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.

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic will compete in the upcoming IIHF World Championships for Team Canada, it was announced on Friday.

The tournament runs from May 5-21 in Paris, France and Cologne, Germany. 

Vlasic, 30, a native of Montreal, has played in the tournament twice before in 2009 and 2012. He also represented Canada in the 2014 Olympic Games, helping it to a gold medal, and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which Canada also captured.

In 75 games with the Sharks this season, Vlasic posted 28 points (6g, 22a) and a +4 rating. He was second on the team in shorthanded time on ice (2:04 per game) and blocked shots (146).

A pending restricted free agent in 2018, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson called getting Vlasic signed to a long-term deal an offseason priority for the club. The two sides can begin negotiations on July 1.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” Wilson said. “[He] is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

The Sharks lost in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs to Edmonton, although Vlasic and partner Justin Braun helped to keep Connor McDavid in check at even strength. The league's leading scorer had just one even strength point in the six-game series, an empty net goal with less than one second left in Game 6.

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.”