Vandermeer adjusting to life as a forward

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Vandermeer adjusting to life as a forward

SAN JOSE At various times this season the Sharks have had eight healthy defensemen on their roster, meaning two able-bodied players would be sitting out at any given time.

The Sharks have found a creative way to remedy that situation, lining up typical defenseman Jim Vandermeer as a winger on the fourth line.

For the second consecutive game on Tuesday night, Vandermeer skated as a forward. He played more than 11 minutes, noticeably getting into two fights with Jared Boll, but also making a good account of himself during even-strength play.

Its coming. Its a work in progress, Vandermeer said after Wednesdays practice at Sharks Ice.

Both games that hes played there, hes played very well, said Todd McLellan, also alluding to the Sharks last game before the All-Star break on Jan. 24 in Calgary. Very reliable, when he gets down low in his own zone, hes basically another defenseman.

Obviously, his physical attributes are something we need most nights. I like him there. I know hes a defenseman, I understand that, but to be a utility guy is a real good asset, too.

Vandermeers physical presence certainly came in handy against the Blue Jackets. Bolls hit on Thornton resulted in a long bout with Vandermeer, who was sticking up for the team captain.

Thats a key element Vandermeer brings to the ice, no matter what position hes playing.

I think in general thats more my style, when the bodies are flying, and guys take liberties, Vandermeer said. Boll hit Jumbo a little high that first shift, and it was good for our guys to respond.

KURZ: Boll fined for hit on Thornton

Hes not the only one on that fourth line willing to play the tough guy role, though.

Winnie (Brad Winchester) was ready to go. Hes like are we going? And I said its either you or me, you pick. We got on the ice, and Boll was more looking at me so I just switched sides with him and went at er.

McLellan admitted that Vandermeer, who missed 21 games with a broken hand from early December to mid-January, has a better chance to dress against teams that have more of an edge. That could include Thursday nights opponent, when the Dallas Stars visit HP Pavilion.

McLellan was asked if thats the type of game Vandermeer will be used up front.

Likely. It makes sense. But, that doesnt mean we wouldnt play him in any other scenario or situation, McLellan said. Some nights we just feel better about seven d-men. Maybe someone is not feeling as good, or is banged up or bruised. We could start him there with the ability to throw him back on defense.

Although the competition from the lowly Blue Jackets wasnt exactly fierce in the 6-0 Sharks win, the fourth line provided good early energy as San Jose jumped in front with a pair of first period goals. On one shift, in particular, they held the puck in the Columbus zone for well over a minute with a heavy forecheck and an aggressive, energetic style.

Were not a real offensive threat as much as the other guys, Vandermeer said. For us to go out there and get a couple hits and a good forecheck, it just leads in the next line going out there. I felt the first 10 to 12 minutes we had our game going, playing in their end, getting on the body.

Its not the first time Vandermeer has lined up as a forward in his hockey career. He spent some time there during his stint with the Calgary Flames in 2007-08 to 2008-09, as well as his Western Hockey League club in Red Deer.

In actuality, his expertise of the defense position could help him when it comes to being a fourth line forward.

Some of those d-men that go up front are often more reliable than the forwards that play up there permanently, McLellan said. They know how to play on the defensive side of the puck.

Odds and ends: Jason Demers remains out with a lower body injury and will not play against Dallas. Ryane Clowe skated on Wednesday and could return against the Stars. Forward Andrew Murray has sat out the last two games in place of Vandermeer.

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.