Sharks get first look at Kings Richards

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Sharks get first look at Kings Richards

SAN JOSE The Los Angeles Kings made arguably the biggest single acquisition this summer, when they landed Mike Richards in a blockbuster trade. L.A. sent highly regarded prospect Brayden Schenn, along with forward Wayne Simmonds and a draft pick, to Philadelphia in exchange for the player who was the Flyers captain at the time.

Tonight, the Sharks will get their first look at Richards in a Kings sweater. Along with Anze Kopitar, he provides L.A. with a superb one-two punch at center.

Hes a great passer, and obviously he can play a physical game, too, said Colin White, who has the most experience of anyone on the Sharks roster playing against Richards, as a long-time member of the New Jersey Devils. Hes a great player. He makes people around him better, and calms the play down. He knows when to slow it down and speed it up.

Even though he played on the East Coast for the first six years of his career, a couple of Sharks stars are pretty familiar with Richards from the Olympics. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were teammates of Richards when they won gold together at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Thornton, especially, was surprised when Richards was dealt from Philadelphia.

I thought he did a great job in Philly, said Thornton. When I saw that trade, I was kind of like, Wow. They traded Mike Richards? I was kind of surprised.

Thornton has something in common with Richards. Both were named captains of their respective teams when they were just 23 years old, and both were scrutinized, either fairly or unfairly, for not living up to the expectations of wearing the C.

Thornton was asked if it was harder for a young guy like Richards to be a captain in a hockey-crazed town, as he was.

I dont think so. He has a pretty good personality where nothing fazed him, from what I saw at the Olympics, said Thornton. I think being a captain in a good hockey town wouldnt affect him at all.

Regardless, Richards is now on the other side of the country, trying to help the Kings unseat the Sharks as reigning Pacific Division champs. Hes off to a good start, with 10 points (2g, 8a) in his first 13 games, tying him with Justin Williams for second on the team.

Kings head coach Terry Murray thinks Richards is adjusting well to the West Coast and to his new team.

Its always a difficult move for a player of that caliber, and he was an impact player with the Flyers, said Murray. Now, you join a new hockey club, and its an emotional roller coaster you have to go through from the time that happens.

"But, his adjustment has been good. Hes settling in every day. I think hes really becoming a confident player with the L.A. Kings and hes having a big contribution to our hockey club now.

Richards himself admitted to not knowing a whole lot about the rivalry, but is looking forward to his first Sharks-Kings matchup.

When you have a divisional game and play each other this many times, with two good teams, it obviously becomes a rivalry. Im looking forward to getting my feet wet tonight, he said.

And, as for playing in HP Pavilion? Hes a little used to hostile environments when he was still in the highly competitive Atlantic Division.

Its a tough building to play in, and from what Ive heard it amps up that much more. I dont think its going to be any difference to what Im used to playing in Pittsburgh and New York, but its going to be nice just to get in this building to see what its all about, he said.

Rewind: Sharks get the bounces in imperfect win against Hurricanes

Rewind: Sharks get the bounces in imperfect win against Hurricanes

SAN JOSE – The Sharks’ performance over the Hurricanes on Saturday night at SAP Center won’t be one that the team re-watches and reflects back upon as a model for how they want to perform.

Still, after deserving better in last Wednesday’s loss to Ottawa, and maybe even Friday’s defeat to the rival Ducks, there was a sense that the 4-3 win was essentially an evening out of their recent luck. San Jose had just 20 shots on goal, tying their season low, but four of them beat Cam Ward. That includes the second period when their shooting percentage was a lofty 50 percent (four shots, two goals).

“It’s good to see the puck go in for a few guys,” Joe Pavelski said. “The bounces – that’s why you just have to keep playing. I would have thought we would have won the other two games before this one.”

Pete DeBoer said: “I think when you look at the week, out of the three games we played, it was probably our poorest of the three. But we found a way to win, and the other two we lost, maybe we deserved better. That's hockey.”

After falling behind 2-0 in each of their last two games, the Sharks jumped on the Hurricanes just 12 seconds in when Patrick Marleau scored on a two-on-one with Joe Thornton.

Aaron Dell was surely chuffed after that one. In a previous start against Carolina on Nov. 15, the first-year backup stood on his head but got no support in a 1-0 loss.

“It’s a good feeling to get one right away,” Dell said.

The difference in the game was the Sharks’ pair of second period goals, after they had leads of 1-0 and 2-1 wiped away. Logan Couture’s redirection of a Brent Burns shot put San Jose ahead to stay, 3-2, while Kevin Labanc’s second goal in as many nights on the rebound of a Dylan DeMelo blast was the necessary insurance, and the game-winner.

Labanc now has three goals in his last five games, generating the type of offense that was expected from others on the team, but just hasn’t come.

