NHL Gameday: Lowly Canucks offer chance for Sharks to turn it around

NHL Gameday: Lowly Canucks offer chance for Sharks to turn it around

Programming note – San Jose Sharks at Vancouver Canucks – 4:00pm; Pregame Live at 3:30pm and Postgame Live immediately following the game


Sharks: 43-28-7, 93 points, 3rd Pacific Division
Canucks: 30-38-9, 69 points, 6th Pacific Division


***If there’s one team that the Sharks might like to see in the midst of their dramatic free fall, it’s the Canucks. San Jose has won all three games against Vancouver in regulation this season by a combined 11-3 score, including a 3-1 win at Rogers Arena exactly one month ago. Tonight is the first of a home-and-home.

While the Sharks don’t have a right to take anyone for granted at this point, having lost eight of their last nine, the Canucks are just 2-8-2 in their last 12 games including three straight losses.

The Sharks are four points behind the Oilers and Ducks in the division, and one point ahead of the Flames, with four games remaining for each. San Jose closes out the season with a three-game homestand this week against Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.

***The Sharks’ special teams numbers have been particularly poor since the end of February. The power play checks in at 14.0 percent since Feb. 28, while the penalty kill is 76.1 percent. Entering last night’s games, those ranked 22nd and 24th in the league, respectively, over that span.

San Jose’s overall power play percentage of 16.8 (24th in the NHL) would be its lowest since the 2003-04 season (16.6 percent). The Sharks have had just four games this season with multiple power play goals – they’ve never had fewer than seven such games in a season in their history.

***The Sharks did not have a morning skate due to the early start, so no word on whether Joonas Donskoi and Joel Ward will return to the lineup after they sat in Calgary on Friday. Asked about his lineup decisions after the game, coach Pete DeBoer said: “Back-to-back, we’re at the end of a tough month. We’re dealing with a lot of little nagging injuries. 

“We’ve got some fresh legs in here, and I thought the kids actually played well. I thought [Kevin] Labanc and [Timo] Meier both had quality chances. I thought [Marcus] Sorensen did a real good job with his speed. So, I thought those guys contributed for us tonight.”


Sharks: Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Although his defensive game seems to have regressed in recent months, Vlasic brings a three-game point streak into tonight (1g, 2a). Still, the 30-year-old will likely have to be better in his own zone for the Sharks to start winning again. Among the 20 Sharks players that have skated in at least 30 games this season, Vlasic’s shot-attempt percentage in close games is 17th (49.66).

Canucks: Nikolay Goldobin. The Sharks’ former first rounder that was dealt to Vancouver for Jannik Hansen had a goal in his Canucks debut on March 4, but hasn’t gotten on the scoresheet since in nine games. If he’s in the lineup, Goldobin will be playing for the first time against his former club.


Melker Karlsson – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Jannik Hansen – Tomas Hertl – Mikkel Boedker
Patrick Marleau – Chris Tierney – Kevin Labanc
Marcus Sorensen – Micheal Haley – Timo Meier

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

Martin Jones
Aaron Dell 

Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Michael Chaput
Sven Baertschi – Bo Horvat – Brock Boeser
Nikolay Goldobin – Brandon Sutter – Reid Boucher
Griffen Molino – Drew Shore – Alex Biega

Alex Edler – Troy Stacher
Luca Sbisa – Chris Tanen
Ben Hutton – Nikita Tryamkin

Ryan Miller
Richard Bachman


Sharks: Logan Couture (face) is out.

Canucks: Loui Eriksson (leg), Brendan Gaunce (upper body), Joe Cramarossa (foot), Jason Megna (upper body) and Jack Skilled (ankle) are day-to-day. Derek Dorsett (back surgery), Erik Gudbranson (wrist) Anton Rodin (knee), Jacob Markstrom (lower body), Marcus Granlund (wrist) are out. 


“The difference is so small. You’ve just got to stay positive, stay confident, keep doing what we do. Those are things that we say when we’re doing things well. When you’re not, you’ve got to do the same things. It’s a small difference.” – Brent Burns

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights


SAN JOSE -- Seconds after almost costing the San Jose Sharks a game with a turnover, Logan Couture ended it with his backhand.

Couture scored 39 seconds into overtime after getting bailed out by goalie Martin Jones and the San Jose Sharks won their season-high sixth straight game, 2-1 over the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night.

"I was able to make a move on their guy," Couture said. "(Marc-Edouard Vlasic) did a good job of driving their backchecker back and I was able to go far side."

Couture's goal came at the end of an opening shift of the overtime that started with him losing the puck in his own zone, giving Jonathan Marchessault a chance alone in front. Jones got enough of the shot to stop it, and then Vlasic sent the puck ahead to Couture for the winning goal that moved San Jose within seven points of first-place Vegas with eight games remaining in the regular season.

Brent Burns also scored and Jones made 24 saves to help the Sharks open a four-point lead over third-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division with a game in hand as the Sharks close in on home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

"For us to get a win tonight was important," captain Joe Pavelski said. "Plus, just plant that seed. If we stay hot, you never know, we might be able to catch them and get home ice. We took care of business tonight and we'll try to keep playing well."

Tomas Tatar scored the lone goal for the Golden Knights, who were kept in the game by a sterling performance by goalie Malcolm Subban. He stopped 42 shots but it wasn't enough for Vegas to come up with the win, although he helped earn a point that gave the expansion team 100 this season.

"It's impressive," forward James Neal said. "It's a great season for our guys. Guys came together real quick. A great job so far but we're not done yet."

The Golden Knights struck first on a pretty passing play early in the first period that ended when Marchessault found Tatar cutting through the slot ahead of Justin Braun. Tatar skated past Jones and backhanded the puck into the open net.

Vegas has been dominant when getting off to a lead, posting an NHL-best 31-5-1 record when scoring first heading into this game. But the Sharks carried the play in the second period, outshooting the Golden Knights 18-4 and getting the equalizer on a blast by Burns from the point after another strong shift by San Jose's fourth line.

"We want to be playing really good hockey this time of year and heading into the playoffs. I think that's the goal," coach Peter DeBoer said. "Whether we would have won tonight or lost, I like how we played for most of the game, so that's what I'm concentrating on."

Vegas managed to keep it tied despite the lopsided shot totals, killing off a four-minute penalty to Colin Miller and another late power play that started late in the second.

That penalty carried over until the third period and the Sharks got 25 seconds of a two-man advantage after Brayden McNabb was called for throwing his stick but still couldn't get anything past Subban.

The Golden Knights squandered a power-play chance later in the period when Miller was called for cross checking with the man advantage. That nearly led to a power-play goal for San Jose but Subban appeared to get a piece of a shot from in close to Joe Pavelski to keep the game tied at 1.

"He's the main reason we got the point," coach Gerard Gallant said. "He looked comfortable."

NOTES: Vegas G Marc-Andre Fleury didn't make the trip to San Jose with an undisclosed injury but is expected to join the team for Saturday's game in Colorado. ... Burns became the 15th player to play 500 career games with the Sharks.

Golden Knights: Visit Colorado on Saturday.

Sharks: Host Calgary 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.