NHL Gameday: Boedker back in as Sharks look to halt losing streak


NHL Gameday: Boedker back in as Sharks look to halt losing streak

Programming note – Sharks-Red Wings coverage starts today at 7:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California


Sharks: 23-14-2, 48 points, 2nd Pacific Division
Red Wings: 17-17-5, 39 points, 7th Atlantic Division


***For the third time this season the Sharks are winless in three straight games, going 0-2-1. They’ve never let a losing streak get to four games, though, and will attempt to get back into the win column against a Red Wings team that smoked them pretty good at Joe Louis Arena on Oct. 22, 3-0.

“They skated around us. We weren’t very good that night,” Logan Couture recalled. “Could have been a lot worse than 3-0.”

Detroit will be playing the fifth of a six-game road swing, going 2-1-1 so far. The Red Wings are 10-7-2 on the road this season, but have incredibly not scored a road power play goal in their last 16 games, going 0-for-50 over than span.

***Detroit has injuries to several key players, particularly on defense, as noted below. That’s not of much concern to San Jose, though.

“That’s when you get into trouble, when you look at their lineup and see guys you don’t recognize,” Couture said. “They’re a fast team that plays the game hard.”

Pete DeBoer said: “They’re a deep enough organization that you wouldn’t know they have injuries. Their fourth line looks good, their six defensemen look good. … That really doesn’t bear anything on what we’re doing.”

Marc-Edouard Vlasic and David Schlemko remain out for San Jose. Regarding Vlasic, who will miss his fourth in a row after getting hit in the face with a shot on Dec. 30, DeBoer said he “needs a little more time. It was a significant injury.”

***Mikkel Boedker will return to the Sharks’ lineup after the key offseason addition was a healthy scratch for Thursday’s loss to Minnesota. He’ll slot in on the fourth line.

“He deserves to get back in there,” DeBoer said. “It was kind of a message sent, but like I said when we sat him, the 10 games leading up to Christmas he was our best player a lot of nights. He doesn’t deserve to sit more than the one game.”

DeBoer indicated earlier that Boedker took his “foot off the gas” against Los Angeles on Jan. 3, but Boedker didn’t see it that way.

“I think you never agree with getting sat, right? I don’t think there’s any player that agrees with it, and I don’t agree with it either, but no player in history has ever agreed with getting sat out,” said the 27-year-old. 

“You’ve just got to stay with it, and got to stay professional and make sure you do your job when you get back in the lineup. Today is a new opportunity to do good things out there, and to contribute to the team.”

Martin Jones starts in net for San Jose, opposing first-year goalie Jared Coreau, who is coming off of his first shutout in Los Angeles on Jan. 5 (34 saves).


Sharks: Joel Ward. The winger recorded his first multiple-point game of the season on Thursday, ending a 16-game goal drought and setting up linemate Patrick Marleau for another. Ward, who continues to get time on the top power play unit, has 12 goals and 19 points in 29 career games against Detroit.

Red Wings: Anthony Mantha. The Wings’ first round pick in 2013 (20th overall), Mantha, 22, has at least one point in seven of the last eight games with 11 total (6g, 5a) over that span. The 6-5, 221-pounder and former MVP of the Quebec junior league in 2014 has been playing alongside Henrik Zetterberg.


Timo Meier – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Kevin Labanc – Logan Couture – Joonas Donskoi
Patrick Marleau – Chris Tierney – Joel Ward
Melker Karlsson – Tommy Wingels – Mikkel Boedker

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon – Justin Braun
Mirco Mueller – Dylan DeMelo

Martin Jones (starter)
Aaron Dell

Red Wings
Tomas Tatar – Henrik Zetterberg – Anthony Mantha
Gustav Nyquist – Frans Nielsen – Thomas Vanek
Andreas Athanasiou – Dylan Larkin – Luke Glendening
Drew Miller – Riley Sheahan – Steve Ott

Dan DeKeyser – Nick Jensen
Jonathan Ericsson – Ryan Sproul
Xavier Ouellet – Alexey Marchanko

Jared Coreau (starter)
Petr Mrazek


Sharks: David Schlemko (upper body), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (face) and Tomas Hertl (right knee sprain) are out.

Red Wings: Brendan Smith (lower body), Justin Abdelkader (sprained MCL), Mike Green (undisclosed), Jimmy Howard (sprained MCL), Darren Helm (dislocated shoulder), Niklas Kronwall (lower body) and Joe Vitale (concussion) are out.