“It’s a confidence booster, that’s for sure,” Labanc said of scoring in consecutive games. “It’s just momentum, and you ride with it. You just keep going, and whatever opportunities come by you, you’ve just got to make sure it goes in the net.”

DeBoer said: "For a team that's had trouble scoring, he's one guy that's consistently scored for us. The puck follows him around. … He's done a great job, and he's a hard guy to remove from the lineup just because of how he's playing and how he's contributing.”

At the end of a three-game California road trip, Carolina pushed hard to start the third down 4-2. Derek Ryan’s power play goal brought the ‘Canes back to within one, and the way the ice was tilted over those first four minutes, it looked like the Sharks might be in trouble.

Instead, they buckled down in the defensive zone despite missing defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who is “day-to-day” with a lower body injury after leaving in the second period, according to DeBoer.

"They have a lot of talented guys on the team that can make plays,” said Paul Martin, who got the most fortuitous bounce of the night when his first period slap shot went in off of defenseman Brett Pesce's skate. “For us, it was just trying to find a way to win at that point, take care of our own zone, and Deller made some big key saves when we needed them."

Dell’s biggest stop came with about 20 seconds left, when he challenged Jeff Skinner on a rebound try – one of 11 shots for the Hurricanes forward – and saw the backhander hit him in the chest. He’s now 3-1 in his nascent NHL career.

“The last minute six-on-five is always a really, really long minute,” Dell said. “I think we played it pretty well.”

Carolina had plenty of zone time over the final two minutes with Ward pulled for an extra attacker. But this time, it was the Sharks’ opponent that never got that necessary bounce.

Instant Replay: Sharks make most of opportunities in win over 'Canes

Instant Replay: Sharks make most of opportunities in win over 'Canes

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE – After a disappointing defeat less than 24 hours earlier, and with a four-game road trip on the horizon, the Sharks could have overlooked Carolina on Saturday night at SAP Center.

Although it wasn’t their cleanest game, and they managed just 20 shots on goal, the Sharks got past the Hurricanes, 4-3. San Jose’s modest two-game losing streak came to an end.

Twice the Sharks took a one-goal lead, and twice the Hurricanes responded. At 11:02 of the second period, Joakim Nordstrom’s shorthanded goal on a partial breakaway knotted the score at 2-2.

The Sharks tallied a pair of scores to take a 4-2 lead into the dressing room at the second intermission, though. Logan Couture redirected a Brent Burns wrist shot at 12:18, and less than two minutes later Kevin Labanc smacked in the rebound of a Dylan DeMelo shot off of Cam Ward’s pad at 14:10.

Carolina got back to within 4-3 in the third period, taking advantage of an ill-advised cross-checking minor on Brenden Dillon. Derek Ryan was left alone in front of the net, and slipped a shot through Aaron Dell’s five-hole at 3:42.

Carolina pulled Ward for the extra attacker with about two minutes to go, and Dell made a key save on a Jeff Skinner rebound with 20 seconds left to preserve the win.

San Jose beat Carolina for just the fifth time in the past 15 meetings (5-8-2). The Hurricanes won the only other matchup on Nov. 15, 1-0.

There was a flurry of goals early.

The Sharks opened the scoring just 12 seconds into the game, when Patrick Marleau finished off a two-on-one rush with Joe Thornton. Carolina responded shortly after that on Lee Stempniak’s power play goal at 1:59, but the Sharks reclaimed the lead when Paul Martin’s point shot nicked Brett Pesce’s skate and fluttered through Ward at 3:14.

The Sharks lost Marc-Edouard Vlasic in the second period. The defenseman left for a stretch in the middle frame, returned for a shift, but did not play at all after that.

Carolina went 1-1-1 on its three-game road trip through California.

The Sharks completed a stretch of eight home games out of 10, and begin a four-game road trip in Toronto on Tuesday.

Special teams

The Sharks went 0-for-1 on the power play, going up against the league’s best penalty kill.

Carolina finished 2-for-2. San Jose is just 23-for-32 on the PK in its last 12 games (71.8 percent).

In goal

Dell was making his fourth start of the season, getting both Carolina games while the other two were against the Islanders. He improved to 3-1 on the season with 30 saves.

Ward took the loss, allowing four goals on 20 shots goals. It was just his second loss to the Sharks in his career in eight decisions (6-2-0).

Lineup

David Schlemko missed his third straight game with a right ankle injury. Matt Nieto, a scratch for the previous five games, replaced Micheal Haley on the fourth line.

Burns’ three-game goal-scoring streak was halted.

Up next

The Sharks will visit Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Chicago on their upcoming roadie, playing four games in six nights, before returning home to host Calgary on Dec. 20.