Stuart ready for his return to Sharks

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Stuart ready for his return to Sharks

SAN JOSE The summer of 2012 wasnt much different for Brad Stuart than the summer after he was sent to Boston in 2005 as part of the Sharks-Bruins trade that brought Joe Thornton to the Bay Area.

Stuart kept his house here, returning every offseason, including after each of the previous five years with Detroit. Now, hes back at that house full-time, and looking forward to putting on a teal and black sweater again at HP Pavilion.

REWIND: Sharks agree on terms with Brad Stuart

Really, at this point it seems like nothing is different, other than Im wearing different colors and Ive been able to come into the facility all summer, the defenseman said on Friday at Sharks Ice.

Sharks fans that were looking forward to seeing Stuart, who was drafted third overall by San Jose in 1998 and spent the first five-plus years of his career here, will have to wait, as the NHL lockout drags on. The first two weeks of the regular season have already been wiped out, so Stuarts return is delayed. The Sharks home opener against the New York Rangers was set for Oct. 15.

Obviously, from a personal standpoint, I was anxious to get going, and excited about this season. I guess Ive got to put that on hold for a little bit, said Stuart, who has no plans to sign with a team overseas, as so many other NHLers have done already. The tough part I guess, at this point, is not knowing how long the lockout is going to be. You dont know what youre really getting ready for at this point. Youve got to stay focused and keep that mentality that you have in the mid-summer, preparing for a season.

Speculation that Stuart would return to the Bay Area was rampant even before last season ended, and while he was still sporting a winged wheel. It was known that he wanted to be closer to his wife and family, which includes two boys (four and five years old) and Stuarts 17-year-old stepdaughter.

RELATED: Brad Stuart career stats 2011-12 game logs

Red Wings general manager Ken Holland traded Stuarts rights to the Sharks on June 10 before the defenseman was to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, with the stipulation that Detroit would still be interested in Stuarts services if he was unable to come to an agreement with San Jose.

Sharks GM Doug Wilson quickly locked Stuart up, though, on a three-year contract worth 3.6 million annually.

RELATED: Brad Stuart has a no trade clause

I had been pretty open and honest with Detroit the whole time. The situation was pretty hard on my family. As much as I loved playing there and being a part of that organization, I had to at least try to get closer to my family, whether that was here or somewhere further West, Stuart said. If that didnt work out, I was open to going back to the Wings, but I had to at least try. Things worked out for the best, obviously.

When and if the 2012-13 season gets going, Stuart will immediately step in to the Sharks defense corps in a top four role. Along with Dan Boyle, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the Sharks can boast of one of the strongest top two pairings in the league.
Having a combination of the veteran Douglas Murray, the improving Justin Braun and Jason Demers to fill out the bottom pair, or fill in in case of injury, and the Sharks defense may be the strongest facet of their team (although Murray and Demers will both be trying to rebound from difficult seasons).

Stuart should also be able to help the teams penalty-killing, which finished 29th in the NHL and was a glaring weakness throughout a season in which the Sharks underachieved. Stuart led the Red Wings in time-on-ice shorthanded per game last season (3:10), and Detroit finished 18th in the NHL at 81.8 percent, nearly five percentage points higher than San Joses ineffective unit (76.9 percent).

I can be a guy that can play in the top four and just be steady, physical, and play some hard minutes, penalty kill, said Stuart, who had six goals and 15 assists along with 29 penalty minutes last season. Make it tough for other teams to play against thats my game, thats what Ill do.

Stuarts return to the Sharks could also be viewed as a case of if you cant beat em, join em. The Sharks have had an abundance of success against Detroit in recent years, including eliminating them from the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2010 and 2011. Last season, the Sharks won three of the four head-to-head matchups before both clubs suffered first-round playoff defeats in April.

I think as a team, they got up to play us, as most teams do. When you have the skill that the Sharks have, theyre a dangerous team, Stuart said.

Still, the Sharks still appear to a group whose window is closing, if it hasnt already. Core players like Thornton, Boyle, Patrick Marleau, Ryane Clowe and Marty Havlat will all be on the wrong side of 30 by the time the season gets underway.

