Sharks

Joakim Ryan may soon force Sharks to answer difficult questions

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USATI

Joakim Ryan may soon force Sharks to answer difficult questions

Joakim Ryan’s NHL debut on Thursday stands out as one of the best in Sharks history.

Since the NHL began tracking time on ice in 1997, only one Sharks defenseman logged more ice time in their debut than Ryan’s 21:24 on Thursday night: Christian Ehrhoff, who played 22:48 in his first NHL game 14 years ago.

Ehrhoff quickly earned the trust of then-head coach Ron Wilson, just as Ryan appears to have earned the trust of Peter DeBoer. He also stands to give his coach plenty to think about moving forward.

The 2012 seventh round pick only made his debut last night due to Paul Martin’s move to injured reserve, but Ryan looked great in the 36-year-old’s place. He fit in nicely alongside Martin’s usual partner, Brent Burns, and appeared comfortable playing with the reigning Norris Trophy winner.

After four years in the Ivy League and two more in the AHL, the 24-year-old Ryan is far more seasoned than most rookies. Yet, pairing up with a player like Burns is a tall task, regardless of experience, and Ryan acquitted himself quite nicely..

Paul Martin’s ankle will keep him on injured reserve until, at the earliest, October 17 against Montreal. That means Ryan will play at least one more game, and another strong effort could force the Sharks to make some difficult decisions.

The easiest choice would be to send Ryan back to the Barracuda when Martin returns, and allow him to slide back into his spot alongside Burns. Keeping Ryan, though, means the Sharks would have to send another player to the AHL to get down to the 23-man maximum.

Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier would not have to clear waivers, but can the Sharks afford to send either player down at this point? Tim Heed wouldn’t either, but are they willing to send him down so soon? Ryan Carpenter, Dylan DeMelo, and Barclay Goodrow would need to be exposed to waivers, but are the Sharks willing to risk losing any of them without receiving compensation in return?

The Sharks don’t need to answer all of these questions right now, and may not have to if and when Martin’s healthy. After one NHL game, it’s far too soon to automatically pencil Ryan into the lineup.

But after a strong training camp and a stronger debut, it’s clear that Joakim Ryan’s time as an NHL regular is coming sooner rather than later. If he continues to impress, San Jose will eventually have no choice but to make a corresponding move.

His presence will force the Sharks to address difficult questions. If it means they’ve developed another top four defenseman, though, they probably won’t mind answering.

Sharks skate past Sabres, earn first win of 2017 season

Sharks skate past Sabres, earn first win of 2017 season

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- Timo Meier scored late in the second period, lifting the San Jose Sharks over Jason Pominville and the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on Thursday night.

Pominville scored twice for the Sabres, who dropped to 0-2-1 to begin coach Phil Housley's first season.

Martin Jones made 23 saves in San Jose's first victory this season, holding strong after Meier's tiebreaking goal at 14:30 of the second. Meier knocked in a far-side shot for his first goal of the season.

San Jose's Tomas Hertl opened the scoring during a power play at 2:15 of the first. Hertl flicked his first of the year past goalie Robin Lehner.

After Pominville tied it, Chris Tierney scored with 4:49 left in the first period, poking in a shot between Lehner and the right post off a behind-the-back pass from Joonas Donskoi.

Pominville scored his second goal at 6:50 of the second, burying one at the end of a 2-on-1 break with Jack Eichel.

The Sabres blew a great scoring chance midway through second in a 2-2 game, failing to capitalize on overlapping tripping penalties on Justin Braun and Brent Burns that left them with a 5-on-3 advantage for 47 seconds.

Going into Thursday, the Sabres were 8-1-1 in their last 10 games against the Sharks. Buffalo is 24-8-6 all-time against San Jose.

NOTES: Lehner had 23 saves. ... Sabres F Evander Kane played in his 500th career game. ... The Sharks placed D Paul Martin on injured reserved (ankle) and called up D Joakim Ryan from the San Jose Barracuda. Ryan made his NHL debut.

UP NEXT

Sabres: At the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night.

Sharks: Host the New York Islanders on Saturday night.

Things get weird when the Sharks play the Sabres

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AP

Things get weird when the Sharks play the Sabres

The San Jose Sharks didn’t win their first game against the Buffalo Sabres until their fifth try.

That set the tone for a matchup that’s been entirely one-sided since, in favor of the Sabres. It doesn’t matter if they line up against Pat LaFontaine or Jack Eichel, if the Sabres are wearing blue and gold, red and black, or blue and gold again: San Jose has not been able to beat Buffalo consistently.

It’s been the perfect storm, really. Take a small sample size (37 matchups over 25 seasons), throw in the league’s parity, and the sport’s inherent randomness and you get one logic-defying stretch over a quarter-century. 

With that in mind, here are some facts that best epitomize just how much the Sharks have struggled against the Sabres. 

The Sharks have given up four or more goals 20 times 

No team has scored more goals per game against the Sharks than the Sabres (3.79). In 20 of those 37 games, Buffalo has scored four or more goals. It’s hard to win when you give up four goals every other time you play a team. 

And get this: every permanent coach in Sharks history has coached a game in which Buffalo’s scored five or more goals. Even one-year wonders Jim Wiley and Al Sims! It’s essentially a rite of passage at this point.

The Sharks have a losing record when they outshoot the Sabres

Your eyes do not deceive you: San Jose’s outshot Buffalo 18 times, and only won four times. Shots aren’t the end-all, be-all, and there were no doubt games in which Buffalo dominated and the Sharks outshot them after failing to mount a comeback.

But only four wins over that stretch? Meanwhile, the Sabres have had no problem beating the Sharks when they get the edge in shots, winning 10 out of 16 times. 

Are we completely sure there isn’t a curse at play? 

The Sharks have never won consecutive games against the Sabres

This is the granddaddy of them all. The Sharks have simply never pulled off a winning streak against Buffalo.. Last season was the first time they’ve picked up points in consecutive games, losing the first in overtime and winning the second in regulation.

The Sharks have managed to win consecutive games against all but one franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights. Vegas also didn’t play a game until last week and didn’t exist as a franchise a year-and-a-half ago. 

The Sharks have winning streaks against the old Jets and the new Jets. They have winning streaks against the Coyotes, who were the old Jets, and the Thrashers, who are the new Jets. How absurd is that? 

That can all change tonight at SAP Center, since the Sharks won the last match-up in March. If the history of this series has showed us one thing, though, it’s to expect things to get weird.