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.

Report: Division rival interested in Joe Thornton

Report: Division rival interested in Joe Thornton

The mere thought of Joe Thornton wearing a Kings sweater may be enough to cause some Sharks fans to lose their lunch.

But it might be a possibility.

According to LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen, the Kings consider Thornton to be a “priority” should be hit the open market as a free agent. While the two sides are currently allowed to express mutual interest, NHL rules forbid them from discussing terms of any deal until Saturday at 9 a.m. PT.

Rosen points to a number of individuals in the Kings' organization that have ties to Thornton, including general manager Rob Blake, who played on the Sharks with Thornton from 2008-10. Mike O’Connell was Thornton’s general manager in Boston and currently serves as the Kings’ senior advisor to the general manager. Glen Murray, a former teammate and frequent linemate of Thornton’s with the Bruins for three-and-a-half seasons, is in Kings player development.

The Kings, under new management since replacing Dean Lombardi with Blake, and head coach Darryl Sutter with John Stevens, have put a priority on finding players this offseason that can get pucks to dangerous scoring areas. 

Adding one of the best passers in the history of the NHL would surely help in that regard. Thornton sits 13th in the NHL all-time with 1,007 assists.

Rosen writes: “Los Angeles has been a dominant possession team without being a high scoring team for the better part of the last six-plus seasons, and it was articulated earlier in the off-season that the team needed to do a better job of taking advantage of that possession discrepancy. In trying to find players with the ability to turn possession into actual production, the team has placed an emphasis on finding players capable of distributing the puck into high-danger in the attacking zone. There might not be another player in the NHL – let alone unrestricted free agents – who is as gifted of a passer of Thornton, which places the team’s needs in concert with the future Hall of Famer’s skill set.”

As reported here previously Thornton, who turns 38 on Sunday, is seeking a deal of three years. That might not be agreeable to the Sharks, who are likely to sign Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to long-term and expensive contract extensions that would kick in with the 2018-19 season.

Of course, Thornton could also be using the Kings as leverage to get a new deal in San Jose, where he would prefer to remain.

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

The Sharks have issued qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Chris Tierney, Marcus Sorensen and Barclay Goodrow, while cutting ties with three players in the system.

Tierney, 22, posted 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 80 games last season, serving primarily as the fourth line center. He has 64 points (24g, 40a) in 202 career games over three NHL seasons, all with the Sharks.

Sorensen posted one goal and three assists in 19 games with the Sharks last season, his first in the NHL. The 25-year-old played in all six playoff games against Edmonton, scoring one goal and one assist.

Goodrow, 24, skated in three games for the Sharks last season with one assist. He has 16 points (4g, 12a) in 77 games over three seasons with the Sharks, although has played in just 17 NHL games since the start of the 2015-16 season.

Forward Nikita Jevpalovs, defenseman Patrick McNally and goalie Mantas Armalis - also known for his career as a male model - were left unqualified and are now unrestricted free agents.

Earlier in the offseason, the Sharks signed pending restricted free agents Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson. Donskoi received a two-year deal at a salary cap hit of $1.9 million, while Karlsson was signed to a three-year deal at $2 million annually.