Sharks-Stars: What to watch for


Sharks-Stars: What to watch for

DALLAS Its been a little more than a month since the Sharks beat the Dallas Stars to take a 10-point lead over their division rivals.

Since then, the Sharks have fallen off of a cliff while the surprising Stars have steadily risen to take over the Pacific Division lead three points better than the sinking Sharks.

Dallas is 7-0-1 in its last eight games, and will seek its first win over the Sharks this season when they host San Jose tonight at American Airlines Center. For the Sharks, who still have two games in hand on Dallas, they will try to avoid falling behind by as many as five points.

Its why tonights game should probably be considered the biggest game of the season so far. Right, Logan Couture?

Probably, right now, Couture said. Were getting down to end of the regular season and were trying to make a push for the playoffs, and these guys are ahead of us. I think both teams know how important these points are, and its a big game.

Todd McLellan said: Thursdays game is the biggest game of the year, Saturdays game in Phoenix is going to be the biggest game of the year, and were going to just keep going on and on. Were into every night being the biggest game of the year. With big games come big efforts, and were looking for that from a lot of guys. Its a great opportunity for guys, and they have to seize that and go out and play.

The Sharks have had Dallas number this season, winning all three games in regulation. A fourth could do wonders to help reverse a stretch in which San Jose has won just four times in its last 16 games since its 5-2 home win over Dallas on Feb. 2.

Were going to need a good effort, Joe Pavelski said. When we play these guys its always a competitive game, and it brings some good play out of the guys.

Couture said: Its a rivalry. Theyve got some players who get under the other teams skin. I think we have some players who do that as well. Its going to be a grind playing these guys, and its always a tough game."

The clubs will meet twice more after tonight.

Moore line vs. Stars top line? Dominic Moore, along with linemates Torrey Mitchell and Daniel Winnik, did a very good job against the Edmonton Oilers top line in the 3-2 shootout loss on Thursday night.
RECAP: Missed opportunities doom Sharks in loss

That trio will likely be together again for tonights game, and although it will be more difficult on the road, its possible McLellan will try and get them out against the Mike Ribeiro, Loui Eriksson and Michael Ryder line as much as possible.

During Dallas 7-0-1 stretch, that line has combined for a whopping 31 points (14g, 17a).

Im happy to contribute any way I can. I think Im ready for that, or any assignment, said Moore, who, in six games with his new team, has yet to be in the lineup for a Sharks victory.

Their top line is really on fire right now, McLellan said. Its carrying their team.

Stars on fire: Dallas has been among the NHLs hottest teams for a couple weeks now, after it was seemingly buried in the standings in early February.

KURZ: Sharks face supremely confident Stars

Head coach Glen Gulutzan was asked what is different about his club that wasnt there a month ago. He sited a simpler game plan, but theres more to it than that.

Since the trade deadline, our team is a close-knit group," Gulutzan said. "Anyone thats around us can attest to that. When youve got players that are working hard for each other and they are being held accountable to each other, youve got something good there. Thats probably been the biggest difference.

Jamie Benn, tied for second on the team scoring with 52 points, said: I think you figure out how to win hockey games, and were doing it as a team right now and playing the right way. Were all buying into a system and playing for each other, and thats whats going to win us games down the stretch now.
A look at the lineups: Expect some changes for the Sharks in their lineup again when they take the ice tonight.

All indications are that TJ Galiardi will come out, while Brad Winchester is back in. Jason Demers could also be back in after a two-game absence, after he came off of the ice early while Justin Braun stayed out later than usual.

Backup Richard Bachman led the Stars to a 5-2 win in Vancouver on Tuesday, but starter Kari Lehtonen will get the start against the Sharks. Lehtonen is just 3-4-1 in his career against the Sharks, with a 3.70 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.

Antti Niemi gets the call for San Jose, his fifth straight. In 10 games against the Stars, Niemi is 6-2-2 with a 2.24 GAA and .923 SP. Hes won two of the three games against Dallas this season, as Thomas Greiss made 19 saves in the 5-2 Sharks win on Feb. 2 with Niemi injured.

Pavelski, who missed Wednesdays practice after taking a puck to the face on Tuesday, will play, as will the Stars Steve Ott, who has been battling an illness and left Dallas morning skate earlier than usual.

Odds and ends: The Sharks have won the first three games of the season series by a combined 14-5 score. Dallas has killed of 23 of the last 24 opponent power plays. The Sharks were a combined 0-for-8 on the power play during their 1-2-1 homestand.

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.

Report: Former Sharks forward awarded millions in suit against former agent


Report: Former Sharks forward awarded millions in suit against former agent

Dany Heatley last played in the NHL in the 2014-15 season, but he's still raking in hefty paychecks.

The former Sharks forward was awarded $6.5 million on Wednesday, when a judge ruled in his favor in a lawsuit filed against Heatley's former agent, Stacey McAlpine, and McAlpine's parents. 

The lawsuit, filed in 2012, claimed that McAlpine coaxed Heatley into unwise real-estate investments and withdrew over $4 million from Heatley's accounts without authorization.

After a five-year legal battle, Heatley was awarded $4.1 million from defendant company Presidential Suites Inc. and $2.3 million from the second defendant company Waterfront Development Inc, according to CTV Calgary.

Heatley, 36, played two of his 13 NHL seasons in San Jose, where he totaled 146 points (65 goals and 81 assists) in 162 games.

McAlpine was also sued in 2016 by former Senators defenseman Chris Phillips.