Sharks

Handzus: 'I know I can play better'

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Handzus: 'I know I can play better'

COLUMBUS When the Sharks acquired spunky center Dominic Moore from the Tampa Bay Lightning late last week and inserted him into the lineup, it was obvious whose place he was taking when he made his debut on Friday night in Carolina.

The 31-year-old center started the game between Jamie McGinn and Torrey Mitchell the same place Michal Handzus has been for virtually the entire season.

In fact, the Handzus-McGinn-Mitchell combination has been coach Todd McLellans most consistent threesome this year. That is, before Doug Wilson sent a second round pick to the Lightning in exchange for Moore and a seventh rounder.

Against Carolina, Handzus played a team-low of just seven minutes and 21 seconds while playing on the fourth line. On Sunday in Detroit, Handzus started the game on the wing with Moore and Jamie McGinn and played 13:03, still less than his season average of almost 15 minutes.

Todd McLellan gave his thoughts on Handzus season after an optional skate at Nationwide Arena on Monday.

I think Zeus has gone in spurts throughout the year where hes been really good, and then it kind of falls off a little bit. Right now, wed like to see him get it going a little bit more, said McLellan. Hes very much a pro. Youre able to sit and talk with him and communicate. He knows that. He knows it.

Handzus offense hasnt dropped off, as his 22 points in 56 games actually puts him ahead of his pace of 30 points in 82 last season while he was still with the Los Angeles Kings.

The more alarming number when looking at the stats is that Handzus, 34, has a -3 rating: not always an accurate number of how a player is playing defensively, but still the third worst on the team ahead of Colin White (-5), who has not been very effective this season, and Jason Demers (-7), who had a nightmarish October.

Even Handzus has a hard time pointing out what specifically he can improve upon just that he wants to play better.

Its all different things. Nothing specific there, but I know I can play better. Ive been through it before so Im just trying to focus on the positives and get better, he said.

Handzus is the definition of a consummate professional, and theres little doubt that hes helped McGinn improve in what is easily McGinns best season as a pro. McGinn has said numerous times that Handzus has helped him not just on the ice, but off, in terms of talking and communicating about what it takes to be successful.

While Handzus appears to be the quiet type in the locker room, it sounds like hes anything but when it comes to trying to help out his linemates and teammates in general. It's also the reason McLellan has said that Handzus would make an excellent coach one day.

As for the acquisition of Moore Handzus has been around long enough that he doesnt need another player in the fold pushing him to play better.

Thats got to come from within.

If I was to be pushed by somebody coming in, I think thats wrong. I know I havent been happy with myself. Moore is going to help us for sure, and hes a very good player whos played a lot of big games and played very well. I dont look at it that way.

Zeus has been a real valuable player to our team, McLellan said. When we play this many games on the road, we have to watch his minutes and have to watch fatigue. I think Dominic can come in and alleviate some of that, at times. Theyre both going to be important players down the stretch, and as far as we go.
Taking the option: The Sharks held an optional skate on Monday at Nationwide Arena, and the majority of the team decided to take that option and not skate on what was the midway point of the 16-day trek.

"Well try and use our time wisely and rest up, because we will be playing a lot of hockey from here on out," Joe Pavelski said.

The Sharks visit the Maple Leafs on Thursday, Predators on Saturday and Wild on Sunday before returning home next Tuesday to host Philadelphia.

Sharks winger Joonas Donskoi has officially arrived

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AP

Sharks winger Joonas Donskoi has officially arrived

It turns out the top-six winger the Sharks needed to replace Patrick Marleau was on the roster all along.

Joonas Donskoi skated on Logan Couture’s line in Monday night’s shootout loss to the Ducks, and was San Jose’s best player. He scored the Sharks’ only two goals, and tied for the team-lead among forwards with four shots on net.

Donskoi added another goal in the ninth-round shootout, but his two goals in regulation were his sixth and seventh on the season. With those goals, he surpassed his total from an injury-riddled campaign a year ago, and stands three tallies clear as San Jose’s second-leading goal-scorer this season.

