As trade deadline looms, Sharks express confidence in Dell

As trade deadline looms, Sharks express confidence in Dell

SAN JOSE – The NHL trade deadline is less than two weeks away on March 1. It’s highly unlikely that the Sharks, who are coming off of their first-ever Stanley Cup Final appearance and are in first place in the Pacific Division, will make any blockbuster transactions or overhaul the roster.

The likeliest place they would make a move, though, would be at the backup goaltender position. Although Aaron Dell has been outstanding in his first year, with a 6-3-1 record, 2.05 goals-against average and .930 save percentage, there is a thought that the Sharks should find a netminder that has a little more NHL experience in case something happens to Martin Jones. They did it when they brought in James Reimer last season, allowing Jones some valuable time off down the stretch, and it might make sense for them to do it again.

In the dressing room and on the ice, though, the confidence in Dell is high and grows with every outing. Last Saturday in Philadelphia in his most recent game, when Dell stole the Sharks a point in a 2-1 overtime loss, coach Pete DeBoer gave the 27-year-old his most ringing endorsement to date.

“I don’t know what else he could do to show that he’s an NHL caliber goalie so far,” DeBoer said on Feb. 11. “Those are decisions that Doug [Wilson] makes, but in my mind, that’s not an issue right now for us.”

Dell, speaking on Thursday after an optional practice at Sharks Ice, was aware of DeBoer’s comments.

“It’s an honor to get some compliments like that from a guy like him,” Dell said. “He’s right, though, that it’s Doug Wilson’s decision in the end. Me and him have no control over that either way, but it’s nice to get a compliment like that from him.”

So, what does Wilson think? At the beginning of the month, the general manager was asked his opinion on how Dell has handled his first season in the NHL. 

“A big part of it is, do his teammates believe in him and play for him? Yes, they do,” Wilson told CSN on Feb. 2. “Aaron has come in and given us some big wins at key times. We believe in Aaron.”

Is it a risk going into the playoffs with a backup that has hardly any NHL experience, though?

“What you’re referring to is the comfort you have with the unknown. When you have a comfort with somebody that you know well, that the teammates and coaches know, that makes it much more comfortable,” Wilson said. 

“We’ll see what transpires between now and then. As I’ve said, we always explore any ways we can add to this hockey team.”

* * *

The Sharks are fortunate that Jones has remained healthy this season, although some fatigue may be setting in. The starting goalie has seen his save percentage drop from .924 in November, to .916 in December, to .911 in January to just .882 so far in February. He has started 49 of 58 games, and those declining save percentages seem to indicate he’s been playing too much.

If Dell ends up being the permanent backup, there’s a good chance he’ll get more action than he’s seen so far, as the Sharks saw how valuable it was for Jones to rest up before the playoffs last spring when Reimer started eight of the final 19 games.

After the bye week from Feb. 20-24, the Sharks have 22 games over the final 43 days of the season. Asking Jones to play more than 13-15 of those would be a risk.

Dell believes he can handle more responsibility if need be.

“With every game I think I get some more experience, and get a little more comfortable,” he said. “I think if I was playing more regularly that would come a little quicker.”

Justin Braun expressed confidence that Dell could even handle the number one role, too, if it ever came to that.

“He’s an older guy, he’s been around the leagues and he’s probably learned a lot over the years doing that and [knowing] how to win and handle different situations,” Braun said. “It doesn’t seem like he’s one of those guys that’s going to get rattled or flustered or anything. He’s just going to keep going and doing his job, and that’s a nice thing to have back there.”

DeBoer said: “Every time we [put] him in there he’s found a way to have success or help us win or play well. That’s all you can ask. For me, you don’t overthink those things. He’s getting the job done, and deserves to be here.”

Sharks hoping to avoid mumps outbreak in Vancouver: 'Wash your hands'

Sharks hoping to avoid mumps outbreak in Vancouver: 'Wash your hands'

VANCOUVER – The water and Gatorade bottles were all lined up in front of the Canucks’ bench on Saturday morning for their morning skate, each one labeled with an individual player’s number. The purpose was to prevent any further spread of the mumps virus, as five players will be unable to dress against the Sharks on Saturday.

The Sharks went about business as usual when it was their turn to skate. They aren’t really able to take any preventative measures, as the story only came to light on Friday afternoon when they were in the air on their charter flight to British Columbia.

After the morning skate, coach Pete DeBoer joked, “I’ve asked all the guys as they walk by the [Canucks dressing] room to hold their breath on the way out to the bus.”

DeBoer can't do much other than hope that the players remain healthy.

“We had to skate, we had to practice. There’s nothing you can do,” DeBoer said. “You wash your hands. I think our trainers are on it. We’ve got some vaccines set up from what I understand when we get back, but that’s about it.”

