Wingels adds energy to top line


Wingels adds energy to top line

SAN JOSE Down two of his top six forwards for the first time this season, Sharks head coach Todd McLellan had to play chemist at little bit more than usual for Tuesdays game with Calgary, looking for the right ingredients to his lines.

Marty Havlat is out until mid-February at the earliest, and Ryane Clowe was a surprise scratch with an upper body injury related to his face plant into the boards a week ago. That meant names like Tommy Wingels, Jamie McGinn, Benn Ferriero and Andrew Murray were all going to be in the hat for McLellan to pull from to fill out his Top 9.

The coach cautioned that his morning skate combinations, which included McGinn on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, were not set in stone.

Whoever is playing well is going to play, he said on Tuesday morning.

That experiment lasted exactly one period, after the Sharks generated just four shots on goal against the Flames in a scoreless opening 20 minutes.

Enter Wingels. The rookie, who only returned to the lineup on Sunday because of Andrew Desjardins head injury, had a strong first period playing with Michal Handzus and Torrey Mitchell. McLellan noticed it, and flip-flopped him with McGinn.

Although he didnt register any points, Wingels was among the Sharks more effective forwards and played a career-high 21 minutes and 23 seconds. Thats more than six minutes past his previous career high of 14:46 against Phoenix in this years home opener, keeping in mind last nights game went into overtime.

Of course, the fact that Wingels saw the ice in overtime at all was another credit to how strong his game was last night. He was on the ice when Justin Braun appeared to win it in overtime, and you can be sure that no one on the coaching staff blamed him for the bogus goalie interference call that nullified the goal.

You always want to start the game off with a couple good shifts and get some confidence going in, said Wingels, who scored his first career NHL goal on Sunday in Chicago. He switched up the lines a bit, but whether youre on the fourth line or first line, the mentality is to help this team win games. That cant change depending on the line youre on.

Yeah, he plays well, said Thornton, who also skated better in the second and third periods after an ineffective first. He sees the ice good and has a good shot. Hes a real good player.

There was another benefit to the line change. After he was reinserted onto the third line with Handzus and Mitchell, McGinn got back to the style of play that makes him successful. He was on the ice when Mitchell got the equalizer midway through the third period.

Its amazing how when guys get out of their element, or play in a situation that maybe theyre not accustomed to, or not equipped to, their game chances. Im obviously talking about Jamie, McLellan said. I thought when Jamie went back to the third line that line became effective again, and he did, too.

They are the one common three, if you will, and they worked hard for that goal, too. It was an ugly one, but in games like tonight where chances are at a premium both ways, youve got to score that one.

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

SAN JOSE – The Sharks didn’t make any blockbuster moves last summer, content to make another run in 2016-17 with largely the same group that came within two wins of capturing the Stanley Cup.

They still acquired a notable player, though, when Mikkel Boedker was signed on July 1 to add an element that the Sharks knew they needed more of moving forward – speed. Boedker was expected to make the team faster, after the Sharks were exposed for not having enough of that against Pittsburgh in the NHL’s final round, as well as play in a top six role. 

At the time, it was hailed as a slick, under-the-radar move that wasn’t going to change the dynamic of the club but could help push it over the top.

When Boedker was a healthy scratch in games three and four of the first round against Edmonton, the evidence became clear, though, that this was a decision that fell flat on its face. 

Frankly, Boedker – who is signed for three more years with a $4 million salary cap hit – brings back visions of Sharks bust Marty Havlat. You know the skill is there, but the desire to use it on a nightly basis while showing any semblance of a battle level is lacking. 

Should the Sharks give Boedker another chance next season, or should they do everything in their power to try and move him? That’s a question that will likely be debated in the front office over the next several weeks.

On get-away day on Monday, indications were that the Sharks were planning on sticking with the 27-year-old, who finished with 26 points in the regular season (10g, 16a) and added one goal and one assist in four games in the playoffs.

“He has the things we’re looking for: his career scoring average, his speed, [penalty killing] ability,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “Did he meet the expectations that he had for himself [or] that we had for him? No. Can we get that out of him? Pete [DeBoer] believes we can.”

DeBoer has known Boedker since he played for him in 2007-08 in Kitchener (OHL). Despite scratching him in the playoffs, DeBoer said he saw “huge improvement” in Boedker throughout the course of the season after the forward spent nearly all of his NHL career in Arizona.

“There was an adjustment. He’s played 6-7 years a certain way in the NHL,” DeBoer said. “We’ve asked him to play differently here, and there was an adjustment.”

Boedker still believes that he can be a fit in San Jose.

“I think it will be and it can be,” he said. “It’s learning period, but you’ve also got to look in the mirror yourself and see what you can change and what assets you need to bring. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m ready to do that.”

The list of Sharks depth forwads that had frustrating seasons hardly begins and ends with Boedker, though.

Veteran Joel Ward’s production dipped from 43 points last season to 29 in 2016-17, although that probably isn’t too surprising considering he’s 36. Tomas Hertl is proving to be a streaky player, too, although his season was interrupted by another a knee injury.

The bigger disappointment came from players like Chris Tierney and Joonas Donskoi, who both made big impressions in the 2016 playoffs but struggled to produce consistent offense this year. Both were mentioned by name by DeBoer on Monday.

There are some promising youngsters in the pipeline like Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen, but it’s still too early to project any of them as can’t-miss scorers at the NHL level.

“I think we’ve got a large group of guys that I like, but need to step up,” DeBoer said. “Is Sorensen [like] Donskoi next year, where he takes a step back, or [does he take a] step forward? We’ve got a lot of guys that there’s a lot of potential there – Chris Tierney. 

“There’s a lot of those guys, but they need to have big summers and take a step, and show that they’re not just one season or one month players.”

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

SAN JOSE – Just in case there was any question as to the grisly nature of Logan Couture’s mouth injury, the Sharks forward shared a picture on his personal Instagram account on Monday.

If you haven’t seen it yet, proceed with caution.

The photo was taken the night of his injury on March 25 in Nashville, showing several top teeth missing in a mouth that can accurately be described as a bloody mess, after he was hit with a defected puck while standing in front of the net in a game against the Predators.

Couture revealed on Tuesday in a conference call that there was more to his injury that just damaged teeth. He also has some facial fractures, including one above his upper lip that extends to his nasal area, and another that is under the bottom row of his teeth.

The one that’s higher in his face is still painful. 

“Still struggle to eat and sleep. … It’s not a comfortable state to be in,” said Couture, who missed the final seven games of the regular season before returning for the six-game first round series loss to Edmonton.

As for the next step, Couture has yet to sit down with his dentist, although further work is on the horizon.

“There’s going to be some implants to get the teeth fixed,” he said. “Hopefully get it done in the next few weeks, and then I’ll head back to Canada.”

Couture doesn’t yet know how many teeth need to be replaced.

“All depends on how the teeth respond,” he said.

* * *

Joe Thornton had successful surgery on his left knee on Monday afternoon, NBC Sports California has learned, and according to a team statement released later on Tuesday he is expected to "make a complete recovery and be ready for the start of the 2017-18 season." 

According to a source, the damage to Thornton’s MCL was more significant than his ACL. The team declined to give any details about the surgery in its statement, including who performed it and where it was done. 

Thornton played four playoff games against Edmonton despite damaged knee ligaments, head coach Pete DeBoer revealed on Monday, when he said Thornton was dealing with a “torn MCL and ACL” after getting hurt in Vancouver on April 2.