Sharks

Couture's Team Alfredsson falls 12-9 in NHL All-Star game

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Couture's Team Alfredsson falls 12-9 in NHL All-Star game

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OTTAWA (APCSN) Marian Gaborik made New York Rangers teammate Henrik Lundqvist pay for not selecting him to play for Daniel Alfredsson's team in the NHL All-Star game.Gaborik beat Lundqvist twice in the first period, finished with three goals and an assist, and earned MVP honors in leading Team Chara to a 12-9 win over Team Alfredsson on Sunday.
Logan Couture, the Sharks' lone representative in the game, had an assist and four shots in just over 13 minutes of ice time.

Tim Thomas made 18 saves in the final period, and extended his record by winning his fourth All-Star game.Chara, with the eventual winning goal, Marian Hossa and Corey Perry broke the game open by scoring three times in a span of 1:22 that put their club ahead 11-8 with 6:34 remaining.Despite the loss, Alfredsson rewarded his hometown fans by leading his team with two goals and an assist. The Senators captain also hinted afterward that he is considering coming back for one more season.In an interview broadcast on the arena's scoreboard, Alfredsson was asked about his future.With a smile on his face, and fans cheering his name, Alfredsson said: "Fifty percent yes, and my wife's going to have to decide the other 50."Henrik Sedin had a goal and two assists for Team Alfredsson.Gaborik became the 16th player to score at least three goals - one short of matching the record - in the All-Star game, and first since Rick Nash had three in 2008.The outcome was decided in the final period, in which Team Chara outscored Team Alfredsson 6-3.Hossa broke an 8-8 tie by scoring on a partial breakaway after being set up by Pavel Datsyuk with 7:56 left. Settling the puck, Hossa stopped in front and then backhanded a shot past Brian Elliott.Chara gave his club a 10-8 lead when Gaborik fed him a perfect pass into the middle for a snap shot past Elliott.For Team Chara, Hossa and Jarome Iginla had a goal and two assists, and Joffrey Lupul scored twice.Daniel Sedin, John Tavares, Jason Pominville and Milan Michalek had a goal and assist each for Team Alfredsson.Team Chara got off to a fast start, building a 3-0 lead on Gaborik's second goal 9:51 in. The club was so dominant that it was leading 2-0 before Alfredsson's team got off its first shot.Gaborik certainly enjoyed getting the best of Lundqvist. After scoring his first goal on a give-and-go with Datsyuk, Gaborik circled the net dropped to one knee and pointed his stick at Lundqvist while pumping his fist.Lundqvist jokingly lamented about being beaten three times on eight shots, including twice by his Rangers teammate."There's been a lot of trash talk, but it feels like it's game over already," said Lundqvist, who was wearing a microphone during the opening period.Lundqvist was Alfredsson's assistant captain, and had a hand in the team's drafting philosophy on Thursday.Team Alfredsson rallied to tie the game at 3 before the first period was over. But they didn't get their first - and only lead - until Alfredsson scored twice during a 1:31 span to put his team up 6-5 with just under four minutes left in the second.His first goal came on a great individual effort in which Alfredsson, dragging the puck behind him, split defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Ryan Suter, and flipped a shot that sneaked inside the right post to beat goalie Carey Price.Alfredsson's second goal came on a wonderful passing play courtesy of Daniel and Henrik Sedin, whom Alfredsson was looking forward to play with when he drafted the twins. Henrik Sedin drove up the left wing, fed a pass through the crease to his twin brother, who then redirected to the high slot, where Alfredsson slapped it home.Price allowed three goals on 14 shots, and had lamented the All-Star game's lack of defense during the first intermission."I feel like being a lamb getting led to slaughter," Price said. "I'm must be holding on for the ride today and hope I don't get lit up too bad."Alfredsson nearly had a third goal nine minutes into third period, when he one-timed a shot off the left postThe game was missing the NHL's most high-profile stars in Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. Crosby has been limited to playing just eight games this season as a result of a concussion, and has also been diagnosed with a neck injury, making it unclear when or if he will play at all this season.Ovechkin backed out last week after the NHL suspended him three games for an illegal hit.The game featured 17 first-time All-Stars, 10 playing on Team Alfredsson. Team Chara's roster had the edge over Team Alfredsson in combined games played (10,227-8,425, not including goalies), career goals (2,850-2,286) and career points (7,394-6,164).Steven Stamkos was awarded a penalty shot with 3:27 left in the first period after he was tripped up by Dion Phaneuf.On the penalty shot, Stamkos - who leads the NHL with 32 goals - attempted the same spin-around move he used to beat Price in the skills competition on Saturday night. Howard didn't bite on Sunday, holding his ground and hugging the post to stop Stamkos' attempt.It was the second penalty shot taken in an All-Star game. The other was last year in at Raleigh, N.C., when Colorado's Matt Duchene was stopped by Lundqvist.

