Sharks-Wild: What to watch for

596466.jpg

Sharks-Wild: What to watch for

SAN JOSE Coming off of one of their worst defensive efforts of the season, the Sharks will be without Douglas Murray when they host the NHL-leading Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night. Murray has a right hand injury likely occurred while blocking a shot in the 5-3 loss to Florida on Saturday.

In, it appears, is Justin Braun, who was reassigned to Worcester just a week ago. Based on the morning skate, the struggling Colin White will be scratched.

Todd McLellan was tinkering with his defense pairings even before Murrays injury, and will have no choice to ice some new combinations tonight.

Well start a certain way, and if we like what we see, we wont tinker with it, said the coach. If we dont like what we see of if there isnt chemistry, well look at moving things around fairly quickly.

In practice on Monday, Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic were paired together. Braun and Brent Burns have played opposite of one another at times this season, while Jim Vandermeer and Jason Demers have also skated entire games as a pair.

As for Braun, McLellan had nothing but complimentary things to say when he was reassigned to Worcester last Tuesday. The bottom line, though, was that Braun needed to play. Thats just what he did in Worcester, playing three games with the Sharks AHL affiliate.

It was nice to play a lot and get a lot of minutes. You just wait for that call to come back up and hope that it pays off, he said.

As for the trips back and forth across the country, Braun said: You cant get too up or too down. Thats the nature of the game.

Reunion night, Part 2: It certainly doesnt carry the same emotions as the first time they were in the building on November 10, but former Sharks Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley will play in just their second game at HP Pavilion since the offseason trades between the Sharks and Wild.

Off the ice, that pair remains good friends with some old teammates. On the ice it's a different story, and Ryane Clowe had some reporters laughing this morning with his blunt honestly.

I got to say hello to them last night, but Ill say hello to them again and Ill certainly say hello to them again on the ice when I try to run them over, he said, smiling.

Its a tough part of the business to see those guys go, they are great guys and great teammates. You ask anyone in here, you all miss them, but weve got Mr. Personality over there who could make up for 10 guys in Brent Burns.

Setoguchi is also ready to move on.

Now that the first game is out of the way, this is just another road game, he said. Its always fun coming back, and hopefully this time we can get a couple points outta here.

The Sharks won the first meeting, 3-1, behind a pair of power play goals from Patrick Marleau.
Defense first for Wild: Minnesota enters the game fourth in the NHL in goals against with just 2.18. Thats a credit to their goaltenders, Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding, but also to their team game.

The Wild do a good job clogging up the neutral zone and not allowing any easy entries into their defensive zone.

They have a great goalie but their general style is defense first, said Torrey Mitchell. Having Setoguchi and Heatley, they have some offensive power. They play well as a team.

Setoguchi and Heatley are two of five Minnesota players with eight goals apiece, as the Wild dont have a single player in the Top 40 in scoring in the NHL (nor do the Sharks). Thornton and Mikko Koivu are the respective team leaders with 21 points apiece.

Tops in the league: Minnesotas 37 points (17-7-3) place them in first place overall in the NHL. They have won four in a row, while the Sharks have dropped three of their last four games in regulation.

We better be ready and better than we have been lately, said McLellan. Weve got to get a little more tempo into our game. The back end has to be much more polished, obviously, than it was against Florida. So, it sounds like a complete game to me, the way I just described it.

Theyre just really, really hard to score on, said Mitchell. They seem to get a one or two goal advantage and shut it down, and dont give up much. It will be important to score first and try to build off of that.

The Sharks managed to score first for just the eighth time all year on Saturday against Florida. They had been a perfect 7-0 before the loss to the Panthers.

Minnesota, meanwhile, has erased 2-0 deficits in each of their last three road games to win.

Hopefully we can get up by two, and well take our chances, said Joe Thornton.
Odds and ends: Antti Niemi will oppose Josh Harding in net. ... In four career starts against the Wild, Niemi is 4-0-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average, .939 save percentage and one shutout. Minnesotas roster features Bay Area native Casey Wellman, who was recently recalled. Wellman is a former San Jose Junior Shark. Logan Couture has three goals and an assist in his last two games. Jamie McGinn has scored in consecutive games.

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

braun-justin-sharks-teal.jpg
AP

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

No one asked, but I’m going to begin this week’s mailbag with my prediction for the Stanley Cup Final – Preds in six. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to a few of your questions…

Most likely to be moved this off-season? (Nik @niknisj25)

If the Sharks do make a move – and I’ve argued here that I think it may be time for a shakeup – they’ll surely be looking for someone up front to boost the offense. In that case, they’d likely have to sacrifice a defenseman or two.

