Sharks

Greiss to start for Sharks vs. Columbus

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Greiss to start for Sharks vs. Columbus

Columbus (10-23-5) vs. Sharks (21-11-4) at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California.

SAN JOSE -- Thomas Greiss will make his first start tonight since Dec. 3, as the Sharks host the continually-struggling Columbus Blue Jackets. Greiss will be backed up by Antti Niemi, and not Antero Niittymaki, who has yet to play but has considered himself ready since returning from a rehab assignment two weeks ago.

For the Sharks, tonights matchup against Columbus resembles a similar scene to last night -- facing an opponent who is far more capable on the ice than the standings suggest Respectively the Anaheim Ducks are 14th in the Western Conference standings, whereas the Blue Jackets (10-23-5) are last.

Their record probably isnt of late, indicative of the way theyve played, Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said of the Jackets. They are strong along the boards, a strong cycle team. Their goaltending is starting to settle in and theyre getting some work done on their special teams. So, I think weve got our hands full.

Not to mention the Sharks are also facing the brunt of their January schedule; they're playing their third game in four nights.

Im not worried about that, Dan Boyle said. Weve got to be ready to play. Were professionals, and the excuses are there. We came in late last night, back to back, they (Columbus) are here waiting for us. But we cant look at that, weve just got to win hockey games. All you have to do is look at our board (in the players lounge), its too tight, too tight. We need these points.

Considering that the Sharks still have several games in hand against every team in the top 8, the standings are tight. So are the results recently for San Jose. Nine of the last 11 contests have been decided by a single goal. I asked the McLellan how that affects his team.

We cant waste minutes, McLellan said. When you look back and you use that stat you just talked about the one-goal difference, that can come in the first minute, that can come in the first 10 minutes if you take your time wading into the game, and you waste minutes you never get the opportunity to get them back.

You want to say its a good thing, Boyle said of the close calls. But obviously youd like to create some more breathing room. You look around the league and its tight certainly for us, there hasnt been too many blowouts this year. The Tampa game was an exception, but other than that, I guess it kind of prepares you for playoffs. Thats what it usually ends up being in the playoffs.

Quick Hits:
- Tommy Wingels was recalled from the AHLs Worcester Sharks after 21 points in 29 games. McLellan on Wingels: He has played extremely well down there. Ive been told that he is one of the best players in the American League, and thats exciting to know that he can come up and be that guy that we can count on for some big shifts especially after three games in four nights. Theres a good chance we will see him tonight.
- Andrew Murray on the struggles of a Columbus team he played three seasons with: I think its surprising for everybody, and frustrating for them. You would not have thought that at the beginning of the season.
- Boyle says he was a bit surprised to be voted on so highly in the fans All-Star balloting. Boyle finished 18th among all NHL defensemen with Brent Burns right behind him at 19th.

Time is now for Sharks to experiment with new lines

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USATSI

Time is now for Sharks to experiment with new lines

The San Jose Sharks were shut out for the first time this season on Thursday night, but it sure didn't feel like it.

You’d be forgiven, albeit mistaken, if you didn't think the loss was their first goose egg of the season. San Jose’s been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league this year, and has scored two or fewer goals in all but two of their six games in November.

The Sharks controlled play, but their raw possession numbers were misleading: Through the first two periods, San Jose was outshot 23-18, and poured it on in the third looking for the game-tying goal.

In order to break out of his team’s extended slump, head coach Peter DeBoer appeared to throw his lines in the proverbial blender. The changes weren't very significant, though, as DeBoer worked mostly around the edges.

Joe Thornton remained with Joe Pavelski, while Melker Karlsson and Timo Meier rotated in on their wing. Joonas Donskoi swapped in with Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl, and on and on.

The core pair of each line remained intact, while DeBoer swapped complimentary wingers. Subtle changes, unsurprisingly, didn't lead to drastically different results.

He’s been amenable to bigger changes at times, briefly breaking up longtime linemates Thornton and Pavelski last Sunday against Los Angeles. The bottom six, especially the fourth line, has mostly been a revolving door.

That's a start, but far from enough. 

As long as the Sharks struggle to score, similarly significant changes are in order.

DeBoer shouldn't want to sacrifice the team’s defensive dominance, or its strong possession game. But, the Sharks haven't scored enough through 17 games to justify using the same forward combinations. 

In Thornton and Pavelski’s case, those struggles date back to last season. For just about everyone else, the sample size is getting increasingly more significant as the season approaches the quarter pole.

The Sharks bench boss expressed a willingness to mix up his power play units earlier this week, and needs to do the same at even strength. It's time to try Pavelski on Couture's wing, Meier on Thornton's, or any number of permutations.

Tweaking around the edges hasn't made much of a difference, so far more comprehensive adjustments are not only welcome, but necessary. Of course, DeBoer may not find the perfect lineup solutions.

At this point, though, it's worth a shot. It's hard to imagine the Sharks scoring any less than they have so far this season, and the Sharks need to explore if any line changes can provide a remedy.

Luongo picks up a career first in Panthers win over Sharks

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AP

Luongo picks up a career first in Panthers win over Sharks

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE — Roberto Luongo made 35 saves for his 74th career shutout and the Florida Panthers blanked the San Jose Sharks 2-0 Thursday night on goals by Colton Sceviour and Nick Bjugstad.

Florida coach Bob Boughner won in his return to San Jose. He served as an assistant coach for the Sharks the last two years.

Luongo earned his first shutout of the season and first in 32 games against San Jose.

Martin Jones was nearly as good for the Sharks. He stopped 26 shots, but that wasn't enough to keep the Panthers from winning for the seventh time in their last eight trips to San Jose.

Sharks defenseman Tim Heed had a goal disallowed on a coach's challenge a little less than five minutes into the second period. Replays showed he came into contact with the puck just behind the blue line, making the play offside.

San Jose had another goal overturned after a replay review. Brent Burns took a hard shot that Luongo nearly caught but couldn't handle and it bounced along his pads. Marc-Edouard Vlasic was one of three Sharks trying to poke at the puck and he used his stick to push both the puck and Luongo's pad into the net.

Sceviour scored a minute into the second after digging out the puck along the boards behind the net. He skated around the cage and poked a shot that hit Jones' pads. He took a second shot that got over the goalie's pads and went in.

Sceviour has four points in six games since returning from injury. He had two points in his first six games this season.

The Panthers, who have won three of four, added an insurance goal with less than eight minutes remaining. Radim Vrbata intercepted a pass in the Sharks zone and played it to Jamie McGinn, who got Jones to commit before dishing to Bjugstad for the score.

NOTES: Panthers C Michael Haley received a warm ovation from Sharks fans. He played in San Jose the last couple of years. ... Sharks D Paul Martin missed his 15th game with a lower-body injury, though he has been skating pain-free for the past two weeks. ... Florida center Vincent Trocheck has 12 points in his last 10 games. ... The Sharks have not scored on their past 15 power plays.

UP NEXT

Panthers: At the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

Sharks: Host the Boston Bruins on Saturday.