Sharks have tall task avoiding holiday hangover in Vegas

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AP

Sharks have tall task avoiding holiday hangover in Vegas

Once they entered the league, many joked that the Vegas Golden Knights would have the best home-ice advantage in the league.

Sure, the novelty of a new team would get fans excited, but it was the team’s presence on the Las Vegas Strip that would give the expansion team an edge. After all, they call it “Sin City” for a reason, and it’s not for the ride in.

Nobody could have expected them to be this good at home.

The Golden Knights are 8-1-0 at T-Mobile Arena, and have the league’s highest winning percentage at home. They’ve outscored opponents by 18 goals, and their 4.33 goals per home game is the third-best mark in the entire league.

The Sharks will thus face their toughest road test of the season on Friday night, in a game that they’re almost designed to lose. Early afternoon games mean there’s no morning skate, but an early afternoon game the day after Thanksgiving? In Las Vegas?

Blackjack players have better luck hitting on 20.

In fact, Vegas’ home slate is littered with early starts: 12 of their 41 home games occur before the traditional 7-or-7:30 p.m. slot. Some of that is undoubtedly due to travel, of course, as the Sharks will play on the first night of a back-to-back on Friday.

But the effect is nonetheless apparent: T-Mobile Arena has become a fortress.

The same can be said about any number of arenas in cities known for their nightlife, such as the Miami Heat’s home at American Airlines Arena, located less than 10 miles from South Beach. Vegas is another matter entirely.

It doesn’t help that the Golden Knights have, home ice advantage aside, played like a playoff team. Adjusting for score effects and venue, Vegas ranks 13th and ninth, respectively, in the two major puck possession metrics: corsi-for percentage (shot attempts) and fenwick-for percentage (unblocked shot attempts).

They’ve also had luck that gamblers on the strip would envy, thriving despite being down to fourth-string goaltender Maxime Lagace because of injuries to the goalies ahead of him. Vegas has played extremely well in front of him in spite of that, and have won three straight since getting shellacked in Edmonton 10 days ago.

In spite of almost every piece of available logic heading into the season, the Vegas Golden Knights are good. Almost every piece, of course, because their home-ice advantage is simultaneously the most logical thing in the world.

In Las Vegas, it usually doesn’t pay to bet against the house.

Sharks should be thankful for these two players on Thanksgiving

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USATSI

Sharks should be thankful for these two players on Thanksgiving

The San Jose Sharks woke up this Thanksgiving and found themselves in a playoff spot, albeit barely. 

They hold the second and final wild card spot by the thinnest of margins, edging out the Colorado Avalanche not on points, games played, regulation and overtime wins, but a single goal in the goal differential column. 

As early as it is, it’s a critical time to be in playoff position. Since the NHL expanded to 30 teams in 2000, 79 percent of teams holding playoff spots on Thanksgiving made the postseason. 

If the Sharks avoid becoming a member of the dreaded 21 percent, they’ll have two players to thank, more than anyone else, for their good fortune: Logan Couture and Martin Jones. 

Couture, along with Joonas Donskoi, seems to be the only Shark unaffected by a team-wide scoring bug. Even as he’s cooled off slightly, his 11 goals are still tied for 10th-most in the league. 

He’s held a positive share of puck possession on the ice, despite starting the fourth-lowest percentage of his shifts in the offensive zone among Sharks forwards that have played at least 50 minutes this season, according to Corsica Hockey

Couture also leads the team in power play scoring with three goals, and is one of only three San Jose players that’s scored multiple times on the man advantage. It’s hard to imagine the league’s fourth-worst power play (15.1 percent) getting worse, but it undoubtedly would be without the 28-year-old.

While Couture has stood out among a hapless offense, Jones has led one of the league’s best defensive units. The Sharks are among the best teams at limiting shots and scoring chances across all situations, but Jones has not let them down. 

Although his .922 even-strength save percentage is 27th among 51 goalies that have played at least 200 minutes, San Jose’s given him a razor thin margin of error. He had the fifth-lowest goal support of any goalie entering last night, as statistician Darin Stephens noted, and his play has been good enough to keep the Sharks in games in spite of that. 

Jones has also led the way for the league’s best penalty kill, posting a .940 save percentage in shorthanded situations. That’s the best mark among goalies that have faced at least 80 shots on the penalty kill, according to Stephens.

The sustainability of Jones’ penalty kill dominance and Couture’s 20.8 shooting percentage is an open question, but their importance to the team early in the season cannot be overstated. They’ve helped keep the Sharks afloat, and in a playoff spot with history on their side at the critical Thanksgiving mark. 

The Sharks need to not only let them have extra helpings during their holiday feast, but find a way to give them more help on the ice too.