Havlat out, focus on Wingels

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Havlat out, focus on Wingels

SAN JOSE -- One mans misfortune is another mans opportunity.

Martin Havlat, the unfortunate one in this case, will miss the Sharks season-opening game on Saturday against Phoenix. He still hasnt quite recovered from left shoulder surgery in May, revealed a follow-up visit with his doctor in Cleveland on Wednesday.

Im disappointed because I wanted to start the season with everybody, said Havlat after an early morning skate at Sharks Ice on Thursday. Everything is the way its supposed to be at this time after the surgery, so were just taking it day-by-day.

The good news regarding Havlat is that he doesnt have any pain, and he only needs to build the strength back up in the injured shoulder. He took part in both sessions of practice as the team skated for nearly two hours.

In fact, he looked healthy enough in practice thatLogan Couture was surprised when given the news that one of the Sharks major offseason acquisitions would not be able to play.

I didnt know until you just told me. He looks really good out there, to me, said Couture.

While McLellan isnt thrilled over the prospect of having five full days between the teams first and second games, it could give Havlat a good chance to fully recover and make his Sharks debut on Friday, October 14 when the team visits Anaheim.

Havlat wouldnt commit to that date either, though.

Well see. It helps me, for sure that we dont have many games there. Well keep working on it, and it just needs to get a little more stronger and its going to be fine after, he said.

With Havlat unavailable,Tommy Wingels will fill the void left on the Couture-Ryane Clowe line. The 23-year-old Evanston, Illinois native has had a strong training camp and preseason, and has a huge opportunity in front of him according to head coach Todd McLellan.

Obviously, hes earned a spot here, and a chance to be on the opening night roster. Now, the rest is up to him and hes got to live up to that and play just as he has throughout exhibition season, said McLellan.

Im very excited, Wingels said. Just to be up here and play with those guys is unbelievable. They are great players, have such good chemistry together, and I just hope to compliment them any way I can.

Wingels began last season on the Sharks roster, but played in just five games, spending the majority of the year with the teams AHL affiliate in Worcester.

Niemi update

Sharks starting goalie Antti Niemi skated with the team for the first half of practice on Thursday, and McLellan will announce on Friday whether or not Niemi can suit up for the teams opening game.

Niemi skated today and did well. I can probably tell you tomorrow, said McLellan.

Goaltenders Thomas Greiss and Harri Sateri were both listed on the NHLs list of opening night rosters, while Niemi, Havlat and Antero Niittymaki were marked as injured. That can change by Saturday, however.

If Niemi cant go, Greiss will almost certainly get the call while Sateri would be the backup.

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.”