“Just got to continue playing. I think I was playing pretty well. Had some good games, some strong games. Just got to capitalize on some chances, and then we’ll go from there.” – Mikkel Boedker

With Devils in town, Sharks will get firsthand look at top contender for MVP


With Devils in town, Sharks will get firsthand look at top contender for MVP

As the season winds down, whispers surrounding players’ awards candidacies are turning into full-blown conversations. None are more interesting than those surrounding the Hart Trophy, awarded to “the player judged to be the most valuable to his team,” according to the NHL’s criteria.

The Sharks have already seen their fair share of MVP candidates since the trade deadline, and will encounter yet another one on Tuesday when Taylor Hall and the New Jersey Devils stop by SAP Center. They’ll see a couple more beyond Hall over the next three weeks, too.

Who do we think has the best case? With no disrespect meant to Nikita Kucherov or Anze Kopitar, Hart Trophy candidates that the Sharks won’t play before the playoffs, we’ll look at the ones the Sharks have played since the deadline or will play before the end of the regular season.

The Dark Horses
Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals: The demise of the ‘Great Eight’ was greatly exaggerated. In his 13th NHL season, the 32-year-old is tied for the league lead in goals (43), 11th in points (78), and has led a depleted Capitals roster to the precipice of a third-straight division title. That probably won’t be enough to earn his fourth Hart Trophy, but this is undoubtedly one of Ovi’s best seasons.

Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild: Staal was a pleasant surprise when he scored 65 points last year, but has been even better this season. He’s tied for fourth in the in goals (39), tied for fifth in even strength goals (26), tied for 19th in points (71), and leading his team in each category as a 33-year-old. The Wild are a near-lock for the postseason at this point, and a resurgent Staal deserves much of the credit.

The Frontrunners
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers: McDavid’s candidacy comes down to where you fall on the “non-playoff players winning MVP” debate, but his value to the lottery-bound Oilers cannot be denied. Edmonton is 28-19-3 when he’s scored a point, and 3-17-2 when he hasn’t.

The former is about a 97-point pace in the standings over an 82-game season, while the latter is about a 30-point pace. In other words, the Oilers are basically a playoff team when McDavid scores, and historically bad when he doesn’t.

We’re sympathetic to questions about how valuable a player can be when his team will finish so far out of the postseason. However, imagining how much worse the poorly-constructed Oilers would be without him makes him a worthy candidate alone.

Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche: The Colorado Avalanche were 31 points worse than the league’s second-worst team last season, and finished 46 points out of the postseason. A full offseason with second-year coach Jared Bednar, as well as some under-the-radar acquisitions have helped the Avalanche’s remarkable turnaround into a Wild Card team, but Nathan MacKinnon is undoubtedly the catalyst.

The former No. 1 pick has put it all together this season, and is tied-for-second in points (89) with McDavid, despite playing eight fewer games. His 1.39 points per game are the most in the league, as are his 3.49 points per 60 minutes of five-on-five play, according to Natural Stat Trick (minimum 500 minutes played).

The Avalanche is the league’s fifth-worst five-on-five puck possession team overall (47.42 percent corsi-for), but are right around league-average with MacKinnon on the ice (50.96 percent). He’d be a very worthy Hart Trophy winner, and likely would be the clear-cut frontrunner if not for the man leading the Devils into SAP Center on Tuesday.

The Favorite
Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils: McDavid is not the only No. 1 pick the Oilers drafted that’s in the MVP conversation, but he’s the only one still on their roster. The other is Taylor Hall, who has the best Hart Trophy case in our eyes.

Hall strikes the sweet spot between McDavid’s case, as a superstar with little support around him, and MacKinnon’s, as an emergent force leading a resurgence, and he has a 26-game point streak to his name. He sits outside the top 10 in points (77), goals (31), and assists (46), but has scored points at a higher rate per game (1.15) than all but six qualifying players.

He also doesn’t have Mikko Rantanen  or Leon Draisaitl skating alongside him as MacKinnon and McDavid do, nor does he have a supporting cast like Kucherov and Kopitar. Of all the players the Sharks have and will face down the stretch, Hall’s been the player most valuable to his team this season.

