NHL Gameday: Sharks make first visit to Duck Pond

NHL Gameday: Sharks make first visit to Duck Pond

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

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 15-10-1, 31 points, 3rd Pacific Division
Ducks: 13-9-5, 31 points, 4th Pacific Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***The Sharks and Ducks have split the first two meetings of the season, both in San Jose. On Oct. 25, Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s overtime goal was the difference in a 2-1 win. The Ducks responded on Nov. 26, beating San Jose, 3-2, and are 4-0-1 in the last five head-to-head matchups. 

“They’re close, they’re hard fought battles,” Joel Ward said. “It’s obviously a lot of similarities of big bodies, teams that get on the forecheck, and got good special teams, as well.”

***Martin Jones will face Jonathan Bernier in goal. For Bernier, it will be his first game since giving up eight goals at Calgary on Dec. 4 in an 8-3 Flames win.

Does Pete DeBoer think that game might linger with Bernier?

“I’m more worried about the reverse,” said the Sharks coach. “I think usually good pros bounce back with great efforts after games like that. That’s what I’m expecting.”

Logic says that Aaron Dell will start the Sharks’ home game against Carolina on Saturday in the second of a back-to-back, but DeBoer would not confirm that was the plan.

***DeBoer wouldn’t offer much in regards to his lineup against Anaheim, either, although defensemen David Schlemko and Mirco Mueller, and forward Matt Nieto stayed on the ice late, indicating they probably won’t play.

Schlemko is battling a right ankle injury that kept him out of Wednesday’s game against Ottawa. Mueller was recalled on Friday morning.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Dylan DeMelo. The defenseman will play his fourth game of the season with Schlemko likely still out, after he was a healthy scratch for the first 19 games of the season. The 23-year-old has one goal, coming against the Ducks on Nov. 26, and an even rating while averaging 13:35 of ice time per game.

Ducks: Ryan Getzlaf. The Ducks captain scored the game-winning goal on the power play in the most recent meeting with the Sharks, and has nine points (1g, 8a) in his last 11 games. Getzlaf is tied for second in the NHL with 20 assists.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Patrick Marleau – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Kevin Labanc – Logan Couture – Joel Ward
Mikkel Boedker – Chris Tierney – Joonas Donskoi
Micheal Haley – Tommy Wingels – Melker Karlsson

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – Dylan DeMelo

Martin Jones (starter)
Aaron Dell

Ducks
Rickard Rakell – Ryan Getzlaf – Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano – Ryan Kesler – Jakob Silfverberg
Nick Ritchie – Antoine Vermette – Ondrej Kase
Joe Cramarossa – Stefan Noesen – Logan Shaw

Cam Fowler – Sami Vatanen
Hampus Lundholm – Josh Manson
Shea Theodore – Kevin Bieksa

Jonathan Bernier (starter)
John Gibson

INJURIES/SCRATCHES

Sharks: David Schlemko (right ankle) is doubtful. Tomas Hertl (right knee sprain) is out.

Ducks: Rickard Rakell (upper body) is questionable. Nic Kerdiles (concussion), Nate Thompson (Achilles surgery), Simon Despres (concussion) and Clayton Stoner (lower body) are out.

QUOTEABLE

“We know this is going to be a dogfight right to the end. We’re setting in and prepared for that.” – Pete DeBoer, on the Pacific Division race

Top pick Meier 'real close' to making Sharks debut

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USATSI

Top pick Meier 'real close' to making Sharks debut

SAN JOSE – Struggling to score goals lately with two or fewer in eight of their last 11 games, the Sharks may soon turn to their biggest prospect to try and give the offense a boost.

Timo Meier, the ninth overall pick from the 2015 draft, is tearing up the American Hockey League lately with the Barracuda. He scored four goals (and registered 15 shots) in two games in San Antonio over the weekend, has eight points (5g, 3a) in his last four games, and leads the Barracuda with eight goals.

On Thursday, Pete DeBoer was asked what he’s heard about Meier lately and how close he may be.

“Good things, and real close,” DeBoer said. “I think he would have been even a consideration [Wednesday], but he came down I think with the flu. 

“You feel for him because we’re looking to bring some guys in, and he obviously had a great weekend. He’s one of quite a few guys down there that we feel real comfortable can come in here and are going to help us before the year ends, for sure.”

