Sharks-Stars: What to watch for


Sharks-Stars: What to watch for

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Get your night started with Sharks Pregame Live at 7 p.m. followed by the drop of the puck at 7:30, followed by Sharks Postgame Live.

SAN JOSE With NHL realignment on the way next year, the Sharks and Stars wont get as many opportunities to stage their fierce, emotional battles as often as they have over the past few seasons.

There are still five more chances this season, though, including Thursday night at HP Pavilion when Dallas makes its first of three visits.

Every time we play Dallas its a battle, and theres some animosity between the two teams, said Logan Couture. We dont like each other. Thats the way it is.

The first time these teams met on Nov. 19, the Sharks were in the midst of a stretch where they won six of seven, while Dallas entered the game having been shutout in its previous two games. San Jose was 2-for-5 on the power play, and in control for just about the duration of a 4-1 win, which ended with a spirited fight between Ryane Clowe and Krys Barch. Clowe was fined by the NHL the next day for slashing Stephane Robidas, too.

A total of 100 penalty minutes were assessed that night, 53 minutes to the Stars in a game that included three fights and four misconducts.

It was a physical game, some fights -- almost the usual when we play Dallas, said Clowe. A lot of chirping going on out there and a lot of talk. Its always a physical kind of up-tempo game against those guys, and they have a lot of guys that try to get you off your game. You have to stay poised and not get frustrated."

As for Barch, he was traded to Florida just yesterday, so he and Clowe will have to wait until next season to renew acquaintances.

I figured I might run into him or see him again, but it wont be this year, I guess, said Clowe.

The Sharks have lost four of their last five, all in regulation, and havent won a regulation game since Nov. 23 vs. Chicago. They play one more at home tonight before embarking on a three-game road trip this weekend to St. Louis, Chicago and Colorado.

They are just 7-6-1 on home ice, and 3-4-0 against their division.

Tonights a time where we need to start playing better and winning at home, said Couture.

Winchester promoted: Brad Winchester, who has spent essentially the entire season on the teams fourth line, has been bumped up to the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski yesterday and it appears thats the look McLellan will go with tonight.

Winchesters role will be to get to the front of the net while Thornton and Pavelski try to get the puck there.

Just being around the net and creating some space, and just trying to read off the other two guys, said Winchester of what he will be trying to accomplish.

Of course, Winchester can also act as an enforcer of sorts against the Stars, especially considering how the previous game between the two teams ended.

Youre certainly aware of what happened last game, he said. I dont think it necessarily changes our mindset and our game plan, but theres no secret that we want to get off to a great start. Its up to us to establish the energy and initiate, and get in on the forecheck and sustain that throughout the game. Thats going to be our mindset right away.

Patrick Marleau, meanwhile, appears set to play on the third line with Michal Handzus and Jamie McGinn. Lines were unclear at the morning skate, though, which was optional.

Defensive changes: Douglas Murray (right hand) and Jim Vandermeer (upper body) are not available against the Stars, meaning Colin White will be reinserted into the lineup.

McLellan was happier with his clubs defensive effort against Minnesota after a terrible game against the Panthers last Saturday.

Defensively, we were better, he said. We didnt have the obvious turnovers up the middle that we did in the Florida game. So, that was cleaned up a little bit.

More chances on the power play: The Sharks have scored just one power play goal in their last five games, including an 0-for-3 effort against Minnesota. Thats dropped their percentage to seventh in the NHL (19.8 percent).

McLellans theory on why the power play is faltering is because it hasnt had enough opportunities to get in a rhythm. San Jose has had a man advantage just six times in the last three games combined.

I think its a reflection on where some of our players are at individually. Theyre not real sharp right now and theyre not playing to their capabilities, said the coach. You put them out there collectively as a group of five, and you cant turn the switch on.

The other thing is, we havent been earning enough power plays, in my opinion, to get any type of momentum. What leads to the power plays? The intensity and the battle level has to be high enough to draw penalties.

Meanwhile, the penalty kill is still sputtering along at a league worst 74.3 percent.

Odds and ends: Antti Niemi will start in net. The Stars will be without defenseman Mark Fistric, who will be serving the first of a three-game suspension for hitting the Islanders Nino Niederreiter. Dallas is expected to get Trevor Daley (back), Brenden Morrow (back) and Alex Goligoski (thumb) back for the game, according to the Dallas Morning News.

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.

* * *

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.