Top lines to suit up this weekend for Sharks

Top lines to suit up this weekend for Sharks
September 19, 2013, 1:15 pm
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Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will see the first action of the preseason this weekend. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

SAN JOSE – Each of the Sharks’ 42 remaining players will have played at least one preseason game by the time the weekend is over, head coach Todd McLellan said on Thursday. San Jose hosts the Anaheim Ducks on Friday and Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday as its six-game preseason slate continues.

The Sharks have played one game so far, a 3-2 win in Vancouver on Monday. The club’s top two lines didn’t make the trip, so look for Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau, Tyler Kennedy and Raffi Torres to skate in at least one of the two games at the SAP Center.

“I think some guys need games right now,” McLellan said. “They’re getting itchy, and champing at the bit to get out there and past the practice phase, and into games.”

Marleau said: “It’s always good to get in game-like situations in order to build that chemistry with certain guys, and get to know where each other is on the ice and talk certain situations over.”

The competition for backup goaltender will continue, too, as Harri Sateri will play at least once. It sounds like Sateri is more likely to play Saturday, as Niemi said he “thinks” he’s playing on Friday night. Unlike some head coaches, McLellan likes to let his starting goaltender go the full distance in the preseason, rather than switch it up mid-game or between periods. Alex Stalock played in the win over the Canucks, allowing two goals on 16 shots.

The scoring lines have been altered since the start of camp. Tomas Hertl, who played on the wing of Pavelski in Vancouver, has since been moved to the Thornton-Brent Burns line. Look for that trio to skate together in one of the next two games.

That leaves Kennedy on the wing with Marleau and Couture, and a third line of Pavelski, Torres and Tommy Wingels.

“Like every team, we’re experimenting with different people in different places, trying to find the right combinations,” McLellan said.

McLellan would also like to find a much more reliable second power play unit, and there have been hints in practice with what he intends to do with that group that failed to have much of an impact last season.

The Sharks finished a very respectable seventh overall in the league with a man advantage with a 20.1 percent success rate in 2013, but nearly all of that production came from the top unit of Thornton, Marleau, Couture, Pavelski and Dan Boyle. Of the Sharks’ 34 power play goals, only nine were from players not on the top unit.

The loaded up top group remains together in camp, and on Thursday, McLellan used Justin Braun and Matt Irwin at the points on a second unit (with Jason Demers rotating in), and Torres, Burns and Kennedy up front.

There was some thought that Burns, who is now officially a full-time forward, would remain on the point in power play situations. So far, that’s not the case, and perhaps Burns can create some havoc in front of the net with his large frame.

McLellan said: “Our power play number overall was strong, but it can be a lot stronger if that other unit pushes and becomes elite.”

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Brad Stuart gave it another go on the ice on Thursday, as he attempts to return from a lower body injury he incurred while training in the offseason. It’s a good sign in that it’s the first time he’s been able to skate on back-to-back days since getting hurt.

Marty Havlat (pelvic surgery) continues to skate, as well. Havlat was on the ice by himself before the second practice group featuring mostly prospects joined him. He stayed on for a significant portion of their practice session.

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Also skating with the NHL group on Thursday were forwards Eriah Hayes, Matt Nieto and Rylan Schwartz, defenseman Taylor Doherty, and Sateri.

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