Sharks

NHL Gameday: Hansen doubtful as Sharks begin road trip in Dallas

NHL Gameday: Hansen doubtful as Sharks begin road trip in Dallas

Programming note – Sharks-Stars coverage starts today at 5:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 42-22-7, 91 points, 1st Pacific Division
Stars: 28-33-10, 66 points, 6th Central Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***After a so-so homestand in which they went 3-3-0, the Sharks kick off a four-game-in-six-day road trip tonight in Dallas. In an odd quirk to the schedule, San Jose will visit Minnesota on Tuesday before going right back to Dallas for a game on Friday, and closes out the trip on Saturday in Nashville.

“It’s never easy going on the road,” Joe Pavelski said after Saturday’s loss, “but we’ve had a nice little homestand here. We’ll be excited to get in a few cities and bring our game there, and just get together and keep playing.”

San Jose has lost its last two games in regulation to St. Louis and Anaheim. While the 4-1 loss to the Blues on Thursday was a poor performance, the team was much more pleased with its effort in a 2-1 defeat to the Ducks on Saturday.

The Sharks have 11 games remaining, including seven away from home, as they try to lock down first place in the Pacific Division.

“We’ve never shied away from tough rinks or tough trips,” Pete DeBoer said. “We’ve just got to make sure we build on [Saturday]. If we play like we did, most nights we’re going to win.”

***Dallas has lost four of its last five games in regulation, including a 5-1 defeat at SAP Center just eight days ago. The Stars have been outscored 22-9 over that span, in what has been a hugely disappointing season for a club that made it to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.

Still, at home, the Stars are a respectable 18-12-6. The Sharks have a 19-12-3 mark on the road, including 4-1-0 in their last five.

***Jannik Hansen is reportedly doubtful for the game with an upper body injury, as he took an apparent stick to the head in the third period of Saturday’s loss. Danny O’Regan and Timo Meier were recalled on Sunday, so one or both will play.

Tomas Hertl skated with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski after Hansen was forced to leave.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Logan Couture. The Sharks’ lone goal scorer on Saturday with a power play marker in what was his 500th career game, Couture has 25 points in his last 25 games (11g, 14a) after accumulating just 27 points in his first 44. He leads the team in scoring since his hot streak began on Jan. 19, and is third on the team in goals (25) and points (52).

Stars: Kari Lehtonen/Antti Niemi. Despite spending more money on goaltending than any other club, the Stars have the worst combined save percentage in the league (.892). On 13 occasions the Stars have pulled their starter, including against the Sharks on March 12. Lehtonen was removed for Niemi after allowing three goals on eight shots, although Niemi’s entrance was delayed when he was nowhere to be found.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Tomas Hertl – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Joel Ward
Joonas Donskoi – Chris Tierney – Mikkel Boedker
Micheal Haley – Danny O’Regan – Marcus Sorensen

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – Dylan DeMelo

Aaron Dell (starter)
Martin Jones

Stars
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Ales Hemsky
Remi Elie – Tyler Seguin – Brett Ritchie
Devin Shore – Radek Faksa – Patrick Sharp
Curtis McKenzie – Adam Cracknell – Jiri Hudler

Esa Lindell – John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis – Greg Pateryn
Patrik Nemeth – Stephen Johns

Kari Lehtonen (starter)
Antti Niemi

INJURIES

Sharks: Jannik Hansen (upper body) is doubtful. David Schlemko (right knee) is questionable. Melker Karlsson (lower body) is out.

Stars: Jason Spezza (back spasms) is doubtful. Mattias Janmark (knee) and Antoine Roussel (hand) are out.

QUOTEABLE

“When you play well and come up [short] – those games are going to happen. But, excited to attack this last road trip.” – Joel Ward, after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Anaheim

Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be

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USATSI

Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be

Martin Jones was a Boston Bruin for less than a week.

The “Original Six” franchise acquired Jones from the Los Angeles Kings on June 26, 2015. Four days later, Jones was traded back into the Pacific Division, this time to Northern California.

The Sharks gave up a first round pick and prospect Sean Kuraly for Jones. It seemed like a fairly high price at the time, but it’s one San Jose was happy to pay: No goalie started more games than Jones over the last two seasons, and the team signed him to a five-year extension this summer.