The Sharks defense is the strength of the organization at the moment, as they had one of the best one-through-seven groups in the NHL this season. But it’s also an expensive one. The Sharks have nearly $27 million committed to their top seven defensemen next season, while Marc-Edouard Vlasic is due for a hefty raise beginning in 2018-19.

One name that could be intriguing to other teams is Justin Braun. The 30-year-old has been a part of the Sharks’ top shut down pair with Vlasic for several seasons now, and is signed for the next three years at a reasonable $3.8 million cap hit. The Sharks could potentially move him for offensive help, and slot in a guy like David Schlemko alongside Vlasic, while finally giving Dylan DeMelo a chance to play on a nightly basis on the third pair. A Vlasic-Schlemko pair could be more offensive than Vlasic-Braun, too, because as adept as they were at keeping the puck out of their own net, the Sharks didn’t get many goals from their defenders outside of Burns.

Of course, the upcoming expansion draft all but assures that nothing will happen until Las Vegas selects its team on June 21. If the Sharks lose a defenseman to the Golden Knights, they’ll be more reluctant to move another one. Still, with guys like Joakim Ryan, Tim Heed, Julius Bergman, Mirco Mueller and now Radim Simek in the pipeline, the club might be able to handle a couple departures.

How do we fix the power play next season? Bring in a coach that could help us? Change up the lines, or style of play? (adam smith @kickback408)

One thing that won’t be happening is a new coach, as Doug Wilson recently confirmed that Steve Spott would be back alongside Pete DeBoer. Bob Boughner could move on if he gets hired as a head coach elsewhere, but Boughner’s focus is the team’s defense and penalty kill.

Obviously, the future of the power play depends on who is on the roster, beginning with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Both saw their power play production dip this season.

Thornton went from 29 power play points in 2015-16 to 19 this season (he had eight power play goals in 2015-16, and just one this season). Marleau saw a decline from 25 power play points in 2015-16 to 16 last season. Even if both return, it may be time to try other bodies on the top unit.

Do you see Meier, Labanc and/or Sorensen having a breakout season next year? Or anyone else on the Barracuda? (Colin Dunn @ColinDunnACA)

Someone better had, because this team needs to start getting younger, and soon. One of the bigger disappointments of the 2016-17 season is that none of them apparently showed the coaching staff that they were prepared to play on a nightly basis at the NHL level.

Timo Meier and Marcus Sorensen, I would surmise, are at the top of the depth chart as far as forwards go. Their line in the playoffs with center Chris Tierney was the Sharks’ best through the early part of the series with Edmonton. As for Kevin Labanc, I think he’s fallen a bit since he had a brief run of success for the Sharks in December.

While the Sharks did a good job stockpiling some young players through the 2013-15 drafts, they’ve traded away a number of picks in recent years. In last year’s draft they didn’t have a first or third round pick; this year they don’t have any picks in the second, third or fourth rounds; and in 2018 they are already without their second and third round picks. 

It’s great to accumulate young players, but at some point they have to break through. Now is the time.

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

After five seasons with the Sharks, Larry Robinson is leaving the organization.

Robinson, 65, spent the last three seasons as the club's director of player development. He served as an associate coach from 2012-14.

TSN in Montreal and the Montreal Gazette originally reported the news.

The Sharks confirmed that Robinson's contract would be expiring, and general manager Doug Wilson told NBC Sports California that the divorce was amicable, and "because of geography." Robinson lives in Florida.

According to the Montreal Gazette

Robinson’s contract with the Sharks expires on July 1, but agent Donnie Cape said Thursday that San Jose general manager Doug Wilson has given him permission to speak with other teams. Robinson lives in Bradenton, Fla., and the long travel distance to San Jose is one of big the reasons he’s looking for a new team to work for.

Robinson seemed to ponder retirement in 2014, but signed a three-year extension to remain in the Sharks' front office. He worked mostly from his home in Florida the past two seasons, making occasional trips to San Jose, including during training camp.

In the summer of 2015, Robinson underwent surgery for skin cancer.

Recognized as one of the best defensemen in NHL history, Robinson won six Stanley Cup championships with the Montreal Canadiens as a player, and holds the NHL record for playing 20 straight seasons in the playoffs. A 10-time All-Star and two-time Norris Trophy winner, Robinson was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995.

Robinson was the head coach of the Los Angeles Kings from 1995-99, and the New Jersey Devils from 1999-2002 and again in 2005-06. He led the Devils to the Stanley Cup in 2000. Robinson has nine Stanley Cup rings as a player and coach.

* * *

The Sharks did not renew the contract of pro scout Jason Rowe, who had been with the organization for the past nine seasons. Rowe focused on eastern NHL and AHL teams.