Sharks-Stars: What to watch for

585172.jpg

Sharks-Stars: What to watch for

DALLAS The Dallas Stars are slumping.

Badly.

After surprising much of the hockey world with an 11-3-0 start despite losing Brad Richards in the offseason, the Stars have lost their last four, including shutouts in back-to-back games. That includes last night in Colorado, when they fell 3-0 to another club that has struggled lately in the Avalanche.

A peek at the standings shows the Stars are still ahead of San Jose with 22 points to the Sharks 21, although Dallas has played two more games.

Regardless of whats happened lately, San Jose expects a strong showing from the Stars.

Every time we play them its a really hard game, said Torrey Mitchell. "They seem to play well, all four lines, and kind of come in waves when theyre playing well. We just need to stick together and try to counter that.

SATURDAY NIGHT ON ICE: Play SHARK-O!

Even so, its impossible to overlook just how bad the Stars have been of late. They have been outscored 17-3 during their losing streak, including 12-0 over the last seven periods. They havent scored a goal in 147:49.

Can the Sharks use it as a motivating factor to not let the Stars get back on track? Yes and no.

Yeah, wed like to keep them from scoring. It gives us a better chance to win, said Todd McLellan. But, what other teams have done against them to create a goalless streak has nothing to do with us. Its about our 60 minutes of time.

Logan Couture said: I think theyre hungry. Theyve lost four in a row. Were not looking to put up a zero. Thats what we want, but were just looking to win the game.

Better against the Pacific: The Sharks are just 2-3 against the Pacific Division this year, with wins against Phoenix and Los Angeles but losses to the Coyotes and Ducks (twice).

Thats one mark the 10-5-1 Sharks would like to improve upon, as they prepare for the first of six games with Dallas.

We know every point is important right now, said Joe Pavelski, who leads the team with 18 points. You have to put a lot of work in to get some separation. We have to be better against our division.

First goal woes: San Jose fell behind 1-0 to Detroit on Thursday, but that didnt matter when they tallied five unanswered goals to blow the game open and cruise to a 5-2 win.

Still, the Sharks have scored first just five times. They are 5-0 when doing so, and 5-5-1 when they dont.

What has to change?

Thats a good question, said Mitchell. Its more of an individual thing, not collectively. Its just individually showing up and being prepared right from the puck drop. I dont know if our overall team preparation has to change, but individually you have to get yourself ready to play right away.

Fortunately for them, the Sharks have owned the second period. They have scored 26 times in the middle frame, tying them with Chicago for the league lead. Theyve also surrendered just 11.

Its a credit that the Sharks dont let early deficits get them down, but

You dont want to be coming from behind. Look at Thursday; we were lucky that it was tied after the first period, said Mitchell. We switched our game around, but why are we doing that in the second period and not the first period? Thats what were figuring out right now.

A better start in general, though, may be more important than which team actually scores first. That includes being strong on the forecheck and winning battles along the boards.

We feel our way into games, said McLellan. We have to have more of a killer instinct and go-for-the throat instinct right off the bat. Tonight, well need that, because they will have it.

PK bringing up the rear: The Sharks surrendered two power play goals in three chances to the Red Wings on Thursday, and have dropped to 30th in the NHL in that category (73.2 percent).

But, dont expect any drastic changes.

Were going to keep doing what were doing. Positionally, we need to be a little bit better, said McLellan.

Odds and ends: Antti Niemi will start for San Jose, and is expected to oppose Stars backup Andrew Raycroft, who is 0-3. The Sharks had an optional skate this morning. Everyone skated except for Douglas Murray, Martin Havlat and Patrick Marleau. Dallas had a full team skate at their practice rink, despite playing last night on the road. The Sharks and Stars split their six meetings last season. This is San Joses first road game of the month. They concluded a six-game road trip with a 5-2 loss in New York on Oct. 31, snapping a five-game road winning streak. The Sharks were 4-1-1 on their six game homestand that concluded with Thursdays win over the Red Wings.

Report: Division rival interested in Joe Thornton

Report: Division rival interested in Joe Thornton

The mere thought of Joe Thornton wearing a Kings sweater may be enough to cause some Sharks fans to lose their lunch.

But it might be a possibility.

According to LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen, the Kings consider Thornton to be a “priority” should be hit the open market as a free agent. While the two sides are currently allowed to express mutual interest, NHL rules forbid them from discussing terms of any deal until Saturday at 9 a.m. PT.

Rosen points to a number of individuals in the Kings' organization that have ties to Thornton, including general manager Rob Blake, who played on the Sharks with Thornton from 2008-10. Mike O’Connell was Thornton’s general manager in Boston and currently serves as the Kings’ senior advisor to the general manager. Glen Murray, a former teammate and frequent linemate of Thornton’s with the Bruins for three-and-a-half seasons, is in Kings player development.

The Kings, under new management since replacing Dean Lombardi with Blake, and head coach Darryl Sutter with John Stevens, have put a priority on finding players this offseason that can get pucks to dangerous scoring areas. 

Adding one of the best passers in the history of the NHL would surely help in that regard. Thornton sits 13th in the NHL all-time with 1,007 assists.

Rosen writes: “Los Angeles has been a dominant possession team without being a high scoring team for the better part of the last six-plus seasons, and it was articulated earlier in the off-season that the team needed to do a better job of taking advantage of that possession discrepancy. In trying to find players with the ability to turn possession into actual production, the team has placed an emphasis on finding players capable of distributing the puck into high-danger in the attacking zone. There might not be another player in the NHL – let alone unrestricted free agents – who is as gifted of a passer of Thornton, which places the team’s needs in concert with the future Hall of Famer’s skill set.”

As reported here previously Thornton, who turns 38 on Sunday, is seeking a deal of three years. That might not be agreeable to the Sharks, who are likely to sign Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to long-term and expensive contract extensions that would kick in with the 2018-19 season.

Of course, Thornton could also be using the Kings as leverage to get a new deal in San Jose, where he would prefer to remain.

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

The Sharks have issued qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Chris Tierney, Marcus Sorensen and Barclay Goodrow, while cutting ties with three players in the system.

Tierney, 22, posted 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 80 games last season, serving primarily as the fourth line center. He has 64 points (24g, 40a) in 202 career games over three NHL seasons, all with the Sharks.

Sorensen posted one goal and three assists in 19 games with the Sharks last season, his first in the NHL. The 25-year-old played in all six playoff games against Edmonton, scoring one goal and one assist.

Goodrow, 24, skated in three games for the Sharks last season with one assist. He has 16 points (4g, 12a) in 77 games over three seasons with the Sharks, although has played in just 17 NHL games since the start of the 2015-16 season.

Forward Nikita Jevpalovs, defenseman Patrick McNally and goalie Mantas Armalis - also known for his career as a male model - were left unqualified and are now unrestricted free agents.

Earlier in the offseason, the Sharks signed pending restricted free agents Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson. Donskoi received a two-year deal at a salary cap hit of $1.9 million, while Karlsson was signed to a three-year deal at $2 million annually.