The first Jones trade in 2015 set off a flood of goalie transactions, as five netminders were traded during Jones’ extremely brief Boston tenure. One of those was Anton Khudobin, who will start for the Bruins as Jones backs up Aaron Dell against  his “former team” on Saturday night.

Khudobin was traded from Carolina to Anaheim, where he started seven games before getting sent down to the AHL. He then signed with Boston in 2016, returning to his former club as the Bruins tried to fill the hole that trading Jones left behind entrenched starter Tuukka Rask.

Jones and Khudobin will have taken vastly different paths to their respective creases on Saturday night. The former enters the game as his club’s undisputed franchise goalie, and the latter the unheralded backup.

Naturally then, Khudobin’s been the better goaltender this season.

Among the 46 goalies that have played 200 five-on-five minutes this season, Khudobin’s .962 five-on-five save percentage was the best entering Saturday, according to Corsica.  So, too, is his .954 save percentage off of high-danger shots.

Jones, meanwhile, ranks 27th (.920) and 14th (.833) in those respective categories.

What does it all mean? For one, it’s early in the season, and the fact that Khudobin’s made seven fewer starts undoubtedly plays a role in his superior performance to Jones.

Mainly, it speaks to just how fickle goaltending can be.

The Bruins backup is arguably getting the nod Saturday night because of how bad the man ahead of him has been. Rask, once one of the league’s best goaltenders, has steadily declined over the last three years and reached a new low this season: This year, he’s 40th out of 46 qualifying goalies in five-on-five save percentage.

Jones has demonstrated this, too. He’s stopped a lower percentage of low-and-medium danger shots at even strength than the last two seasons, but has stopped a higher percentage of high-danger shots.

Plus, he’s played behind one of the league’s best penalty-killing teams after playing behind one of its worst last season, and has benefitted from a corresponding bump in his shorthanded save percentage.

So much of what a goalie does is out of their control. Yet who’s playing in front of them, what kind of shots they see, and how often they see those shots all can affect their performance.

Khudobin and Jones are living proof of that this season.

Time is now for Sharks to experiment with new lines

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USATSI

Time is now for Sharks to experiment with new lines

The San Jose Sharks were shut out for the first time this season on Thursday night, but it sure didn't feel like it.

You’d be forgiven, albeit mistaken, if you didn't think the loss was their first goose egg of the season. San Jose’s been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league this year, and has scored two or fewer goals in all but two of their six games in November.

The Sharks controlled play, but their raw possession numbers were misleading: Through the first two periods, San Jose was outshot 23-18, and poured it on in the third looking for the game-tying goal.

In order to break out of his team’s extended slump, head coach Peter DeBoer appeared to throw his lines in the proverbial blender. The changes weren't very significant, though, as DeBoer worked mostly around the edges.

Joe Thornton remained with Joe Pavelski, while Melker Karlsson and Timo Meier rotated in on their wing. Joonas Donskoi swapped in with Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl, and on and on.

The core pair of each line remained intact, while DeBoer swapped complimentary wingers. Subtle changes, unsurprisingly, didn't lead to drastically different results.

He’s been amenable to bigger changes at times, briefly breaking up longtime linemates Thornton and Pavelski last Sunday against Los Angeles. The bottom six, especially the fourth line, has mostly been a revolving door.

That's a start, but far from enough. 

As long as the Sharks struggle to score, similarly significant changes are in order.

DeBoer shouldn't want to sacrifice the team’s defensive dominance, or its strong possession game. But, the Sharks haven't scored enough through 17 games to justify using the same forward combinations. 

In Thornton and Pavelski’s case, those struggles date back to last season. For just about everyone else, the sample size is getting increasingly more significant as the season approaches the quarter pole.

The Sharks bench boss expressed a willingness to mix up his power play units earlier this week, and needs to do the same at even strength. It's time to try Pavelski on Couture's wing, Meier on Thornton's, or any number of permutations.

Tweaking around the edges hasn't made much of a difference, so far more comprehensive adjustments are not only welcome, but necessary. Of course, DeBoer may not find the perfect lineup solutions.

At this point, though, it's worth a shot. It's hard to imagine the Sharks scoring any less than they have so far this season, and the Sharks need to explore if any line changes can provide a remedy.