Due to Melker Karlsson’s injury, Donskoi skated with the Sharks’ leading goal-scorer, Logan Couture, and rekindled the strong chemistry the pair has shown since the Finnish winger arrived in San Jose in 2015.

Of the nine lines Couture has skated on for at least 50 minutes dating back to the beginning of the 2015-16 season, the three best in terms of puck possession have had Donskoi on his wing. Those three combinations have controlled at least 54 percent of the five-on-five shot attempts, according to Corsica Hockey.

Adding Tomas Hertl, who’s already a strong possession player, to that line bodes well for an even stronger second line moving forward. With Karlsson on the wing, the line controlled only 47.7 percent of the shot attempts, per Corsica, meaning the Sharks have been routinely out-possessed with them on the ice.

That was not the case with Donskoi in Karlsson’s place, as Donskoi posted positive possession numbers alongside Couture and Hertl on Monday, according to Natural Stat Trick. The results were there, as evidenced by the game’s opening goal, but it’s a good sign that the process was, too.

The same, frankly, can be said of Donskoi’s entire season up to this point. He likely won’t convert on over 18 percent of his shots all season, of course, but the Sharks have the puck more often than their opponents when he’s on the ice, and should continue to generate pressure, chances, and ultimately goals, even if Donskoi’s personal scoring comes down.

When Karlsson comes back, Donskoi should remain on Couture and Hertl’s line. That would allow the former to slide into a role better-suited to his game, and the latter to bolster San Jose’s top-six forward group.

Donskoi’s earned an extended look in that spot thanks to his resurgence, and subsequent emergence, this season. Thanks to him, replacing Marleau’s production suddenly seems much less daunting.

Two Donskoi goals not enough as Sharks fall to Ducks in shootout

Two Donskoi goals not enough as Sharks fall to Ducks in shootout

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Antoine Vermette beat goalie Martin Jones in the ninth round of a shootout to give the Anaheim Ducks a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Monday night.

Corey Perry, Cam Fowler and Brandon Montour also scored during the tiebreaker for Anaheim.

Joonas Donskoi, Tim Heed and Brent Burns had shootout goals for the Sharks. Tomas Hertl missed his attempt in the ninth round, leaving Vermette a chance to win it.

Perry and Rickard Rakell scored in regulation for the Ducks. Reto Berra made 40 saves in his first start of the season.

Donskoi had two goals for the Sharks, including the tying score in the third period. Jones stopped 28 shots.

Donskoi helped create his own goal by knocking the puck away from a Ducks defender and getting it to Logan Couture for a give-and-go as the Sharks took a 1-0 lead 3:31 into the game.

The Ducks came back in the second period to even the score 45 seconds in. After winning a faceoff in the San Jose zone, Brandon Montour sent a sharp pass to Perry's stick. Perry settled it and fired into the net for the equalizer.

Rakell gave the Ducks a 2-1 advantage midway through the second, just as a power play ended. Perry took a shot that bounced off Jones' pads, and Rakell knocked it into the net before Jones could cover up.

The Sharks snapped an 0-for-17 streak on the power play with a goal midway through the third to tie it. Donskoi tracked down a rebound and flipped it off Berra's right pad and into the net for his second career multi-goal game.

NOTES: Ducks D Cam Fowler returned to action after missing 12 games with a knee injury. ... Sharks C Melker Karlsson missed the game with an upper-body injury. ... Sharks forward Kevin Labanc, who hasn't played much recently, started on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. Donskoi was moved to the second line. ... Ducks G Ryan Miller missed the game with a lower-body injury. Berra made his fourth appearance this season. ... Perry has seven points in his last five games. ... Rakell has a point in seven of his past eight games, with a total of 11 during that span. ... The Sharks scored their second power-play goal in eight November games.

UP NEXT

Ducks: Host the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday.

Sharks: Play at the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday.