Sharks strike Lightning with seven goals

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Sharks strike Lightning with seven goals

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE Its an easy thing to overlook when your team explodes for the five fastest goals to start a game in franchise history.

But when Torrey Mitchell went to the penalty box just 36 seconds after the opening faceoff, the Sharks biggest demon the penalty kill was staring them squarely in the face. San Jose entered the game second-to-last in the NHL in the P.K.

The Sharks killed it off, though, and the shortly thereafter exploded for five goals in just 11 minutes and 21 seconds in cruising to a 7-2 win over the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning at HP Pavilion on Wednesday night. It was their most lopsided win of the season.

By the time it was over, the Sharks scored multiple power play goals for the first time in 14 games and killed off all five Lightning advantages.

Our special teams, overall, has to get better. Its been getting better lately, and its a work in progress, but tonight hopefully we made a good step in the right direction, said Joe Thornton.

The initial penalty kill was one that was important for us to get under our belt, said Todd McLellan. They could have gotten on the board real quick, and then we could have been chasing a team that checks pretty well. Their system is very effective when they have the lead, and they can really shut teams down.

The Sharks won their third straight game, all at home, in improving to 3-0-2 in their last five.

Recent recall Benn Ferriero, who joined the team due to Marty Havlats partially torn hamstring, got the party started with a goal at 3:26 of the first period when he slammed in a pass from Thornton after an extended shift in the Lightning zone.

For Ferriero, it was his second goal of the season in five games, equaling the injured Havlats season output.

I couldnt ask for anything more on my first shift. I had a tap in there so it was pretty nice, he said.

McLellan said: We put him that situation so that he could succeed, and he did. I thought he did a very good job.

Joe Pavelski backhanded a rebound of a shot by Brent Burns at 4:51 on a Sharks power play to make it 2-0, while Andrew Desjardins first goal since opening night made it 3-0 when he banked it in off of goaltender Mathieu Garons left skate from behind the net.

Garon was pulled in favor of Dwayne Roloson after that goal at 6:21.

Roloson, though, allowed a pair of markers to Logan Couture before the first period was through. First, Couture took a pass from Patrick Marleau before skating in and going top shelf on Roloson at 13:13.

Just 1:34 later, with the Sharks on another power play, Couture found the rebound of a Ryane Clowe shot and fired it past Roloson for his 14th goal of the season.

Couture said: They didnt have much energy there in the first, and we took advantage of that. Thats something we havent done this year. It was nice to get out to that five-goal lead and play the way we wanted to for the next two periods.

You want to jump on teams early, and tonight we were able to chase a goalie early on, said Thornton. When its 5-0, the game is pretty much over, so its a good start.

Dominic Moore scored late in the first period to make it 5-1, but a pair of third period markers by Burns and Marleau, sandwiched around one from the Lightnings Martin St. Louis and the Sharks had a rare easy win.

The dominating effort in which they were in total control from start to finish was a welcome change from the five consecutive one-goal decisions.

I think the guys felt a little loose on the bench, which was nice, said McLellan. Usually, were in that one-goal game like it is all over the league, and I dont want to say we relaxed, but we enjoyed it a little more.

One guy who particularly enjoyed it was Burns. The defenseman shaved his head before the game on the advice from his father, who is in town, and scored just his second goal in the last 14 games when he blasted in a clean faceoff win by Michal Handzus to make it a 6-1 Sharks lead at 1:15 of the third period.

Papa Burns came in and said we have to change it up for the hockey gods. Ive still got to listen to him, I guess, said Burns.

Thornton, Clowe, Marleau, Couture, Burns and Handzus all had two-point nights.

The Sharks will try to keep their homestand perfect on Friday when they host the Los Angeles Kings. After two days off to enjoy the Christmas holiday this weekend, visits from the Anaheim Ducks and Vancouver Canucks will conclude the run of home games before the Sharks hit the road for nine of 13.

Were playing a lot better. We have one more game before Christmas and its going to be a huge game, said Thornton. Were getting comfortable with our game, and we have one more to win before Christmas break.

Coupled with a Dallas loss to Philadelphia, the Sharks moved into a first place tie in the Pacific Division with the Stars and Coyotes with 39 points. San Jose has played two fewer games than the Stars, though, and has three games in hand on Phoenix.

Odds and ends: The previous team record for fastest five goals to start a game was on October 27, 1996 in Chicago, when the Sharks did it in 18:50. Sharks general manager Doug Wilson announced before the game that Marty Havlat will miss a ballpark of six-to-eight weeks with a partially torn left hamstring. Havlat had surgery earlier in the day. Lightning forward Martin St. Louis returned from a five-game absence from taking a puck to the face in practice. Benn Ferrieros last goal came on Oct. 22 in Boston. He started on a line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, but spent most of the final two periods with Ryane Clowe and Logan Couture, switching places with Patrick Marleau after the Lightning tinkered with their lines.

Sharks sign defenseman from Czech Republic

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AP

Sharks sign defenseman from Czech Republic

The Sharks have signed Czech defenseman Radim Simek to a one-year contract.

The two-way deal, originally reported by Radio Praha in the Czech Republic, is expected to be announced by the Sharks later this week, according to a source. Simek just finished competing for his country in the 2017 IIHF World Championships, skating in all eight games for the Czech Republic while posting one goal, one assist, 11 shots and a minus-two rating.

Simek, 24, has spent the last five seasons in the Czech League. In 42 games for Liberec in 2016-17, he posted 24 points (11g, 13a) and 30 penalty minutes with a plus-18 rating. A left-handed shot, he is listed at five-foot-11 and 196 pounds on the IIHF website.

The New York Rangers were also interested in Simek, according to the report.

Simek will likely begin next season with the AHL Barracuda.

The Sharks have signed a number of free agents out of Europe in recent seasons, including Joonas Donskoi in 2015 and Marcus Sorensen and Tim Heed last May.

 

Future with Sharks still uncertain for Thornton, Marleau

Future with Sharks still uncertain for Thornton, Marleau

More than four weeks have passed since the Sharks were dispatched by the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau appear no closer to signing contract extensions than when the season ended. 

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson faces some of the toughest decisions of his 14-year tenure as the head of the hockey department in the coming weeks, beginning with the two best players in franchise history.

And, no, there are no back room handshake deals here between the Sharks and either of Thornton or Marleau, allowing the Sharks to protect extra players in the upcoming expansion draft. The two veterans are still pending unrestricted free agents in the truest sense, and it’s no certainty that either will return to San Jose.

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Re-signing Thornton would seem to be more of a priority than re-signing Marleau, as centermen are more valuable than wingers. Thornton’s line, with Joe Pavelski and whoever the left wing happened to be, was still drawing the opposition’s top defense pair on many nights this season. Marleau was on that line at times, but was shuffled up and down throughout the year, spending about half the season on the third line.

Thornton apparently dodged disaster in terms of his left knee, as multiple sources have told NBC Sports California that the brunt of the damage was to his MCL, not his ACL. As long as he recovers fully, as expected, there’s reason to believe that Thornton could be better next season than he was in 2016-17. Last year’s Stanley Cup Final run, the World Cup, and the condensed schedule seemed to take their toll. Thornton, who typically downplays anything remotely negative, admitted more than once that this season in particular was a grind.

But perhaps just as important to the Sharks is what Thornton brings to the team emotionally. Pavelski may still be the captain – and an effective one, at that – but Thornton is still the heartbeat. Pete DeBoer made that clear after Game 2 of the first round against the Oilers, talking about what Thornton’s absence from the bench in those first two games meant to the team in terms of a bench presence.

“It’s old school accountability with Joe. It’s black and white,” DeBoer said. “He came up in an era and at a time and around people who you weren’t worried about hurting feelings. You said what needed to be said. That’s not always the case now in modern dressing rooms and with modern athletes. He’s a great resource for us, because there’s no greater pressure than peer pressure, especially from a Hall of Fame guy like that.”

So what might it take to retain Thornton and keep him from hitting the open market? 

It has been previously reported that Thornton wanted a three-year deal, and that remains the case. As for money, I would expect Thornton – who has taken hometown discounts in the past to stay in San Jose – to ask for at least $5 million per season, minimum. Our best guess here is that a Thornton-Sharks pre-July 1 agreement would probably look something like three years and somewhere between $15 – 17 million.

Whether the Sharks would be willing to make that kind of commitment to Thornton, who will be 38 in July, is unclear. If they are not, Thornton could listen to offers from other teams beginning on June 24, when the window opens for unrestricted free agents to speak with other teams.

Still, Thornton’s first choice is to remain in San Jose. The Sharks don’t have anyone that could replace him on or off the ice. There should be a deal to be made here, either sooner or later.

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Marleau’s future with the Sharks seems much hazier.

Unlike Thornton – who put up with public ridicule from Wilson and had his captaincy stripped – Marleau’s commitment to the organization hasn’t been quite as steadfast. Recall in 2015, of course, when Marleau’s preference for a brief stretch was to leave the Sharks. We reported here in November, 2015 that he was willing to accept a trade to three teams, while ESPN reported that Marleau’s agent was “quietly exploring the market” as late as January, 2016.

While those feelings seem to have passed over time, Marleau hasn’t been as emphatic as Thornton in his desire to return. When asked on April 24 if he would like to come back to the Sharks, Marleau said: “Yeah, it would be nice. We’ll see if that’s an option. A lot of time here before this decision needs to be made.”

At this point, though, Marleau may be asking for a bit much in his next deal. It’s believed that the franchise’s all-time leading scorer is, like Thornton, seeking a contract of at least three years.

That shouldn’t be overly surprising. When asked then if he wanted a multi-year deal on April 24, Marleau said: “Yeah, I think so. … I still feel like I have at least five good years in me, or maybe more.”

As we wrote here in early February, it may not make much sense for the Sharks to commit to Marleau for more than one year for a number of reasons, including potential long-term (and surely expensive) contract extensions for Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, something Wilson has made his top priority this offseason. 

If Marleau is seeking a lengthy commitment from San Jose, I don’t see how that works from a business perspective for San Jose, which has a number of prospects in the system at wing that could potentially fill the hole Marleau would leave. Timo Meier and Marcus Sorensen, in particular, could be ready to take the next step, and both would be much cheaper options (Meier has two years left on his entry level deal, while Sorensen is a pending restricted free agent that won’t require a huge raise).

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Further complicating matters is that Thornton has never been shy about wanting to win with Marleau by his side. The two famously announced their nearly identical three-year contract extensions on Jan. 24, 2014, and Thornton would still prefer to have Marleau return to San Jose with him.

“Hopefully, I can come back and Patty can come back,” Thornton said after the season ended. “I think this team is a very good team. I think this is a Stanley Cup caliber team. I really believe that."

Considering the salary cap for next season has not yet been revealed, and that Wilson can’t officially extend Jones or Vlasic until July 1, the general manager could be forced to wait a little while before finalizing anything with either Thornton or Marleau. That makes it all the more likely that the Thornton and Marleau camps will at least get an opportunity to hear from other clubs and consider other offers in late June.

In short, anything is still possible. And Wilson, Thornton and Marleau all have some difficult decisions on the horizon in a Sharks offseason that is unlike any other.