Sharks

Sharks stay perfect on road trip with 3-1 win

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Sharks stay perfect on road trip with 3-1 win

BOX SCORE

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- When the Sharks came out of the gate with three losses in their first four games despite out-chancing their opponents on a nightly basis, the players and their coach repeated the same mantra: as long as the scoring opportunities were there from key players, the goals would come.Thats exactly the case now, as Joe Pavelski,Logan Couture,Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Martin Havlat all registered points in a 3-1 win over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night. The Sharks (4-3) moved above the .500 mark for the first time since opening night, and improved to a perfect 3-0 on their road trip.Pavelski scored twice, including the game-winner at 14:09 of the third period. It came just 57 seconds after the Predators tied the score at 1-1 with a power play goal.

Just as they did against New Jersey on Friday when they fell behind late, and Saturday in Boston when they blew a 2-0 lead in the third period, the Sharks kept their heads up and pulled out a victory.Were just confident, said Joe Thornton, who assisted on both of Pavelskis goals and now has 700 career helpers. It doesnt matter if its a tie game or late in the game, we still have confidence we can pull games out. Thats a good sign, I guess. We rarely panic, and were showing that.Nobody panicked, agreed Todd McLellan, describing his feeling from the bench after Nashville tied the score. We stuck with the plan, and weve played in some tough buildings on this trip so far against some very good teams and found ways to win.Again, it was Pavelski who came through in the clutch. The 27-year-old winger, whose last minute score on Friday forced overtime against the Devils, described the goal that ended up being the difference. Stationed behind the net with the puck, he spied goaltender Pekka Rinne leaning the wrong way before tucking it inside the post.I kind of saw that through the net, he said. Hes big, and just needs a flick of his toe and hes over there. He was coming, and I was glad to see it went through.Pavelski added an empty net goal with 1:12 left to cap the scoring, and now has six total on the season, leading the team. In fact, no other player on the Sharks has more than two.Pavelski, who was shifted to the top line with Thornton and Marleau at the start of training camp, modestly downplayed his early success.Its a good number, but it doesnt mean anything right now. It meant we got the win tonight, but when you suit up the next game your numbers really dont matter, he said. Its about production in the moment, and not getting ahead of yourself and just keep getting those chances. Hopefully, you just keep building.McLellan gave Pavelski, and the top line in general, a little more credit.Thats what he gets paid to do, is play a very good two-way game, McLellan said. I thought that line played a very good game tonight. Big down low, strong cycle, and on the power play, even though we werent fortunate to score one, they moved the puck around pretty good. Theyre starting to gel, and thats a good sign.The Sharks took the lead at 14:22 of the opening period with their first shorthanded goal of the season. Havlat released a quick shot from the slot and Couture got behind the Nashville defense to flick home the rebound.The assist was Havlats third in three games with the Sharks.Basically out of nothing, Havlat created a play, McLellan said. He is a gifted player and thats why weve got him here. I think hes only going to get better as the year goes on.Its actually a play, two-on-two that we work on in practice all the time, said Couture, who has found instant chemistry with his new linemate in scoring his second goal in as many games. Marty made a great play cutting to the middle and I was able to get behind their d-men, and Rinne usually doesnt leave those rebounds like that.The score remained 1-0 until the offensively impaired Preds took advantage of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty toRyane Clowe.After Jordan Tootoo sent Couture hard to the ice with what looked to be a clean hit, Clowe dropped his gloves and grabbed the Nashville instigator. Tootoo wisely refrained from fighting, putting his team on the man advantage. On the ensuing power play, Shea Webers hard wrist shot was stopped by Antti Niemi, but Craig Smith found the loose puck in the crease and slid it home.Brent Burns broke his stick seconds earlier, making it even more difficult for the Sharks to clear the puck after they had been strong on the penalty kill up to that point.Clowe didnt hide his displeasure with the call.Its a brutal call. The guy runs across the ice, hits Coutch there, and I just ... whats the call? I just dropped the gloves. I didnt do anything. I didnt hit him or punch him. I dont even think I shoved him. I picked up my gloves again and got two minutes. Its hockey.Clowe is being very noble and sticking up for a teammate that he has a ton of respect for, McLellan said. Were pleased that hes willing to do that. I thought the timing was a little bit poor. Sometimes you have to take a lump to win a game.Clowe was happy to see his teammates respond with Pavelskis goal soon afterwards.That was great, he said. We deserved to win, anyway. We were the better team and played real solid tonight. It was tough that they tied it but it was great for those guys to kind of bail me out.Odds and ends: The Sharks used their same lineup as Saturday in Boston. Torrey Mitchell remained out but could return on Friday in Detroit. Thornton and Patrick Marleau assisted on both of Pavelskis goals. The Sharks outshot the Predators, 36-20. San Jose was 0-for-2 on the power play and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill. Mike Fisher and Francis Bouillon made their season debuts for the Predators. Bouillon drew a minor penalty to Brad Winchester in the second period for an illegal check to the head, and started a shoving match with Winchester immediately after the play.

Five months after taking puck to face, Sharks' Logan Couture 'still pretty sore'

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AP

Five months after taking puck to face, Sharks' Logan Couture 'still pretty sore'

Nearly five months after taking a puck to the mouth that resulted in major damage, Logan Couture is still dealing with the aftereffects of his surgically repaired mouth, which now features several false teeth.

Appearing on the NHL Network this week, Couture was asked how he’s feeling with less than one month to go before the Sharks open training camp on Sep. 14.

“There’s good days and bad days,” Couture said. “My bottom teeth are still my real teeth. They’ve tried to keep them so I don’t lose them. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, they’re still pretty sore. My top teeth are all fake now – my front six, I think. So, it’s different. It just feels different in my mouth. 

“But everything else with my face and all that is healed. I’m lucky that it’s an injury that didn’t affect my training, and hopefully won’t affect me going forward.”

Couture was injured on March 25 in Nashville. He was set up just outside the crease in the offensive zone when a Brent Burns point shot hit a stick before squarely battering the now 28-year-old’s mouth.

After missing the final seven games of the regular season, Couture returned for the Sharks’ playoff opener. He managed to play in all six games of the first round loss, posting two goals and one assist for three points, although he struggled at times and was seemingly targeted by the Oilers.

Couture is currently in his hometown of London, Ontario where he’s staging a casino event for brain research. Fellow Sharks Chris Tierney and Dylan DeMelo will take part, as will other NHL stars like the Kings’ Drew Doughty.

Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes

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AP

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.

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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.