Sharks score five in win over Stars


Sharks score five in win over Stars


SAN JOSE With the game tied in the second period, and the Sharks having just squandered a lengthy two-man advantage, San Jose desperately needed a penalty kill.

Thats been easier said than done this season, as the Sharks entered the game with the leagues worst percentage on the PK. But they managed to keep the game knotted at 2-2 with Marc-Edouard Vlasic in the box, and exploded for three goals later in the middle frame to key a 5-2 victory over the Dallas Stars on Thursday night.

It was the Sharks first regulation win since Nov. 23, and ended a stretch in which they had lost four of their last five.

We havent played well the last two or three games, so it was nice to come out and play well tonight, said Joe Thornton, who had two assists.

San Jose took a 2-1 lead into the second period, but failed to capitalize on penalties just 10 seconds apart to Dallas Nicklas Grossman and Sheldon Souray. In fact, the Sharks had trouble even maintaining possession in the offensive zone, and shortly thereafter, Brenden Morrows power play goal tied it up.

The five-on-three that we had could have killed us, said Todd McLellan. There was a lot of momentum lost, and they come back and score.

Dallas had a chance to take the lead on the power play less than three minutes later, when Vlasic was whistled for high-sticking Mike Ribeiro in front of the Sharks net at 9:12. The Sharks managed to kill it off, though, against a Dallas team that entered the game just two for its last 29 with a man advantage in its last 12 games.

San Jose took over from there, beginning with Ryane Clowes goal at 11:53 and followed by markers from Brad Winchester and Torrey Mitchell.

The following penalty kill, we did a good job, said McLellan. I was happy that we didnt sag, and showed some resiliency and were able to come back and take the game over again.

The goal from Clowe, his sixth, came after a shot from the circle by Marty Havlat rebounded high in the air and Thornton gathered it in. The captains failed wrap-around attempt popped out to Clowe, who found the open net.

Less than two minutes later, Winchester was credited with a goal when a point shot from Brent Burns deflected first off of Thornton and then Winchesters stick at 13:48.

The Sharks werent finished, when some hard work by Patrick Marleau resulted in a Mitchell goal with 2:03 remaining in the second. Marleau provided a strong forecheck and Jamie Benn inadvertently tipped the puck out to Mitchell, who blasted in his third of the season from the circle.

The Sharks rolled out some new lines for the game, and adjusted a couple of them midway through. No fewer than 10 players got on the scoreboard.

Obviously, Todd doesnt want anyone getting too comfortable, said Mitchell. Switching lines up, and different faces with different guys, is a good thing.

Sometimes when you move your lines around, everybody gets a wakeup call, said McLellan. You wonder, Why is he doing it to me? Why am I not in that situation, and why am I not playing with that guy? It gets some people mad, and those people that were mad had pretty good nights.

Mitchell could be considered one of those guys. The winger began the night on the fourth line and eventually replaced Michal Handzus on the third line, playing with Marleau and Jamie McGinn.

Mitchey had a hell of a night. He started on the fourth line and got more and more ice time as it went along, and it was nice to see him rewarded with a goal, said McLellan. He went to the net, found some garbage and put it in.

The other change that provided immediate dividends was putting Winchester on the top line with Thornton and Joe Pavelski. For just the second time this season, the big wingers ice time exceeded 13 minutes as he scored his third goal.

I liked him there, said McLellan. I thought he could do what he did. He was very good along the boards and around the net. He managed his shift-length well, and did a good job.

I just try to be around the net and much as possible and create something, said Winchester.

The game was not without the standard chippy-ness that commonly accompanies a Sharks-Stars matchup.

In the second period, Frazer McLaren drilled Dallas Radek Dvorak along the boards and was sent off for charging, but not before Eric Nystrom started a scrum with McLaren and Andrew Desjardins. Later, Vlasic and Ribeiro exchanged niceties in front of the Sharks net after Antti Niemi froze the puck, resulting in the high-sticking penalty to Vlasic that the Sharks subsequently killed.

At 18:36, Ribeiro was called for roughing Jason Demers while San Jose-favorite Steve Ott picked up a 10-minute misconduct.

San Jose got off to a flying start in jumping out to a 2-0 lead. First, Logan Couture fired in a wrist shot from the high slot on a two-on-one at 1:07 after the opening faceoff. Just 15 seconds later, Jamie McGinn cleaned up a loose puck in front of the net for his third goal in the last four games.

The Stars tied it up, though, on a goal by Ribeiro at 13:37 of the first and the power play marker from Morrow at 6:30 of the second. Morrow, Dallas captain, was returning from a six-game absence with a back injury.

After taking the 2-0 lead, the Sharks allowed several odd man rushes to the Stars and were generally sloppy in their own zone until the intermission.

There were a few things odd-man rush-wise that we were able to tighten up, said Winchester. Certainly, they have a lot of skill up front. If you can take away their lateral movement at the blue line, and cuts and drops and stuff like that with strong back pressure, you cut down on the odd-man rushes.

Stars goalie Andrew Raycroft was replaced by backup Richard Bachman to start the third period, after surrendering all five Sharks goals on 24 shots.

Niemi finished with 18 saves to record his 11th win.

Odds and ends: The Sharks begin a three-game road trip on Saturday in St. Louis. Andrew Murray was scratched for the first time this season in favor of Frazer McLaren, who played just 3:42. Douglas Murray (right hand) and Jim Vandermeer (upper body) were out for San Jose. The Sharks won the faceoff battle for the 10th straight game, 31-23.

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.

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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.