaltz (20th overall), Robby Fabbri (21st overall), or David Pastrnak (25th overall). Instead, they moved down and took Goldobin, making it back-to-back first round failures.

* * *

Still, unlike 2013, other players from Goldobin’s draft class have shown some promise. Second rounder Julius Bergman was a steady blueliner for a good Barracuda team last season, and although he’s probably not NHL-ready yet, he could be on the right track. Late in the draft the team found Kevin Labanc in the sixth round with the 171st overall selection, and Labanc had some nice moments with the Sharks last season. His shot and his hands make him a solid prospect, although Labanc still probably has to get a bit bigger and stronger to play in the NHL full-time.

Noah Rod (second round, 53rd overall) and Rourke Chartier (fifth round, 149th overall) are also still developing, with Rod playing against men in the Swiss league the past few seasons and Chartier a valuable player for the Barracuda last year.

In 2015, the draft provided the Sharks with Timo Meier at ninth overall, as the club drafted in the top 10 for the first time since 2007. At this point, Meier is far and away the best prospect in the organization, and he’ll likely be relied upon to play a top nine (or even a top six) role for the Sharks this season.

The 2015 draft brought other decent prospects, too. Defenseman Jeremy Roy was selected 31st overall, and after suffering a serious knee injury in juniors this year, he’ll get a chance to play for the Barracuda this year. Fourth rounder Adam Helewka and fifth rounder Rudolfs Balcers have also developed nicely since draft day. It’s still a bit too early to evaluate that draft as a whole.

It should also be mentioned that while their draft day record may be suspect the past few seasons, the Sharks have brought in European free agents like Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen. Karlsson has developed into a versatile, hard-working forward; Donskoi has shown flashes of offensive brilliance despite a disappointing second year in the NHL last season; and Sorensen looks primed to make the opening night roster after his speed and tenacity shined through during the Sharks’ first round series loss to Edmonton.

The Sharks scouting staff has helped to keep the team competitive for a long time, and they’re as big a reason as any that the team has missed the playoffs just once in the past 11 seasons. But this is also a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, and now is the time that the Sharks need to see some results from players that were chosen by Burke and company.