It’s the second time an illness has affected Meier’s status, as he came down with mononucleosis early in training camp and missed a month of action. He did, however, return to Barracuda practice this week.

One month ago, Barracuda coach Roy Sommer told CSN that Meier had to make some adjustments coming out of juniors. 

“He’s just has to simplify his game,” Sommer said on Nov. 9. “I think he’s just trying to do too much. He’s got to be north-south, and [forget] this circling and trying to put pucks through people. … It’s not going to work.”

Apparently, Meier has figured it out. On Tuesday, Sommer told The Gackle Report: “He’s getting better every game. At the start, I was going, oh man, he’s all over the map, circling and not using his teammates. But shoot, now he just keeps producing.”

“We’ve spent a lot of time with him on video and he picks stuff up.”

The 2015 draft has already produced several players that are regular contributors for their respective clubs, led by Connor McDavid (Edmonton), Jack Eichel (Buffalo), Mitch Marner (Toronto) and Zach Werenski (Columbus). 

Meier is the only player among the top 11 picks that year that has yet to play an NHL game, while 17 of 30 of the players overall chosen in the first round have played at least one NHL game.

Sharks still struggling to get consistent offense

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USATSI

Sharks still struggling to get consistent offense

SAN JOSE – There are games where the Sharks’ lack of offensive firepower isn’t an issue. Recent 2-1 wins over two of the best teams in the league, Chicago and Montreal, were impressive in that San Jose kept a pair of the league’s better offenses from getting more than a single score.

In other instances, though, that necessary goal from the team’s depth just hasn’t come. Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to Ottawa was one example. The Sharks got goals from Logan Couture and Brent Burns – no surprise there – while Joe Pavelski was all around the net, generating more scoring chances than any single player on the ice.

Again, though, the depth forwards and defensemen other than Burns never found the scoresheet. 

And it’s becoming a real issue.

In fact, in the Sharks’ last 11 games in which they’ve gotten 25 goals total, 60 percent of them have come from just those three aforementioned players – Couture (7g), Burns (5g) and Pavelski (3g).

Also over that span, in which San Jose has gone 6-4-1, they’ve gotten no goals from Joe Thornton, Joonas Donskoi, Mikkel Boedker, Micheal Haley or Melker Karlsson; one goal apiece from Joel Ward and Tommy Wingels; and just one goal by a defenseman other than Burns (Dylan DeMelo). Of the 12 forwards that dressed against the Senators, eight of them had two or fewer goals.

The Sharks sit at 23rd in the NHL at 2.38 goals-per game. Sure, it’s just fine winning games by 2-1 final scores. But at some point, other guys are going to have to start putting the puck in the net if this team is truly going to contend for the Stanley Cup.

Couture – who himself got off to a slow start offensively – believes it’s going to come soon.

“Everyone wants to score,” Couture said after the Senators game. “It’s not about trying, it’s just the way that things are going right now. Pucks just aren’t going in for some guys, and, hey, I went through the same thing for awhile there where I wasn’t finding the back of the net. 

“That’s the way that goal-scoring works in the NHL, is you go through streaks where you’re hot and when you’re cold. Some guys are going to get hot soon. It’s going to happen.”

For his part, coach Pete DeBoer also believes the offense will pick up shortly. In the Senators game, the coaching staff internally tracked the scoring chances as 22 for the Sharks and just eight for Ottawa.

When that happens, “you should win, and you should score more than two goals,” DeBoer said.

Without getting into specifics, DeBoer pointed to the “analytics of where we are in the league” as a reason not to panic. Perhaps he’s aware that the Sharks are sixth in the league in shot-attempt percentage (52.25), and first in the NHL in shot-attempt percentage in close games (55.67).

Still, those numbers don’t mean anything when the puck isn’t going in. So what’s missing?

“I just think finish. I think we’re doing a lot of things right,” DeBoer said.

“Obviously I’d love to see us score some more goals five-on-five, but we’re getting some chances,” Ward said. “I would think if we weren’t or if we were getting shelled then it would definitely be something to be concerned about. … We’ve had some good looks and some really quality chances. Things just haven’t fallen in five-on-five, but I think that will come around.”