Sharks-Sabres: What to watch for

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Sharks-Sabres: What to watch for

SAN JOSE Its been nearly a month since the San Jose Sharks won back-to-back games. After beating the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, theyll try and do just that for the first time since Jan. 31-Feb. 2 when they host the Buffalo Sabres tonight at HP Pavilion.

They may have to do it without their leading goal-scorer again, too. Logan Couture appeared on the ice with his teammates when the morning skate began, but came off much earlier than normal. Officially, hes a game-time decision. Couture missed his first game of the year on Tuesday with a lower body injury, believed to be a knee, that he sustained on Sunday in Minnesota.

The Sharks will, however, be getting at least one piece back. Dominic Moore played in just one complete game for the Sharks since he was acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning, and has missed the last four games after blocking a shot in Columbus on Feb. 21.

You come to a new team you want to contribute right away. Its frustrating to not be able to, so Im looking forward to getting back at, Moore said.

Moore is expected to center a third line with Tommy Wingels and TJ Galiardi, with Andrew Desjardins likely coming out of the lineup.

Hes a good option for us to put into our forward group tonight. We look forward to seeing him play, said Jay Woodcroft, once again filling in for an injured Todd McLellan.

Defenseman Douglas Murray (fractured Adams apple) remains out.

New shutdown line? With Daniel Winnik in the fold, he, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski did an admirable job on Tuesday shutting down one of the most dynamic players in the NHL in the Flyers Claude Giroux. Philadelphia entered the game as the highest scoring team in the league, but left with a zero on the board in a 1-0 defeat.

Its a safe assumption that the new linemates will be on the ice against Buffalos Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy and Jason Pominville as the Sharks will get their desired matchups at home.

All three of those guys bring a lot to the table. Its not just offense, Woodcroft said. Pav is a real ethereal-type intelligent player that can play both ends. Patty obviously is a horse in the middle, and can wear other teams out with his speed and his size through the middle. With Winnik, hes a big body, checking type guy that when were controlling the puck in the offensive zone, its to our advantage.

Last game, that was one of those things we talked about before the game, was to play those guys hard, Marleau said of the matchup with Philly. I think everybody as a team did a good job, and played well defensively.

Goalie matchup: Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller made 43 saves in a 2-0 win over Anaheim last night, and could get the back-to-back assignment tonight Buffalo seeks to get back into the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Sabres did not skate at HP Pavilion on Thursday morning.

Antti Niemi is in net for the Sharks, and will be making just his second career appearance against Buffalo. On Dec. 9, 2010, Niemi allowed five goals in a 6-3 Sharks loss.

Miller, who has played in 17 straight games, is 5-1-1 against the Sharks in his career with a 2.24 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. Backup Jonas Enroth has never faced San Jose.
More on the Sabres: Buffalo is 4-0-2 in its last six games, climbing to within five points of eighth place in the East. The Sabres are still in 12th place, though, and a longshot to make it to the postseason.

That doesnt mean they arent dangerous, and have some talented weapons in their lineup.

Moore said: Theyre a very strong defensive team and have one of the best goalies in the league. Weve got to continue to play good defensively and wait for our chances.

They have some dimensions on their back end with guys like Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff. Then up front, they are very skilled, Woodcroft said. They have a good power play and can make you pay for mistakes. Our game management, puck management, controlling our controllables is going to be huge tonight.

McLellan still sidelined: Coach Todd McLellan will remain out of action tonight, still feeling the effects of getting whacked with a stick in the head on Sunday in Minnesota.

Woodcraft and Matt Shaw continue to man the bench, although McLellan is still involved in the game-planning process.

Hes going to come back when he feels comfortable behind the bench, Joe Thornton said. Im sure the lights still give him problems, and the sound. A lot of guys in here have been through concussions and you never know how long theyre going to last. We just hope he gets back quick.

Hes getting better. Thats the primary concern of not only Matt and myself, but the whole organization to get Todd better, Woodcroft said.
Odds and ends: This is the only meeting between the Sharks and Sabres this year. Buffalo has won the last three. Joe Thornton has six goals and 15 assists in his last 15 games, and was named as the Sharks player of the month. Buffalo is 17-6-4-1 all-time against the Sharks. San Jose is 11-4-1 against the Eastern Conference. The Sharks lead the NHL in shots per game with 34.4. Buffalo is 4-1-0 against the Pacific Division, but 12-16-1 on the road.

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.”