Sharks-Stars: What to watch for


Sharks-Stars: What to watch for

DALLAS Win, and the Sharks will be sitting pretty in terms of locking down a playoff spot. Lose, and San Jose becomes a real long shot to make it to the postseason.

It really is that simple, as the eighth-place Sharks (40-29-10, 90 points) visit the ninth-place Dallas Stars (42-32-5, 89 points) tonight at the American Airlines Center.

RELATED: NHL standings

Were ahead of these guys today, but weve got to win tonight against them, Logan Couture said. Were sitting in eighth place and its going to be a battle right down to the end. Well treat this like a playoff game, and its going to be a big one tonight.

The Sharks are a miserable 1-6-2 on the road in their last nine games, but beat Dallas at home on Saturday, 3-0. Overall, San Jose is 4-0-1 against its Pacific Division rival.

We passed the first test with some pretty good results, at home in a comfortable environment with our fans, Todd McLellan said. Now, were out on the road. Well find out a little bit about ourselves tonight in a hostile environment with some pressure thats put on us based on where we are in the standings.

The Sharks close out the regular season with a visit to Los Angeles on Thursday before hosting the Kings on Saturday at HP Pavilion. The Kings lead the Pacific Division with 93 points.

Start will be key: The Sharks have scored first in four of the five games against Dallas, with the lone exception the 4-3 shootout loss here on March 8. San Jose expects the Stars to come out like gangbusters tonight, as Dallas is in as much need of a win as the Sharks are.

Attendance has been a struggle for the Stars in recent years, but the club has already announced a sellout.

We expect a good crowd, and its going to be an exciting game, said Joe Pavelski, who has seven goals in his last nine games. A good start just shows that were ready and were going to be committed the whole way. Its important for us to get off to a good start.

Were due for a good road game, but just because youre due doesnt mean its going to happen. Having a good start is part of that.

Pavleski scored just 58 seconds into Saturdays game, discouraging a Stars club that arrived in San Jose late after a game on Friday in Vancouver. Dallas fell to just 1-11-2 in the second of back-to-backs, but, like San Jose, has not played since Saturday.

Were at home, weve had a practice and a day off and a morning skate. The conditions are what you want this time of the year to have success, Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. Its just about going out and getting it done.

Checking the lineup: Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray skated with the Sharks again on Tuesday morning, and will be a game-time decision, according to McLellan.

Dallas will get third-line winger Eric Nystrom back for the game after he missed three games with leg laceration.

Hes just a real solid player for us that does the little things well night in and night out. To have him back is a big thing for us tonight, Gulutzan said.

Radek Dvorak, who has been out for the last four with an ankle injury, skated with the Stars and is a game-time decision.

Embrace the pressure: Both the Sharks and Stars spoke on Tuesday morning about enjoying the playoff race, and using the added pressure for motivation.

It can definitely raise your game if you become aware of it, and get the feeling, and do all the right things that come with it, Pavelski said. Its a really good chance to test ourselves as a team.

Stars captain Brenden Morrow said: This is the best time of year. You see what youre made of in these games. You see what kind of character and guts your teammates have when it comes to these games.

In the net: Antti Niemi will make his 19th start in a row tonight. Hes 3-0-1 with a 1.47 goals-against average and .944 save percentage in four games against Dallas this season, including a shutout on Thursday.

In his career, Niemi is 7-2-3 with a 2.10 GAA and .927 SP against Dallas in 12 games.

Kari Lehtonen will go for the Stars. Hes 0-1-1 against San Jose this season with a 2.89 GAA and .927 SP.

Lehtonen is just 4-5-1 with a 3.52 GAA and .910 SP in 10 games against the Sharks lifetime.
Odds and ends: Phoenix hosts the Columbus Blue Jackets at 7:00 p.m. PST. The Sharks won the three games at HP Pavilion by a combined 13-4 score. Joe Thornton leads all players with 11 points in the season series (1g, 10a). Dallas finishes its season with games in Nashville Thursday and at home against St. Louis on Saturday. Logan Couture has no goals in his last 10 games.

Sorensen returns to Sharks after having 'positive impact' last season

Sorensen returns to Sharks after having 'positive impact' last season

Editor's Note: The above video is from March 2, 2017

One of the Sharks’ young forwards expected to challenge for a full time roster spot this season has been re-signed.

Marcus Sorensen, who started the year in the AHL before working his way up to the Sharks, signed a two-year contract extension the team announced on Tuesday. A source told NBC Sports California that the deal is worth $700,000 at the NHL level for each of the next two seasons.

In 19 regular season games with the Sharks, Sorensen, 25, posted one goal and three assists. He appeared in all six playoff games against Edmonton, posting one goal and one assist.

In 43 games with the AHL Barracuda, Sorensen had 17 goals and 17 assists for 34 points.

"The time he spent with the Sharks this season, and the positive impact he had, proved that he can be an effective player at the highest level,” assistant general manager Joe Will said in a statement.

Sorensen originally signed with the Sharks as a free agent on May 13, 2016. He was originally drafted by Ottawa in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, but spent six seasons playing in Sweden before joining San Jose.

Sorensen was a restriced free agent. The Sharks have just one RFA left to sign in forward Barclay Goodrow.

Mailbag: Will Sharks miss Marleau's leadership? Thornton to be bumped?

Mailbag: Will Sharks miss Marleau's leadership? Thornton to be bumped?

Now that the dust has settled on the draft and free agency, here’s a meaty offseason Sharks mailbag before my vacation…

Who will replace Patty's leadership? (philip malan‏ @pmalan1979)

Patrick Marleau was a good example for other players in that he always came to camp in great shape and took care of himself between games, allowing him to be very productive into his later years. 

