Sharks

As Joakim Ryan returns home, Sharks reunite with a former top prospect

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AP

As Joakim Ryan returns home, Sharks reunite with a former top prospect

When Joakim Ryan suits up in his first NHL road game against the New Jersey Devils Friday night, he’ll do so in a familiar place.

Ryan, a New Jersey-born Swede, played for the Devils’ youth program and nearby Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) in high school. In fact, he’s already played at the Prudential Center, skating in the state championship game with CBA in 2009.

He’s not the only one due for something of a homecoming, as the Sharks may see a familiar face line up on the opposing blueline.

This is the Sharks’ first matchup against New Jersey since trading 2013 first round pick Mirco Mueller ahead of June’s Expansion Draft. Mueller was once considered the future on the San Jose blueline, a smooth-skating defenseman with size to boot.

The Swiss defender never fulfilled his potential, in part because his development was rushed from the start. He made the NHL roster as a rookie in 2014-15, almost by default. Other than Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the only defensemen ahead of him on left side of the depth chart were a far past-his-prime Scott Hannan and regular scratch Matt Irwin. Such was the nature of the Sharks’ “step back” that year.

Mueller finally got regular playing time, albeit in the minors, during his second professional season. By then, he was pushed down the organizational depth chart by the team’s acquisitions of Brenden Dillon and Roman Polak, and the development of Dylan DeMelo. David Schlemko’s signing last summer kept Mueller there for most of 2016-17, but it was Ryan and Tim Heed that ensured Mueller’s NHL future would lie elsewhere. The Swedes surpassed him, and emerged as perhaps the AHL’s best defensive pair in the process.

It’s fitting, then, that Ryan and Heed will be in the lineup tonight, and Mueller may not, as the fresh start he needed hasn’t quite panned out. He’s averaging a career-high 18:44 in ice time, but has been scratched in three of New Jersey’s seven games, including Thursday night’s overtime win in Ottawa.

So Ryan comes home to New Jersey under much happier circumstances than Mueller will reunite with the Sharks. One prodigal son returns, and the other is simply trying to save face.

It’s still early in his Devils tenure, of course, and Mueller may yet emerge as a regular on the New Jersey blueline. His Sharks reunion, though, will serve as a reminder of what once was, what could have been, and what is now San Jose’s future on defense.

Sharks erase three-goal deficit, but fall to to Golden Knights in OT

Sharks erase three-goal deficit, but fall to to Golden Knights in OT

BOX SCORE

LAS VEGAS — Jonathan Marchessault took a pass from Shea Theodore and poked the game-winning goal past Aaron Dell to give the Vegas Golden Knights a 5-4 overtime victory over the San Jose Sharks on Friday.

William Karlsson scored two goals for Vegas, and Shea Theodore and James Neal had a goal apiece.

The Sharks came into the game with the fourth-worst goals per game average (2.45) but got goals from Brent Burns, Chris Tierney and Mikkel Boedker in the second period to tie the game at 4.

San Jose had a goal reversed early in the third period when Joonas Donskoi's skate collided with goalie Malcolm Subban's skate in the crease.

Subban started the third period, replacing Vegas starter Maxime Lagace, who stopped 19 of the 23 shots he saw in the first two periods.

Theodore opened the scoring with his first goal of the season less than three minutes into the game, when his wrist shot beat Martin Jones on the glove side.

Neal made it 2-0 with his 12th goal of the season, a wrist shot that tethered the upper corner on Jones' blocker side.

Tomas Hertl cut Vegas' lead in half when he found Joonas Donskoi's backhand pass through Theodore's legs and stuffed it past Lagace.

Karlsson chased Jones 10 seconds into in the second period with his 11th goal of the season, and then welcomed Dell to the game with his 12th of the campaign.

Jones stopped 11 shots, while Dell stopped 17 of 19.

Subban stopped all three shots he saw.

NOTES

Vegas W David Perron left the game with an undisclosed injury and did not return. ... Golden Knights C Cody Eakin played in his 400th career game. ... Burns played in his 900th career game. ... Joel Ward's two assists gave him 300 career points. ... With his goal in the second period, Boedker is now three goals away from 100 in his career. ... Comedian Brad Garrett attended the game.

UP NEXT

San Jose: Hosts Winnipeg on Saturday.

Vegas: Plays at Arizona on Saturday.

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.