Sharks

Clowe: Sharks' mindset the same

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Clowe: Sharks' mindset the same

SAN JOSE Its already been well documented that the Sharks are in unfamiliar territory, compared with every season since the end of the NHL work stoppage.

The calendar reads March 26, and the Sharks are not in playoff position as they get set to face the Colorado Avalanche. Instead, theyre going to have to take care of their own business while keeping an eye on the scoreboard much more than in the past six seasons when the playoffs were already a certainly by now.

Ryane Clowe has been here for all of them (although he played in just 18 games with the Sharks in 2005-06). Hes not used to the position the Sharks are in, but still senses a confident club that can get just as far in the playoffs, or further, than the teams of yesteryear.

Heres Clowes long and thoughtful response when I asked him this morning how the teams mindset might be different this season.

Obviously the mindset is, get in. Were playing pretty urgent hockey here, you could say with a little desperation lately, which is a good sign. Sometimes that doesnt happen when youve got a comfortable position in the playoffs.

We have the same mindset in that if we get in, we feel like we can do the same amount of damage we would be able to do in previous years. Its not like getting in just to get in; our mindset is still that ultimate goal like weve always had. Obviously, youve got to make the playoffs first. We feel like we are going to make it.

There was not a whole lot of feeling around, even when we were struggling a bit, that were not going to make it, or, wow this really might happen. Its always been like, dont worry, were going to make it, were going to make it. Well be fine. Weve got a good enough team. Like I said, the playoffs, we feel the same way we always have. We make the playoffs, we want to win the Cup. The mindset really hasnt changed there.

Todd McLellan was presented with the same question. Not surprisingly, the coach wants to believe that having to battle to get in could end up helping his club in the postseason.

This year the playoffs arrived a month early. The stress and the intensity around the locker room is a little tighter and its not as loose as its been in the past. Maybe thats a good thing for our team, McLellan said.

Recovered from injuries, Joonas Donskoi returning to form just in time for Sharks

Recovered from injuries, Joonas Donskoi returning to form just in time for Sharks

Joonas Donskoi’s first goal of the season all but sealed the Sharks’ 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.

It was also a long time coming, too. The Finnish forward finished a chance for the first time in 28 regular season games, 33 if you include his goal-less postseason. He last scored on January 7, when Patrick Marleau was a Shark and San Jose still held a share of the Pacific Division lead.

He struggled mightily after that, largely due to injury. Donskoi separated his shoulder not once, but twice last season, and revealed to The Athletic this week that he also dealt with “foot issues.” He spent over a month on injured reserve and managed just three assists in his final 22 games as a result.

With health on his side, Donskoi’s returned to his rookie year form. Through six games, he's registered three points, all at even strength. That’s tied with Joe Pavelski for the team lead, despite the fact he’s played nearly four minutes less per game at even strength than the captain.

He’s done a lot in less ice time, scoring five-on-five points at a higher rate per 60 minutes than any player on the team, according to Natural Stat Trick. He’s done a lot against lesser competition, too, taking advantage of his assignments in Peter DeBoer’s bottom six forward group.

That’s an important development, given the disappearance of San Jose’s depth scoring last season. Only four Sharks forwards cracked 40 points last season, and one of them is in Toronto. Most damning, though, is that the same number managed to score 30 or more points last year. The Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, by contrast, had eight forwards score 30 points in the regular season.

It’s still early in the season, but Donskoi’s underlying numbers indicate this level of play is built to last. His personal shooting percentage is below his career-high, and the Sharks are scoring on a reasonable 6.52% of their shots with Donskoi on the ice in five-on-five situations. That’s only half-a-percentage point higher than San Jose’s rate during Donskoi’s injury-riddled 2016-17.

Donskoi will undoubtedly hit some bumps in the road, but after struggling so much last season, it appears the 25-year-old is back on track. If the Sharks are to improve on last season, they desperately need depth scorers.

Thanks to Donskoi’s resurgence, they just might have found one.

Sharks win second straight, beat Devils to start road trip

Sharks win second straight, beat Devils to start road trip

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. — Martin Jones made 28 saves for his first shutout of the season and 16th overall in the San Jose Sharks' 3-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.

Melker Karlsson, Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi scored and Justin Braun had two assists to help the Sharks open a five-game East Coast trip.

Keith Kinkaid, the top goalie for New Jersey with Cory Schneider on injured reserve, stopped 30 shots as the Devils' three-game winning streak came to an end.

The Devils couldn't muster a strong push in the later stages against the rested Sharks. It was New Jersey's second game two nights following a 5-4 overtime victory in Ottawa. And it showed against the Sharks, who played a solid road game, pressed their advantage and solidly supported Jones.

Karlsson scored the lone goal of the opening period at 14:11 on a close-in shot following a slick behind-the-net setup pass from Tomas Hertl.

The shots were 13 for each team in the evenly played period. The Devils came close on several occasions as former Shark Mirco Mueller and Blake Coleman both hit the crossbar and Jones robbed Drew Stafford on a dead-on drive from the slot.

Pavelski and Donskoi got second-period goals as the Sharks steadily tightened their grip on the game.

Pavelski tipped in Braun's point shot at 5:49. Joe Thornton got the second assist, his 1,395th point, to pass Luc Robitaille for 21st on the career list.

Donskoi backhanded a rebound shot with 1:10 left in the period in which the Sharks outshot the Devils 11-6.

The remaining drama centered on Jones' shutout bid.

NOTES: The Devils placed Schneider on injured reserve Friday with a lower-body injury and recalled Scott Wedgewood from Binghamton of the American Hockey League to serve as Kinkaid's backup. ... Mueller, a healthy scratch in three of the previous four games, returned for the Devils to face the Sharks, the team that drafted him in the first round, for the first time. He was dealt to New Jersey over the summer.

UP NEXT

Sharks: At the New York Islanders on Saturday night.

Devils: Host Ottawa on Friday night.