Kings

Sharks visit Detroit in battle of hot teams

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Sharks visit Detroit in battle of hot teams

Feb. 22, 2011
SHARKS (33-21-6) vs.
DETROIT (37-16-6)

DETROIT (AP) -- The Detroit Red Wings have won five straight to build a 10-point lead in the Central Division. The San Jose Sharks have been one of the hottest teams in the NHL over the last month, but are still in a precarious position.

The Sharks are the club in greater need of points as they open a three-game road trip against the Red Wings on Tuesday night.

Detroit (37-16-6) has the third-highest point total in the league and trails Vancouver by five for the Western Conference lead. The Red Wings are on their longest run since winning seven in a row March 20-April 1, 2010.

San Jose (33-21-6), however, has been hotter since Jan. 15, with 25 points from 15 games compared to Detroit's 20 points in that span. Only New Jersey and Calgary have more points over that stretch.

The Sharks' 72 points, though, only put them slightly ahead of two teams with 70 and several more with 68 that are fighting for the West's last few playoff spots.

"We're not out of the woods," coach Todd McLellan said. "Tough road trip coming up."

San Jose will face Detroit, Pittsburgh and Calgary on the road swing. The Sharks and Red Wings have split two meetings in 2010-11, with each winning on the road.

Antti Niemi has been a major reason for the Sharks' surge, going 11-2-1 with a 1.77 goals-against average while starting every game since Jan. 15. He notched his third shutout in the last eight outings with a 25-save performance in a 4-0 victory over Colorado on Saturday.

"It always looks good when the team is playing so well," Niemi said. "For me, it's more experience, more comfort and being more patient."

Niemi has posted a 1.63 GAA in winning all three of his starts at Joe Louis Arena.

Devin Setoguchi recorded his first career hat trick Saturday as San Jose's top three goal scorers - Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley - failed to score.

REWIND: Setoguchi's hat trick leads Sharks' rout of Avs

"I think early in the year we tried to rely on certain individuals to carry the team and when they weren't going well, we didn't get a push from anybody underneath them," McLellan said. "And right now, everybody seems to be finding a way."

The former Red Wings assistant probably won't be happy to see Detroit winger Todd Bertuzzi, who has six goals in his last five games.

The 36-year-old Bertuzzi failed to score in his 1,000th game Sunday, though he came through with the shootout winner in a 2-1 victory at Minnesota. He became the 263rd player in NHL history to reach the milestone.

"It's pretty special. Pretty cool," Bertuzzi said.

The Red Wings won a defensive battle after scoring 20 goals over their previous four games. Dan Cleary has six points during the team's five-game run.

Both clubs excel on the power play, with San Jose at 22.8 percent and Detroit at 20.8. The Sharks have three power-play goals in their last two contests following an 0-for-11 drought, while the Red Wings are in a 6-for-50 slump.

Detroit's Jimmy Howard has a league-leading 30 victories and is 3-1-1 with a 2.56 GAA in his career against San Jose.

After tough start to season, Kings make organizational shift towards youth

After tough start to season, Kings make organizational shift towards youth

The time has come. After losing five straight and 10 of their last 12 games, the Sacramento Kings sit at the bottom of the Western Conference standings at 13-30. With playoffs well out of reach, the team is making an organizational decision to go young.

You could say that the Kings made this decision last February when they dealt DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans. You could also point to draft day 2017 when the team traded down and turned the 10th overall selection into picks 15 and 20, giving the team three first round selections, an early second rounder and rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic coming from overseas.

Sacramento walked into the 2017-18 campaign with ten players on rookie scale deals, including nine first round selections with two years of NBA experience or less.

After a rocky first half, the team is going to a complete youth movement. The plan is for the veteran core of George Hill, Garrett Temple, Kosta Koufos, Vince Carter and Zach Randolph to rotate in and out of the lineup over the final 40 games of the season. 

Both management and the coaching staff is on the same page with the decision, NBC Sports California has confirmed. Two or three players will sit each night as they team explores what they have in youngsters.

"Going forward, what I'm going to do is, we're going to play a rotation where two of our five veterans are going to be out every night. It might be some times there'll be three. It's an opportunity for some other guys to get some minutes as we go throughout the course of the season. I've got it laid out...I've got about five or six games laid out, and every week I'll go out again because you want to communicate with those guys when they're not going to play. Other guys, they've got to be ready. If you're in the first three years of your contract, you can expect to play a little, or a lot, or none, but you should be ready to play," Joerger told the media after the Kings' loss to the Thunder on Monday night.

Developing young players was the top priority coming into the season. With the team struggling, the franchise's decision to speed up the transition from veterans to inexperienced players comes as no surprise.

Prized first round selection De’Aaron Fox has already 22 of 35 appearances for the Kings and is settling into the starting point guard position. Since returning from injury, the 20-year-old out of Kentucky is posting 14.3 points and 6.7 assists over 32.5 minutes per game.

Despite early season struggles with consistency, the fifth overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft is improving. With the ideological shift in direction by the franchise, it is now Fox’s show, but he’s not the only one expected to produce.

Willie Cauley-Stein has taken a huge leap forward in his third season with the team as well. After struggles in his first two years in the league, Cauley-Stein is averaging career-highs in points (12.0), rebounds (6.5), assists (2.2), steals (.9), blocks (.8) and minutes played (26.2).

With his confidence at an all-time high, Cauley-Stein is going to be asked to do even more with a reduction of minutes by Zach Randolph. The lanky 7-footer will have an opportunity to prove he is a go-to weapon in the final 40 games of the season.

The Kings have a pair of wings that appear ready to excel in Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield.

Bogdanovic has made tremendous strides through his first few months in the league and he’s clearly ready for a bigger role. The presence of Hill and Temple has forced Bogdanovic to play out of position at the small forward position.

The 25-year-old Serbian has already seen a surge in minutes and production during the month of January. Bogdanovic has scored in double-figures all six games this month and he’s averaging 15.3 points on 55 percent shooting from field and 50 percent from long range. He has a maturity to his game after spending years playing professionally in Europe and Joerger has relied heavily on him throughout the early season.

Hield has improved in year two, especially on the defensive end. He came out of Oklahoma as a pure scorer and hasn’t disappointed. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard is shooting over 44 percent from 3-point range this season and showing a good feel for the game as a volume scorer off the bench.

The front office and coaching staff have an outline of what Fox, Cauley-Stein, Bogdanovic and Hield project as players, but there are plenty of other youngsters on the roster that the club needs more time to assess.

Skal Labissiere has fought his way out of a rough patch and is showing signs of improvement. His rebounding numbers have steadily jumped up and he’s figuring out how to defend stretch fours on the perimeter.

Before his injury, Frank Mason III was making strides as the team’s backup point guard. The second round pick is solid, but struggled with his shot before going down with a plantar fascia injury. He’ll be back in early February and should slide right back into the rotation.

Justin Jackson and Malachi Richardson have taken turns bouncing between the Kings and  the Reno Bighorns. Jackson has a maturity about him on the floor, but he’s been inconsistent with his shot and needs to get stronger.

After earning his way into the rotation last season, Richardson has struggled when given the opportunity this year. He’s worked tirelessly on his body and he’s a great practice 3-point shooter. He’s learning to play the 2, 3 and even some stretch four this season, which shows versatility, but he passes up too many open looks.

Lastly, the Kings have a complete unknown in 7-foot-2 center Georgios Papagiannis. Like Richardson, the giant out of Greece has worked hard to reinvent his body. He’s clearly quicker and more agile than he was in his rookie season, but at 20-years-old, he’s still considered a project.

It might be 10-15 games earlier than expected, but at some point this season, the Kings were going to throw their young players to the wolves and see how they fair. Sitting out games is a tough pill to swallow for veterans, but with just 13 wins through the first three months of the season, the writing has been on the wall for a while.

What the Giants’ farm system lost in trade for Andrew McCutchen

What the Giants’ farm system lost in trade for Andrew McCutchen

San Francisco’s second splash of its offseason reloading plan came to life Monday with the acquisition of outfielder Andrew McCutchen in a trade with the Pirates.

In trading for the five-time All-Star, the Giants held on to top prospects Heliot Ramos, Chris Shaw and Tyler Beede. The win-now move bolstered the Giants’ outfield — one that needed the most help in all of baseball — while the Pirates again have a potential big piece in their outfield with Bryan Reynolds headed to Pittsburgh. 

While the farm system took a win in keeping its biggest names, let’s look at what the Giants’ future lost with the addition of McCutchen. 

Bryan Reynolds, 22, OF
The Giants clearly have their own prospect rankings. Baseball America (5) and MLB Pipeline (4) ranked Reynolds ahead of Steven Duggar, who is the Giants’ No. 8 prospect by Baseball America and No. 6 by MLB Pipeline, after the 2017 season. Duggar is expected to compete for the Giants’ starting job in center field unless they make another big move like signing Lorenzo Cain. 

There’s a reason Reynolds is ranked so high though. The Giants’ top pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, is a switch-hitter who is primarily a center fielder, but like Duggar, he played all three outfield positions in 2017. 

"I think it's too early to dictate if he'll be in a corner or center," Nestor Rojas, Reynolds’ manager for the San Jose Giants, said to me in July. "He's really good and he has the tools to play center field. He's got speed and he's got range. He can do really well in all three." 

Reynolds slashed .312/.364/.462 with 10 home runs at Advanced Single-A this past season. He was the Giants' lone representative at the Futures Game and named San Jose Giants MVP. Even if he never unlocks his power, Reynolds is expected to be a solid big leaguer one day with well-rounded overall tools. 

[READ: How Reynolds went from undrafted to Giants' top 2016 pick]

Kyle Crick, 25, RHP
Crick was expected to be a future ace when the Giants took him No. 49 overall as a high school pitcher back in 2011. Control issues hampered him mightily. 

Down in the minors, Crick flashed dominance on the hill at times with a fastball that reaches the upper 90s. Still, command won the battle and the Giants turned Crick into a reliever. The move may have saved his career. 

As the Sacramento River Cats’ closer in Triple-A last season, Crick recorded six saves with a 2.76 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 29.1 innings pitched. Crick earned his call-up to San Francisco and was solid for the Giants. He put together a 3.06 ERA in 30 games out of the bullpen, giving a glimpse of what he can be in the future. 

Crick has always been full of potential. Now as a reliever, he’s starting to turn it into results at the highest level. The Pirates may have a future shut-down arm in the ‘pen, but in the Giants’ reload, there are plenty of in-house options that can do the job he was expected to do in 2018.