NHL Gameday: Dell gets the start for Sharks in Carolina

NHL Gameday: Dell gets the start for Sharks in Carolina

Programming note – Sharks-Hurricanes coverage starts today at 3:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California


Sharks: 9-6-0, 18 points, 2nd Pacific Division
Hurricanes: 4-6-4, 12 points, 8th Metropolitan Division


***Sharks backup goalie Aaron Dell will reportedly make the second start of his career in goal. Martin Jones has started the last 10 games, and 15 of 16 overall.

In his NHL debut on Oct. 18, Dell made 21 saves in a 3-2 Sharks win in Brooklyn. The 27-year-old has appeared on one game since then in relief of Jones against Pittsburgh on Nov. 5, and has a 2.40 goals-against average and .902 save percentage this season in limited action.

***The Sharks bring a three-game winning streak into tonight’s game, winning all three on the road during a season-long six-game trip. They’ve outscored the Capitals, Panthers and Lightning by a combined score of 10-3.

Carolina snapped a three-game losing streak (0-2-1) with a 5-1 win over Washington on Saturday. Tonight is the third of a five-game homestand.

***The Sharks and ‘Canes power plays will have their work cut out tonight, as the Hurricanes are second in the league with a 90.2 percent success rate on the penalty kill, including going 14-for-14 in their past six games. San Jose is 24-for-24 on the kill in its last 10 games, and is third in the NHL (89.2 percent).

***Carolina’a Justin Faulk is expected to play after missing the past three games with an upper body injury. The Hurricanes’ top defenseman has three goals and six points in 11 games this season.


Sharks: Tommy Wingels. The Sharks’ fourth liner has scored the game-winning goal in each of the last two Sharks wins. Prior to that, his last game winner was back on Oct. 8, 2014 in Los Angeles. He will likely have a new linemate for the game tonight, as Matt Nieto will replace an injured Melker Karlsson on a line that was arguably the Sharks’ best in wins over the Panthers and Lightning.

Hurricanes: Sebastian Aho. The rookie forward, a second round pick in 2015, scored his first two NHL goals and added an assist in the Hurricanes’ 5-1 win against Washington on Saturday. The Finland native is playing with center Jordan Staal and countryman Teuvo Teravainen, who was acquired from Chicago in the offseason. That line had 11 combined points against the Caps.


Joe Pavelski – Joe Thornton – Joel Ward
Mikkel Boedker – Logan Couture – Joonas Donskoi
Patrick Marleau – Tomas Hertl – Kevin Labanc
Matt Nieto – Chris Tierney – Tommy Wingels

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Aaron Dell (starter)
Martin Jones

Jeff Skinner – Victor Rask – Elias Lindholm
Teuvo Teravainen – Jordan Staal – Sebastian Aho
Lee Stempniak – Derek Ryan – Brock McGinn
Joakim Nordstrom – Jay McClement – Viktor Stalberg

Justin Faulk – Ron Hainsey
Jaccob Slavin – Brett Pesce
Noah Hanifin – Matt Tennyson

Cam Ward
Eddie Lack


Sharks: Melker Karlsson (lower body) is out.

Hurricanes: Bryan Bickell (illness) is out.


“We’re rising to the occasion at the right time, and finding another level.” – Sharks coach Pete DeBoer, after the 3-1 win in Tampa Bay on Saturday

How the Sharks can catch the Golden Knights and win the Pacific


How the Sharks can catch the Golden Knights and win the Pacific

About a month ago, the Sharks appeared locked into the Pacific Division's second, third, fourth, or fifth spot. At the end of trade deadline day, they were 12 points back of the division-leading Vegas Golden Knights, and only two points up on the fifth place Calgary Flames.

24 days later, thanks to an 8-2-0 record over the last 10 games (second-best in the NHL), San Jose's still in second place. Now though, those margins are eight points and 11 points, respectively. 

The latter's pretty much locked the Sharks into a playoff spot, while the former's created a path for a late run at the Pacific Division crown. Beginning Thursday night, they will play the Golden Knights twice over both team's final nine games. 

What does the path look like to the Sharks' first division title since 2011? To start, they'll have to beat the Golden Knights twice in regulation to even have a shot. 

That is the foundation of any run at the Pacific's top spot. If the Sharks win both remaining games in regulation, they'll trail the Golden Knights by four points, leaving aside results against other teams for now.

They have to win in regulation, however. A win in overtime or the shootout on Thursday would only cut the gap to seven, and a subsequent win in regulation would leave it at five. Two losses, in any situation, would create a gap of 10-12 points, which would be nearly impossible to overcome this late in the season. 

One point doesn't seem like a lot, but this late in the season, it makes a world of difference. A five-point gap means they'll need to earn six more than the Golden Knights in those other seven games, while a four-point gap means they'll need to earn five in order to pass them. 

The simplest way to five extra points, is for the Sharks to have a record that's two wins and an overtime loss better (2-0-1) than the Golden Knights in the seven games where they don't play each other. That's impossible if Vegas earns at least 10 points in those seven games, so a 5-2-0 or 4-1-2 record would ensure a division banner raising in Sin City.

Taken all together, then, the Golden Knights' 'magic number' is 10 points. Even if the Sharks win on Thursday, their path to a Pacific title remains difficult, if not improbable. 

If a season with an expansion team leading their division has taught us anything, though -- it's that improbable is not impossible.  

The anatomy of Jannik Hansen's recently-broken scoring drought after nearly one year


The anatomy of Jannik Hansen's recently-broken scoring drought after nearly one year

Jannik Hansen's game-winning goal against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday marked the first time he scored in 355 days. 

Hansen last scored on Mar. 30, 2017 against the Edmonton Oilers, his second goal with the Sharks following an in-season trade. His scoring drought, in all, lasted 44 regular season games, 50 if you include the postseason. 

How exactly does a goal-scoring drought last nearly a year? The right (wrong?) circumstances all need to come together, and that was certainly the case for Hansen for much of the last year.

For one, the Danish forward was in and out of the lineup. San Jose played 83 regular season and postseason games between Hansen's second and third goals, and he did not play in 33 of those games. Plenty of players have had rough 50-game stretches, and that's often without not playing for weeks at a time, as Hansen has done a couple of times this season. 

When Hansen did draw into the lineup this year, however, he wasn't generating offense at the same rate he had in the past. This season, Hansen's five-on-five shot rate (6.19 shots per 60 minutes), shot attempt rate (10.53 individual corsi per 60), and unblocked shot attempt rate (8.95 individual fenwick per 60) were all down from his career averages, according to Corsica Hockey. 

That decline is natural, considering Hansen turned 32 just six days ago. Those rates were not down enough, however, to expect him to fail to score in his first 39 appearances this season. Naturally, a long run of bad luck played a big role in Hansen's dry spell.

Hansen went 0-for-66 in shots over the 50 consecutive regular season and playoff games in which he did not score. He's a career 11-percent shooter, and had he shot at his career average, he would have scored seven goals during that time. That feels about right for a bottom-six forward. 

In many ways, all of these factors fed into one another. Hansen wasn't generating shots or scoring, then was scratched, then couldn't find the back of the net when he returned and was scratched again. All the while, fellow fourth-liners Marcus Sorensen (26.7 percent shooting percentage this season), Joel Ward (14.3 percent) and Barclay Goodrow (13.2 percent) were converting on their chances, forcing Peter DeBoer's hand. 

His possession play has been solid all season (50.74 percent corsi-for, per Natural Stat Trick), but the offense hasn't followed. When it does, as was the case Tuesday night, he can be an effective fourth-line forward, and the goal on Tuesday bought him more time to prove it.