Injuries showing limits of Sharks' organizational depth


Injuries showing limits of Sharks' organizational depth

Four of the five Sharks on the ice for the team’s first goal on Saturday night finished last year with the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda.

Barclay Goodrow, the goal-scorer, Danny O’Regan, Ryan Carpenter, and Joakim Ryan all played big roles for San Jose’s minor league affiliate. As did Kevin Labanc, Timo Meier, and recently recalled Marcus Sorensen, with the latter two rejoining the team in last spring’s Calder Cup playoffs.

Nearly a third of the Barracuda’s playoff roster is getting a look with the big club, and that doesn’t even include Tim Heed, the Barracuda’s second-leading point producer last year. The Swedish defenseman was placed on Injured Reserve (IR) ahead of Saturday’s game.

Other injuries have pressed San Jose’s youth movement into action. Joonas Donskoi and Paul Martin are also on IR, while Mikkel Boedker and Melker Karlsson missed Saturday’s loss in Tampa Bay.

Donskoi (seven), Boedker, and Karlsson (three each) have scored just over a fifth of San Jose’s 64 goals through 25 games this season. That’s a lot of production, and their absence demonstrates the limits of San Jose's organizational depth.

As The Athletic’s Zachary DeVine noted in late November, there’s really nobody left with the Barracuda for the Sharks to call up. Six of the Barracuda’s eight leading scorers from a season ago are up with the Sharks or on IR, in the case of Heed.

Meier and Labanc aren’t even among that group, but throw them in and that’s essentially the entirety of the Sharks’ NHL-ready youth movement. They may even be the only ones who qualify, as the only players on the roster younger than 23 years old.

As much as the Sharks have touted their youth movement, and as much as the Sharks need them right now, they aren’t yet a transformational group. Nor have they pushed all of the veterans ahead of them out of the lineup.

Saturday night was as difficult of an assignment as they’ll face all season, playing the league’s best team on the second half of a back-to-back. The Sharks played like a team relying on not-ready-for-primetime players to fill in offense.

They were outshot 43-27 in all situations, including 39-26 during five-on-five play. O’Regan, Goodrow, and Carpenter acquitted themselves nicely, holding a slight puck possession edge in a little over 11 minutes together.

Of course, they also finished 18th, 17th, and 16th, respectively, on the team in five-on-five ice time.

The season is only 25 games old, and there’s time yet for the Sharks’ youth movement to fully establish themselves. Heed, when healthy, and Ryan arguably have, while Meier’s spent time on the top line.

The youth movement will remain on full display while the Sharks deal with injuries. Staying there when the team is fully healthy, however, may prove too difficult.


Kane leads Sharks to critical win on four-goal night

Kane leads Sharks to critical win on four-goal night


CALGARY, Alberta -- Evander Kane scored four goals to lead the San Jose Sharks past the Calgary Flames 7-4 on Friday night.

Tomas Hertl had a goal and an assist for the Sharks, who have won three straight and four of five. Kevin Lebanc and Eric Fehr also scored, and Martin Jones made 30 saves.

It was the first NHL hat trick for Kane, acquired from Buffalo just before the Feb. 26 trade deadline.

Micheal Ferland had a goal and an assist for the Flames, who are four points out of a playoff spot. Troy BrouwerMark Jankowski and Johnny Gaudreau also scored for Calgary.

Three nights after stopping all 28 shots he faced against the Oilers, Calgary goalie Mike Smith had a rough outing as he made just 14 saves before being replaced by David Rittich early in the third period. Rittich went on to stop all seven shots he faced in a relief appearance.

The Sharks opened the scoring six minutes into the first period when Kane's wrist shot beat Smith to the glove side.

The Flames pulled even at 16:42 when Brouwer chipped a pass from Curtis Lazar into the top corner behind Jones. Matt Stajan stole the puck from Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon behind the San Jose net to get the play started.

Jankowski took a pass from linemate Garnet Hathaway and wired a shot to the top corner, glove side behind Jones to put Calgary up 2-1 at 2:10 of the second period.

Kane then redirected Dillon's point shot past Smith at 6:29 before Gaudreau cut into the slot and snapped a shot past Jones at 10:16 to put Calgary back up by a goal.

That lead lasted just 1:26 as Lebanc fired a shot from a sharp angle into the top corner past Smith to pull the Sharks into a 3-all tie.

Kane completed his hat trick at 16:32 when he swatted in his own rebound before Hertl poked the puck through Smith's legs with 1:58 remaining before the second intermission.

The Sharks added an insurance goal 62 seconds into the third when Kane redirected a pass from Joe Pavelski past Smith.

Ferland backhanded a shot past Jones to pull Calgary within two goals with 5:35 left in regulation and Rittich on the bench for an extra attacker. Fehr rounded out the scoring with an empty-net goal 1:37 later.

NOTES: Jankowski suited up for the Flames after sitting out Tuesday's 1-0 win over Edmonton. Fellow forward Kris Versteeg returned to Calgary's lineup after missing the past 49 games with a hip injury. ... Gaudreau extended his point streak to six games (three goals, five assists).


Sharks: At the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night.

Flames: At the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday.

Jones set for big workload down the stretch


Jones set for big workload down the stretch

Sharks goaltender Martin Jones is on pace for the lightest overall workload of his career as a starter. After starting 65 games in his first two seasons in San Jose, Jones can only play a maximum of 62 if he appears in each of the team's 12 remaining games. 

Yet simultaneously, he is also on pace for the largest stretch-run workload of his career. Jones will make his 10th straight start, and 51st overall, Friday night in Calgary. 

Friday will also mark his eighth consecutive start since the trade deadline. Over the last two seasons, Jones made 13 and 14 starts, respectively, from the deadline onwards. 

It's easy to envision Jones far surpassing that workload. Entering Mar. 16 each of the last two years, the Sharks held, respectively, 10-point and 18-point leads over the West's ninth-place team, the closest among the squads on the outside looking in at the postseason. As a result, James Reimer and Aaron Dell spelled Jones for eight and seven starts, respectively, to keep him rested ahead of the postseason. 

This year, San Jose's only three points clear of the ninth-place Anaheim Ducks. There's also only one back-to-back remaining on the post-deadline schedule, compared to five in 2016-17 and two in 2015-16, and 10 of the next 12 games are against teams within four points of a playoff spot. 

Taking all of that into consideration, Jones should pretty easily exceed the mark of 14 post-trade deadline starts he set last season and ultimately start more than 60 games for the third consecutive season, barring injury. 

Should the Sharks clinch a playoff spot, it will be fair to wonder what kind of effect Jones' stretch-run starts will have on his postseason performance. Jones posted a .923 save percentage in San Jose's run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016, and a .935 save percentage in the first round last year after receiving a good amount of time off. 

But the Sharks have to get there first, and it's understandable they will rely on Jones in order to do so. The recently-extended Aaron Dell remains one of the league's better backups, but has come a bit back down to earth this season (.914 save percentage) after earning the role last year (.931). 

Jones, for his part, has handled the increased workload well so far, winning five of nine games and posting a .922 save percentage. How well handles his 10th consecutive start, and any that follow, will have a profound impact on the Sharks' hopes of making the playoffs.