The 32-year-old Stuart isnt buying that, though.

From the outside looking in, people are going to talk about that. Thats one thing that jumps out. I went through the same thing playing for Detroit, it was always, This team is getting too old. The window is closing. But somehow, some way we kept finding a way to win.

I think if youve got guys that are committed to that and youre bringing guys up through the system they see that, and it just kind of carries on down. This team has a lot of skill and theyve got some good young players I think can learn from the older guys. It trickles down, and they become the guys that can set the example, and it carries on for years and years.

NHL Gameday: Sharks face Preds, look to rebound from 'crap' performance

NHL Gameday: Sharks face Preds, look to rebound from 'crap' performance

Programming note – Sharks-Predators coverage starts today at 4:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 42-25-7, 91 points, 1st Pacific Division
Predators: 37-25-11, 85 points, 4th Central Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***The freefalling Sharks will again try to put an end to their losing streak in their only visit to Nashville tonight. Friday night’s unsightly 6-1 loss in Dallas, their fifth straight in regulation, was surely their worst game of the season. Their typically strong defensive game handed the Stars all kinds of opportunities that they cashed in on.

“Uncharacteristic missed coverage," Pete DeBoer said of the Stars' third goal in which Jamie Benn was left uncovered, "but [I] think that you could say that about six of the goals – breakaways, two-on-ones. Just, crap. Not very good.”

Despite having a nine-point lead on the division on the morning of March 15, the Sharks are now tied in points with Anaheim (San Jose owns the tiebreaker, so is still officially in first place). The Ducks are idle Saturday, but Edmonton, two points back, is hosting putrid Colorado.

Nashville is 5-1-0 in its last six games, and 6-1-0 in its last seven at home.

***The Sharks have managed just five goals over their five regulation losses. Two of those scores have come on the power play, including one on a five-on-three; Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s goal against St. Louis deflected in off of a Blues player, and one of Patrick Marleau’s two markers in Minnesota on Tuesday came in large part to a miscommunication between Devan Dubnyk and Ryan Suter.

They are simply not generating anything lately.

“Some teams are doing a good job of taking some of our plays away, but it’s on us as players,” Joe Pavelski said. “You’ve got to win some battles, you've got to create some energy, some speed throughout the team. It’s hasn’t been one guy. It’s been all of us. We’re in this together. We’ll change it as a group."

***There was no morning skate on Saturday, so no word on whether Vlasic would be in the lineup after he took just one shift in the third period on Friday before departing.

The Sharks are 2-3-1 in the six games Vlasic has missed this season, including Tuesday in Minnesota when he was out with the flu. Just one of the two wins came in regulation (Jan. 7 against Detroit).

If he’s out, Dylan DeMelo will presumably draw back in on the third pair.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Tomas Hertl. It didn’t take long for Hertl to be bumped up to the Joe Thornton line after Friday’s game started to go sour. In the first period, Hertl looked like one of the few Sharks players actually performing decently, and he finished with a team-high four shots on goal. He remains without a point in his last 11 games, though.

Predators: James Neal. The Predators forward has goals in each of his two games against the Sharks this season, and is third on the Predators with 21 overall. After scoring in three straight games from March 11-16, Neal hasn’t found the scoresheet in his last three.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Jannik Hansen – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Mikkel Boedker
Marcus Sorensen – Tomas Hertl – Joel Ward
Micheal Haley – Chris Tierney – Joonas Donskoi

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Martin Jones (likely starter)
Aaron Dell

Predators
Filip Forsberg – Ryan Johansen – Viktor Arvidsson
Kevin Fiala – Calle Jarnkrok – James Neal
Colin Wilson – Colton Sissons – Craig Smith
Cody McLeod – Vern Fiddler – Austin Watson

Romas Josi – Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm – P.K. Subban
Matt Irwin – Yannick Weber

Pekka Rinne
Jusse Saros

INJURIES

Sharks: Marc-Edouard Vlasic (possible lower body) and Melker Karlsson (lower body) are questionable.

Predators: Mike Fisher (lower body) is questionable.

QUOTEABLE

"The nice thing about this is we get to go back at it again tomorrow. There’s going to be no excuse for not playing hard tomorrow.” – Brenden Dillon, after Friday night’s loss in Dallas

 

Sharks blowout loss to Stars includes 'a month's worth of mistakes'

Sharks blowout loss to Stars includes 'a month's worth of mistakes'

DALLAS – In just two-and-a-half weeks, the Sharks will have the opportunity to defend their Western Conference title when the Stanley Cup Playoffs get underway.

(Take a deep breath. They won’t fall out of playoff position.)

Still, it’s a terrible time for them to be playing their worst hockey of the season, and going through the foulest stretch of coach Pete DeBoer’s two-year tenure.

The Sharks were flat-out embarrassed by the Stars on Friday night in their fifth straight regulation defeat, 6-1 in Dallas, showing no signs of life for the duration. Not even a verbal tongue-lashing from their normally reserved head coach in full view of the cameras in the second period got their motors going.

How do you explain this one, Joe Pavelski?

“I don’t know, good question,” said the captain. “There’s a commitment that needs to be there to win in this league right now consistently. Right now, we’re searching for that.”

DeBoer, too, was puzzled.

“You have a handful of those a year where nothing goes right and nobody’s got any kind of legs or energy,” he said. “It was one of those nights. I don’t have an explanation for it. I felt we prepared the right way the last couple days. I thought we felt pretty good about ourselves. Then, the puck dropped and everything went bad.”

It was evident early that the Sharks were off, as they couldn’t figure out a way to get the puck through the neutral zone for the first several shifts and didn’t register a shot on goal until 7:17 into the first period. The first of three Adam Cracknell goals – yes, Adam Cracknell – had them trailing 1-0 after the opening frame.

Traditionally, the Sharks would have found a way to jolt themselves to life at the intermission, as it was so plainly obvious that they didn’t seem focused or driven over the first 20 minutes.

This was a game, too, in which they were healthier, getting Jannik Hansen back in the lineup, and more rested than the Stars, who were playing their second game in as many nights while San Jose was coming off a rare two-day break. Furthermore, the Sharks have seen a nine-point lead in the Pacific Division evaporate to just two points headed into Friday’s action. Motivation should have been easy against a team that shut them out on Monday, to boot.

But the mental mistakes to start the second were even worse. Brett Ritchie was left alone by Brenden Dillon for a goal just 1:58 into the middle frame, and at 5:19, Brent Burns was caught staring at the puck off of a faceoff as Jamie Benn got free in front of the net to push the Dallas lead to 3-0. DeBoer's timeout and screaming session after that third goal did nothing, as Dallas got two more goals off of the rush and another on a breakaway by Cracknell after a gift turnover by goalie Aaron Dell before the night was through.

“That’s a month worth of mistakes in one night, so hopefully we get it out of the system,” DeBoer said.

The defensive miscues should be easily correctable, according to Dillon.

“If you look at a good chunk of those goals, we kind of know whether it was d-zone coverage, or off the rush, or just communicating with one another,” he said. “Stuff that’s not like us. I think if we watched the other 70 games this year, those kind of things don’t happen.”

Of course, the defensive errors become all the more glaring when a team isn’t scoring, either. The Sharks managed just one Joe Thornton power play goal, and have just five total goals in their last five games.

That part of their game wasn’t any better against Dallas than their defense, as Kari Lehtonen had a relatively tranquil evening.

“We have a lot of guys that are going through some tough times right now and struggling to get on the scoresheet,” Logan Couture said. “We're going to need all of those guys to bring more. That's from our top guys, including myself and on down. We need to do more offensively. Score goals, and do more defensively, as well.”

They have just eight more games to figure it all out.

“It’s not ideal, by any means,” Dillon said. “I think it’s maybe a bit of a wakeup call for us. … You can’t take a night off and you have to be emotionally invested. You’ve got to take every shift as hard as you possibly can.”

* * *

DeBoer had no update on Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who didn't play in the third period. The defenseman was seen leaving the dressing room under his own power, but looked to be walking a bit gingerly.