After a perfect week, Sharks have playoff breathing room with three weeks to go


After a perfect week, Sharks have playoff breathing room with three weeks to go

The Sharks’ playoff outlook is a lot rosier after winning all four of their games last week. They are now four points clear of the Los Angeles Kings in the second Wild Card spot, and three points up the Anaheim Ducks, who are third place in the Pacific Division.

Those are four-point and three-point improvements, respectively, over those same spots last week. The Sharks even picked up ground on the first-place Vegas Golden Knights, and are eight points back of the Pacific’s leaders, with two head-to-head matchups remaining.

That’s not quite close enough to warrant inclusion in a look at the playoff picture headed into the week, but could be next week if San Jose continues to make up ground. Otherwise, it’s still worth examining where the Sharks stand in regards to the Pacific and the Wild Card.

San Jose Sharks (Second in the Pacific, 89 points)

Games Remaining: 10

On the Docket:  3/20 vs New Jersey, 3/22 vs Vegas, 3/24 vs Calgary

Outlook: Over the next two weeks, the schedule really starts to become difficult. San Jose has only two games remaining against teams on the outside looking in, and is just 2-6-2 in its last 10 against teams currently in a playoff spot. If that trend continues, the newfound breathing room could start to disappear rather quickly.

Anaheim Ducks (Third in the Pacific, 86 points)

Games Remaining: Nine

On the Docket: 3/21 at Calgary, 3/23 at Winnipeg, 3/25 at Edmonton

Outlook: The Ducks have now won three in a row, including next Sunday against the red-hot New Jersey Devils. They’ll play four of their final five road games in the next nine days, and all but one of their opponents is not in playoff position. Anaheim’s just 15-14-7 away from the Honda Center, though. With the fewest games remaining of any playoff team, the Ducks will help to move up any further.

Colorado Avalanche (First Wild Card, 86 points)

Games Remaining: 10

On the Docket: 3/20 at Chicago, 3/22 vs Los Angeles, 3/24 vs Vegas

Outlook: Give it up for surefire Hart Trophy finalist Nathan MacKinnon and the Avalanche, winners of three of four last week. Other than a slip-up on the second night of a back-to-back in Nashville, Colorado was outright dominant, outscoring opponents 16-7. A midweek matchup against Los Angeles could create some Wild Card separation.

Los Angeles Kings (Second Wild Card, 84 points)

Games Remaining: 10

On the Docket: 3/19 at Minnesota, 3/20 at Winnipeg, 3/22 at Colorado, 3/24 at Edmonton

Outlook: The Kings picked up points in three of four, including on both nights of a back-to-back. Their schedule really picks up this week, as they’ll face three playoff-bound teams from the Central on the road. The struggling Stars remain on their heels, although the Kings have a game in hand.

Dallas Stars (Ninth in the West, 84 points)

Games Remaining: Nine

On the Docket: 3/20 at Washington, 3/23 vs Boston. 3/25 vs Vancouver

Outlook: Is Dallas in the middle of a Lone Star letdown? We wrote last week that a difficult schedule could create openings for the teams chasing them and boy, did it ever. The Stars went 0-2-2 on the week, and picked up just one point against the lottery-bound Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators. They’ll surely relish a matchup against the Canucks in six days, as it’s their only remaining game against a non-playoff team.

St. Louis Blues (10th in the West, 83 points)

Games Remaining: 10

On the Docket: 3/21 vs Boston, 3/23 vs Vancouver, 3/24 at Columbus

Outlook: For the second straight season, it’s not quite time to stick a fork in the St. Louis Blues. Yes, they are once again in the playoff hunt after trading one of their best players at the trade deadline, and won three out of four to move with in a point of the final Wild Card spot. The Blues have now won four of five, and still have an uphill climb ahead. After last season, is it ever safe to rule them out?

The Departed: Calgary Flames (11th in the West, 80 points)

This section is reserved for teams that have fallen out of the playoff picture since our last look at the playoff picture, and the Calgary Flames have earned(?) the inaugural (dis)honor. The Flames failed to keep the door to the playoffs ajar thanks to a 7-4 loss to the Sharks on Friday, and it slammed shut after a 4-0 loss in Sin City on Sunday. They have to jump three teams and cover four points of ground to earn a Wild Card spot. The latest stretch stings, but the Flames will likely look on a four-game, post-trade deadline losing streak as when their playoff hopes burned out.