Sharks-Wild: What to watch for

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Sharks-Wild: What to watch for

SAN JOSE The Minnesota Wild have won five games in a row, and its due in no small part to their penalty kill. Theyre a perfect 21-for-21 over that span, and are thriving in an area the Sharks are not.

Overall, Minnesota is allowing just 1.79 goals-per game, second in the NHL.

Obviously, it starts with the goalies, said Dany Heatley. Theyve been unbelievable.

Nicklas Backstrom will be the latest of the hot goalies to face the Sharks, who lost to Nashvilles Pekka Rinne on Saturday but defeated the Kings Jonathan Quick on Monday. Backstrom is coming off a 41-save shutout of Calgary in a 3-0 Wild win on Tuesday.

Overall, the Wild have allowed just three goals in the last five games.

Its definitely going to be a challenge for us to get our offense going, said Patrick Marleau. Theres not going to be too many opportunities out there, so you have to take advantage of it.

They look like theyre a group thats playing together on the same page and same system, and they obviously believe in it, said Todd McLellan.

Reunion night at the Tank: The Sharks and Wild had one another on speed dial in the offseason, completing no less than three trades. Marty Havlat and Brent Burns will face their former club for the first time, while Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi return to HP Pavilion.

Just as they do in Boston whenever Joe Thornton returns to his old building, McLellan hopes the Sharks get some energy from playing for their new comrades.

I think you want to play for those players in that situation, he said. Thats human nature. When youre that tight as a team and youre around each other, you reach out and pull each other along.

McLellan wont spend any extra time with Burns and Havlat, though. They are, after all, pros.

Thats their responsibility. They played a lot of games between the two of them, he said. Theyve been in the league for a lot of years. The last thing I have to do is fool with their heads before the game.

Changes on D: The Sharks look like they will dress the same six defensemen as they have the past two games, but there could be a tweak in the pairs. Dan Boyle and Douglas Murray remain together, but look for Burns to play with Colin White and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to skate with Justin Braun.

Theyre both real smart and able to read off of what Im doing, said Burns of Vlasic and Braun.

On the Minnesota side, the Wild have been able to successfully integrate some fresh faces on their blue line, as evidenced by their goals-against numbers. Marco Scandella, just 21, is third on the team in ice time (21:05) while fellow 21-year-old Jared Spurgeon is also getting valuable minutes. It has allowed the Wild to pick up some signature wins early, including two against Detroit and one against Vancouver during their winning streak.

Against those teams, one thing I was really happy about is we just played our game, said first year Wild head coach Mike Yeo. Thats one thing weve been getting better at. Maybe its confidence, maybe were starting to get a little bit of a swagger that were going to need to have.

In our more recent games against some of the top teams I feel like weve gone out and initiated the play and took the game to them. I think that breeds confidence.

Odds and ends: The home teams won each of the four games in the season series last year. The Sharks are 8-0-1 in their last nine home games against Minnesota. The first four games of the Wilds winning streak were backstopped by Josh Harding. Joe Pavelski has eight multiple-point games this season, including Monday against the Kings (2a). Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck will play after missing the last game with an upper body injury. Backstrom is just 1-5-1 with a 3.39 goals-against average against the Sharks in his career. Antti Niemi will start for the Sharks.

Sharks conclude 2017 NHL Draft with five more forwards in the system

Sharks conclude 2017 NHL Draft with five more forwards in the system

CHICAGO – After nabbing a center in the first round on Friday, the Sharks added four more forwards and one defenseman to conclude the second day of the annual NHL Entry Draft on Saturday, held this year at United Center.

The Sharks weren’t explicitly trying to restock their forward cabinet, according to general manager Doug Wilson and scouting director Tim Burke, although the club did make two separate moves in surrendering some later round picks to move up in the fourth round (to take center Scott Reedy) and sixth round (to take left wing Sasha Chmelevski).

First, though, it was defenseman Mario Ferraro in the second round at 49th overall. The offensive defenseman was a player that the Sharks targeted, using the pick they acquired from New Jersey last Friday as part of the trade for Mirco Mueller.

“He’s got a lot of speed, offensive guy, exciting,” Burke said. “Puck-moving type of guy.”

Wilson said: “We’re very pleased with the d-man. He’s a very dynamic, athletic guy, great skater. He was a guy that we moved up a little bit aggressively to get because that round, you could see people going after who they wanted. He is a guy that we identified.”

After moving up from the fifth round to the fourth round last Friday, again because of the Mueller trade, the Sharks jumped up 21 more spots in the fourth round by obtaining the Rangers pick at 102nd overall for the 123rd and 174th selections.

Center Scott Reedy is a player that Burke has high hopes for, projecting the Minnesota native as a “second line right winger [with] high-end potential.” Burke pointed out that Reedy, who is friends with first round pick Josh Norris, occasionally played on the same line with Norris for each of the last two seasons with the U.S. Under-18 team.

“He’s a big, strong forward that can play both positions (center and right wing),” Burke said.

Right wing Jacob McGrew, an Orange, CA native, went to the Sharks in the fifth round despite missing all of his first season in junior with a lower body injury suffered in training camp with Spokane (WHL).

“We knew about him before he went up there,” Burke said. “He’s a California kid. … If he was healthy he probably would have gone earlier.”

The Sharks again moved up to snag Huntington Beach native and center Chmelevski at 185 overall, and made their sixth and final pick in the 212th position by taking left wing Ivan Chekhovich in the seventh round. Both players look to have some offensive skill, based on their numbers and Youtube highlights.

Burke was surprised that both players were around so late.

“I thought they had pretty good years and they kind of slipped in the draft,” he said. “We weighed that versus some other more project-type guys, and we thought they had more offense and finish to their game. They just kept sliding, so we took a chance on them.”

Wilson said: “We moved up for the guys we wanted, and then there were some skilled guys at the end that we were surprised were still there. … We’ll go back and take a look how it all went, but we feel, I think, really good about where we ended up with this.”

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

CHICAGO – Ilya Kovalchuk is still reportedly mulling over a return to the NHL, four years after he surprisingly walked away from a monstrous contract with the New Jersey Devils to play in the KHL.

The Sharks have been linked to Kovalchuk, in large part because of Pete DeBoer, who was Kovalchuk’s most recent head coach. In 2011-12, Kovalchuk was a dangerous scoring winger under DeBoer, helping the Devils reach the Stanley Cup Final.

It was apparently a good working relationship between the player and the coach for the two seasons they were together, DeBoer said on Friday at the NHL Entry Draft at United Center.

“I loved Kovy in New Jersey,” DeBoer said. “We went to a Stanley Cup Final together. He was a huge piece for us there. I really enjoyed coaching him. I haven’t seen him in four or five years now. I’m sure there’s still a lot of game left there.”

DeBoer said he’s had no contact with the 34-year-old Kovalchuk, who would have to be traded by New Jersey before signing a new contract with any other NHL club. Still, it seems like the Sharks’ coach might welcome a reunion with Kovalchuk, who posted 78 points in 60 games with SKA Saint Petersburg last season, and has 816 points (417g, 399a) in 816 career NHL games with Atlanta and New Jersey.

“I had a really good relationship with him. I had a lot of respect for him as a player and a person,” DeBoer said.

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DeBoer seemed as uncertain as everyone else as to whether Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will return to the Sharks or move on to other clubs as free agents.

But, naturally, it’s on his mind.

“You think about it all the time,” DeBoer said. “They’re obviously important pieces in the history of the franchise, and in our group. I also understand the business side of this, and there’s always tough decisions to make. The way I approach these type of things is I’m going to go to Canada and relax, and Doug [Wilson] is going to make those decisions. I’m sure we’ll have a good group come training camp.”

“We’ve got a really good core group of guys and some tough decisions that have to be made. The one thing Doug and his group has shown over the years is their ability to stay competitive, to find a way even after making tough decisions. I have all the faith in the world in that, and I’m excited about training camp.”

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The Sharks lost David Schlemko in the expansion draft earlier in the week. Vegas then flipped him to the Canadiens for a fifth round pick in 2019.

“I think for David, it’s a great opportunity for him, especially going to Montreal,” DeBoer said. “For us, it’s an opportunity for a young guy to jump in. The one thing we have in the organization is some depth. There’s a lot of guys knocking on the door, and guys hungry to grab that job.”