NHL Gameday: Sharks, Blues stage rematch of conference final

NHL Gameday: Sharks, Blues stage rematch of conference final

Programming note – Sharks-Blues coverage starts today at 4:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California


Sharks: 9-7-0, 18 points, 3rd Pacific Division
Blues: 8-6-3, 19 points, 3rd Central Division


***Tonight marks the first meeting between the Sharks and Blues since San Jose beat St. Louis in the Western Conference Final in six games last May to advance to its first-ever Stanley Cup Final.

Logan Couture said: “Obviously it was us and them to go to the [Stanley Cup] Final. I’m sure they’re going to want to respond now, and come out with a strong effort.”

The Sharks return mostly their same lineup from last season, while the Blues have undergone a few changes, such as the departure of captain David Backes, forwards Troy Brouwer and Steve Ott and goalie Brian Elliott. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has assumed the captaincy.

“It’s definitely a little bit of a different team,” Joe Pavelski said. “They’ve lost some people that have helped create the identity they have. I don’t think we get too much of a different game, though. They play hard and we expect that fast, checking game that they like to play.”

The Blues started the season with a 3-0-1 mark, but are just 5-6-3 since then. They snapped a three-game losing streak (0-2-1) with a 4-1 win over the Sabres at home on Tuesday.

***San Jose is coming off of a 1-0 defeat to Carolina on Tuesday, but is 3-1 on its road trip that concludes on Saturday in Arizona. Although the Sharks reeled off three straight solid wins against the Capitals, Panthers and Lightning, they’ve also been shut out twice in their last five games.

Scoring has been an issue most of the season for the Sharks, who are the only team that has yet to score more than four goals in any game this season. They are 24th in the league with 2.31 goals-per game, and their 37 goals after 16 games is only one better than their all-time franchise low.

At five-on-five, the Sharks have been outscored 29-23. How do they get that part of their game going?

“All the same old clichés: we want to get traffic, get in the goalie’s eyes, get some dirtier goals. All those things,” Pete DeBoer said. “I believe it’s going to come. At the same time, while we’re waiting for it to happen, our defensive game has to put us in a spot where we can still win games, and I think we’ve done that.”

The Sharks are fifth in the league in goals-against per game (2.25) and surrender the second-fewest shots per game (25.7). St. Louis has been shut out or scored just one goal in eight of its 18 games.

***The Sharks forward lines weren’t revealed in the morning skate, and DeBoer didn’t offer any hints afterwards. Melker Karlsson didn’t skate, and it appears Matt Nieto will remain in the lineup.


Sharks: Joe Thornton. If the Sharks offense is going to start firing on all cylindars, Thornton will have to play a large part. The team's number one center is scoreless in his last three games, though, and with just two empty net goals and nine assists, is behind his scoring pace from last season. Is it time to be concerned about the 37-year-old, or is it just a repeat of last season’s slow start before he got on a roll?

Blues: Vladimir Tarasenko. He’s questionable to play tonight, but if he does, the Blues’ leading scorer will be riding a six-game point streak (2g, 7a) including four points last Saturday against Columbus. The Russian winger, who was kept quiet in last year’s Western Conference Final, is tied for sixth in the NHL with 18 points (6g, 12a). His 66 shots are second in the NHL (Brent Burns, 75).


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

Martin Jones (starter)
Aaron Dell

Jaden Schwartz – Paul Stastny – Alex Steen
Robby Fabbri – Jori Lehtera – Vladimir Tarasenko
Dmitrij Jaskin – Patrik Berglund – David Perron
Scottie Upshall – Kyle Brodziak – Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester – Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson – Kevin Shattenkirk
Petteri Lindbohm – Colton Parayko

Jake Allen (starter)
Carter Hutton


Sharks: Melker Karlsson (lower body) is out.

Blues: Alex Steen (undisclosed) and Vladimir Tarasenko (undisclosed) are questionable. Robert Bortuzzo (lower body) and Joel Edmundson (upper body) are out.


“Each year through every team there’s moments throughout the season where you have to create your own energy. These long road trips, there’s moments in them where you have to do that. Tonight will be a good test.” – Joe Pavelski

Paul Martin rewarding Peter DeBoer's faith in NHL return


Paul Martin rewarding Peter DeBoer's faith in NHL return

When Sharks defenseman Paul Martin confirmed reports in January that he was willing to go elsewhere for more playing time, his head coach was insistent that the team would need the veteran blueliner. 

"I really believe we need eight NHL defenseman here," DeBoer told reporters in January (via The Mercury News). "If it happens that he isn't here, then that'll be disappointing for us. I'm not hoping that's where this goes. I'm hoping this goes to a place where he can maybe go down, play some games and keep himself ready, because I know we're going to need eight defensemen."

That's pretty much exactly what's happened.

After clearing waivers in January and playing with the AHL's San Jose Barracuda, Martin was called up ahead of the Sharks' four-game road trip at the end of February. He did not play until last Saturday in Vancouver, when an upper-body injury to rookie defenseman Joakim Ryan, whose play pushed Martin down the depth chart in the first place, created an opening alongside Brent Burns. 

Martin's now played three straight games with Burns, his defensive partner for the vast majority of the previous two seasons. It's the first time Martin's played in three consecutive NHL games all season, and although he hasn't played much (11:53 in average time-on-ice), he's acquitted himself nicely in a sheltered role.

His five-on-five possession numbers (52.78 percent corsi-for; 53.33 percent fenwick-for) are the second-best marks among Sharks defensemen over the last three games. