Sharks-Senators: What to watch for

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Sharks-Senators: What to watch for

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SAN JOSE Since the calendar turned to 2012, the Sharks and Ottawa Senators have been among the two hottest teams in hockey. In fact, both are 7-1-1 since the New Year began.

The Sharks were expected to be in prime playoff position, as they continue to lead the Pacific Division, but the Senators? Not so much. Ottawa finished in 13th place last season, just two points out of dead last in the Eastern Conference. Now, they find themselves in fifth place in the conference, and are surging with a 9-1-1 mark in their last 11 overall.

RELATED: Sharks place Clowe on IR

Theyre arguably the biggest surprise. Especially in the east, for sure, Dan Boyle said. They went from being one of the worst teams to one of the best right now. Theyre coming in hot, and we expect a pretty fast-paced game.

Theyre all the way up to the fifth spot in the east, so theyve been playing well. Its going to be a good test for us, Joe Thornton said.

The Senators play a fairly wide-open style. They are seventh in the league with an even 3.0 goals-per game, led by Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek and defenseman Erik Karlsson, but allow 3.08 per-game, 27th in the NHL.

Familiar coaches: Sharks head coach Todd McLellan and Sens bench boss Paul MacLean spent three seasons together as assistants in the Detroit Red Wings organization from 2005-06 through 2007-08. McLellan left to coach the Sharks, while MacLean took over the Senators this summer after three more seasons with the Red Wings.

Hes done such a good job in instilling a system and getting the players to believe in it, McLellan said of MacLeans Senators. I think when you watch the pre-scout its pretty evident. Obviously, spending time with him and Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock, I have a good idea of how they want to play, and you can see it. I think thats a sign of a coach doing a tremendous job.

Both coaches see similarities not just between the Sharks and Senators, but the Red Wings, too.

It looks like theyre having fun playing the game. It looks like they have in identity, McLellan said. They are a very dynamic offensive team when they are on the entries. Their defense it up on the rush. Very much like a Red Wing team.

There are similarities between all three teams, Id say, but each person also brings their own little tweak or own thing that they might think is a little bit more important, MacLean said.

Top lines: Injuries to Ryane Clowe and Marty Havlat leave the Sharks down two of their top six forwards, and based upon his game on Tuesday night against Calgary and rushes in practice on Wednesday, Tommy Wingels will remain on the teams top line with Thornton and Joe Pavelski.

Hes a pretty calm guy in general, and it didnt really phase him, Thornton said of the rookie Wingels being on his line. Hopefully we get some chemistry, and get er going.

That leaves a second line of Logan Couture-Patrick Marleau-Benn Ferriero; a third line of Michal Handzus-Jamie McGinn-Torrey Mitchell; and a likely fourth line of Andrew Murray-Brad Winchester and Andrew Desjardins, who is returning from a two game absence due to a head injury.

Rare meeting: This is the one and only time the Sharks and Senators will see each other this season. The previous time they played, over a year ago on Dec. 10, 2010, was a memorable one, though.

Couture scored twice for the first two-goal game of his career; Antti Niemi recorded his first shutout with the Sharks; and Justin Braun tallied his first career NHL goal in a 4-0 San Jose win at Ottawa.

This is Ottawas first visit to HP Pavilion since Dec. 1, 2009.
Niemi vs. Anderson: Niemi will get the call in net for the Sharks, facing Ottawas Craig Anderson.

In his last 26 starts, Niemi 16-6-4 with a 2.04 goals-against average and .928 save percentage. Last years shutout was the only time hes faced Ottawa in his career.

Anderson has not fared well against San Jose. In eight career games, hes 2-6-0 with a 3.42 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.

Anderson will be making his sixth straight start, and has not allowed more than two goals and has a .960 save percentage over that span, though.

Odds and ends: Ottawa allows the second-most shots per game in the league, at 32.1. The Sharks lead the NHL in that category with 34.6. The Senators have 67 third period goals most in the NHL. Ottawa is third in the league with 14.5 penalty minutes per game. Erik Karlsson leads all NHL defensemen with 44 points, 10 more than Brian Campbell. Jason Spezza leads Ottawa with 48 points (20g ,28a). San Jose is 5-1-1 against Canadian teams this season. The Sharks have won their last five meetings overall with the Sens.

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.”

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

SAN JOSE – Just in case there was any question as to the grisly nature of Logan Couture’s mouth injury, the Sharks forward shared a picture on his personal Instagram account on Monday.

If you haven’t seen it yet, proceed with caution.

The photo was taken the night of his injury on March 25 in Nashville, showing several top teeth missing in a mouth that can accurately be described as a bloody mess, after he was hit with a defected puck while standing in front of the net in a game against the Predators.

Couture revealed on Tuesday in a conference call that there was more to his injury that just damaged teeth. He also has some facial fractures, including one above his upper lip that extends to his nasal area, and another that is under the bottom row of his teeth.

The one that’s higher in his face is still painful. 

“Still struggle to eat and sleep. … It’s not a comfortable state to be in,” said Couture, who missed the final seven games of the regular season before returning for the six-game first round series loss to Edmonton.

As for the next step, Couture has yet to sit down with his dentist, although further work is on the horizon.

“There’s going to be some implants to get the teeth fixed,” he said. “Hopefully get it done in the next few weeks, and then I’ll head back to Canada.”

Couture doesn’t yet know how many teeth need to be replaced.

“All depends on how the teeth respond,” he said.

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Joe Thornton had successful surgery on his left knee on Monday afternoon, NBC Sports California has learned, and according to a team statement released later on Tuesday he is expected to "make a complete recovery and be ready for the start of the 2017-18 season." 

According to a source, the damage to Thornton’s MCL was more significant than his ACL. The team declined to give any details about the surgery in its statement, including who performed it and where it was done. 

Thornton played four playoff games against Edmonton despite damaged knee ligaments, head coach Pete DeBoer revealed on Monday, when he said Thornton was dealing with a “torn MCL and ACL” after getting hurt in Vancouver on April 2.