But let’s not overblow it. From what I understand, Marleau preferred to avoid confrontation, and was never the guy in the dressing room challenging other players to step up. That was left more to guys like Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, with Logan Couture growing into that role in recent years, too. When it comes to veteran leadership there are other guys still in the dressing room of more value than Marleau. His leaving town shouldn’t change the dynamic.

Will Thornton be bumped from the top line center role? Who do you think will replace Marleau on the PP? (Elle‏ @LikeShiningOil)

The whole “top line” designation is something that us writers and broadcasters like to use, and I’m going to keep using it for Thornton so long as he and Pavelski are on the same line. That said, there will be plenty of games where the Couture line gets more even-strength ice time than the Thornton line. I guess my point here is don’t read too much into the labels. I don’t expect Thornton’s ice time to go down from what it was last season. He’s averaged 18 minutes and change in each of the past five seasons, and probably will again.

As for replacing Marleau on the power play, I would tab Tomas Hertl as the frontrunner, but I’m sure the Sharks will try a number of different looks there in training camp. After finishing 25th in the NHL last season they pretty much have to, right?

How will the lines roll this season, if you were to prognosticate now? (Erik Kuhre @Puckguy14)

It seems like we say this every year, but it depends on where the Sharks see Hertl slotting in. Last season Hertl started out on the wing of the top line after offseason knee surgery before moving to center fairly quickly. I know he battled through yet another knee injury during the season, but Hertl’s 22 points in 49 games was a disappointing total.

If the season were starting today, I’d put Hertl on the wing of the Thornton line again with, of course, Pavelski on the other side. Here’s what I’ve got in that scenario:

Tomas Hertl – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Timo Meier – Logan Couture – Joonas Donskoi
Jannik Hansen – Chris Tierney – Mikkel Boedker
Melker Karlsson – Ryan Carpenter – Joel Ward

Extras: Marcus Sorensen, Kevin Labanc, Barclay Goodrow

(One guy who is really going to have to fight to keep his spot is Ward. I could see him getting pushed out, but for now I’m leaving him in).

Will there be a tough guy in the lineup to protect the kids? (Jim Kelley)

The Sharks signed free agent Brandon Bollig a couple weeks ago to replace Micheal Haley, but I don’t seem him as a regular in the NHL lineup. Bollig could be a guy they recall if they think it’s necessary to dress a pugilist, like when Pete DeBoer brought up Haley late in the 2015-16 season for the sole reason of fighting Darnell Nurse, who had jumped Sharks defenseman Roman Polak just two weeks earlier for no real reason.

Do you think Chris Tierney is capable of more point production at this point in his career? (Ian Stephenson)

Count me among those that thought Tierney was ready to have a better season last year after his strong performance in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Still, he’s just 23 years old, and his line in the series against Edmonton with Meier and Sorensen was a very effective one for long stretches of play. This is a huge year for Tierney, who had to settle for the Sharks’ one-year, $735,000 qualifying offer. Perform, and he’ll get paid. Struggle, and he could be on the move.

Do you think the Sharks will trade either Grosenick or Dell? Doesn't seem Grosenick has much more to prove in AHL. (Chris Greni)

No, they’ll hold on to all three for the time being. Getting Troy Grosenick re-signed to a one-year deal was a nice move on the Sharks’ part, considering Aaron Dell still has just 20 games of NHL experience. Perhaps if they both continue to play well the Sharks could dangle one as trade bait later in the year, but it wouldn’t make sense at this point. 

Any thoughts on DW using the offer sheet to bring in scoring help? There’s several serviceable RFAs out there still waiting for contracts. (Tony Martinico)

Keep in mind that some of those high end RFAs, like Colton Parayko, Nino Niederreiter and Tomas Tatar are currently headed for arbitration, which takes the offer sheet off the table.

Purely speculation here, but I have to wonder if the Sharks have at least kicked around trying to ink Leon Draisaitl to an offer sheet. You have to think Berlin native Hasso Plattner would love to add the “German Gretzky” to the roster. I know we're settling into the part of the NHL offseason where typically nothing happens, but it was July 19 when the Flyers signed Shea Weber to a monster offer sheet five years ago.

And, of course, Doug Wilson has used the power of the offer sheet in the past, signing Niklas Hjalmarsson in 2010 and then using the threat of an offer sheet with Boston to acquire Martin Jones.

Which Cuda player, aside from Meier, Labanc and Sorensen, would you expect to be a dark horse and could make the big team out of camp? (olin @sleepymofo)

Keep in mind that the sixth and defensemen spots are open, too. I would presume that Dylan DeMelo is the frontrunner to replace David Schlemko, but Tim Heed and Joakim Ryan are coming off of strong seasons in the AHL. Perhaps one of them overtakes DeMelo in training camp.

As for other forwards than those you mentioned, Goodrow could end challenging for a spot on the fourth line. I get plenty of questions about Danny O’Regan, too, and perhaps he makes a push. The issue with O’Regan is that although he’s a skilled player in the minors, he’s probably not quite skilled enough to make up for his small frame at the NHL level. I view him more as a fill-in guy.

Any word on [Barclay] Goodrow and [Marcus] Sorenson? I'm assuming they didn't sign their QO's? (DaveBPilot‏ @DaveBPilot)

Yes, that’s safe to assume, since the deadline was Saturday. They remain RFAs, and negotiations will surely continue.

Still, it’s worth mentioning what happened last year with Matt Nieto. The forward didn’t sign his qualifying offer, as he was pushing for a multi-year deal, and ended up signing for one year for less than he would have made had he accepted the original offer. He was waived and claimed by Colorado.