Vancouver’s Troy Stecher is the only confirmed case of the mumps, although four others – Nikita Tryamkin, Michael Chaput, Chris Tanev and Markus Granlund – have shown symptoms. That leaves the entire right side of Vancouver’s defense out, so rookie Evan McEnany will be making his NHL debut on the blue line, while Joseph Labate will play his fourth career NHL game up front.

The Sharks will return to San Jose immediately after the game, have a scheduled day off on Sunday, and will reconvene for practice on Monday.

No one in the Sharks’ dressing room had any answers better than DeBoer’s one-liner when it came to trying to avoid the virus, which is spread primarily through saliva and sweat – making it somewhat easily transferable among NHL players, including two seasons ago when several teams dealt with outbreaks. 

Joe Pavelski indicated that many Sharks players should be fine, as they had to be vaccinated prior to past Olympic competitions. “You hope it doesn’t spread through your team, because obviously it’s not fun,” he said.

Joe Thornton and Joel Ward will both be searching for the soap, though.

“Just got to wash your hands, that’s what I learned a long time ago,” Thornton said.

Ward said: “Tell the boys to wash their hands, especially Burnzie. That was kind of news to us, so hopefully that doesn’t travel through us. We’ll just knock on wood and [hopefully] stay healthy.”

 

NHL Gameday: Sharks in Vancouver in first game after bye week

NHL Gameday: Sharks in Vancouver in first game after bye week

Programming note – Sharks-Canucks coverage starts today at 6:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 35-18-7, 77 points, 1st Pacific Division
Canucks: 26-28-6, 58 points, 6th Pacific Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***The Sharks and Canucks will both be coming out of their bye weeks. Most teams have struggled in that first game after the break, but San Jose and Vancouver will be on an even playing field.

“I think what you’re seeing is teams coming out of the break playing against teams that are at game speed or have been busy all week, but that’s not the case here,” Pete DeBoer said. “Both of us are in the same situation, so I don’t think there’s an advantage of disadvantage either way.”

What are the keys to playing a game for the first time since Feb. 19, without any practice time other than a morning skate on Saturday?

“Less is more, I think,” Joe Pavelski said. “Make sure our effort is there, and our compete [level]. You might not feel great all the time, but the game will come back pretty quick, I think. Mentally, make the right play.”

San Jose has a three-point lead on Anaheim and Edmonton in the Pacific Division, with two games in hand on both. It has 22 games left on the schedule, to be played over the next 43 days.

***There was one notable line change, as Tomas Hertl was bumped to the left wing while Chris Tierney will skate as the third line center. Joel Ward is on the right.

DeBoer put that group together late in the Boston game, a 2-1 overtime loss last Sunday. Tierney and Hertl have rarely been on the same line.

Regarding Hertl, Tierney said: “He can kind of play anywhere and play with any type of player, really. He compliments the top line really well, and he can come down and be dominant on our line. It’s pretty easy to play with a guy like that who brings speed, skill and size.”

***Barclay Goodrow, recalled on Friday, will play his second game of the season as the Sharks are carrying just 12 healthy forwards. Joonas Donskoi would have been “close” to being able to play, per DeBoer, but came down with the flu shortly before the Sharks’ flight to Vancouver on Friday. Donskoi has been out since Jan. 24 with what looks like a shoulder injury.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Chris Tierney. The center led the Sharks in their last visit to Vancouver, scoring two goals in a 4-1 win. He’s scoreless in his last eight games, so perhaps a visit to Rogers Arena – and a new linemate in Tomas Hertl – can get him going again. He has four goals and five points in nine career games against Vancouver.

Canucks: Henrik Sedin. With the Canucks shorthanded due to a mumps outbreak, Vancouver will need its big guys to come through. Sedin seems to be in decline, though, with 36 points (12g, 24a) in 60 games and a team-worst minus-19 rating.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Kevin Labanc – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Mikkel Boedker
Tomas Hertl – Chris Tierney – Joel Ward
Barclay Goodrow – Micheal Haley – Melker Karlsson

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

Martin Jones (starter)
Aaron Dell

Canucks
Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Alex Burrows
Loui Eriksson – Bo Horvat – Jannik Hansen
Joseph Labate – Brandon Sutter – Jayson Megna
Reid Boucher – Brendan Gaunce – Alexandre Grenier

Alex Edler – Philip Larsen
Luca Sbisa – Ben Hutton
Ben Hutton – Evan McEnany

Ryan Miller (starter)
Jacob Markstrom

INJURIES

Sharks: Joonas Donskoi (upper body/flu) and Dylan DeMelo (broken wrist) are out.

Canucks: Nikita Tryamkin (illness), Troy Stecher (illness), Michael Chaput (illness), Chris Tanev (illness), Markus Granlund (illness), Sven Baertschi (concussion), Jack Skille (undisclosed), Derek Dorsett (back surgery), Erik Gudbranson (wrist) and Anton Rodin (knee) are out.

QUOTEABLE

“Tonight, just want to get pucks in deep, simplify, get everyone back into the groove again. Definitely looking forward to these last 22 games.” – Joel Ward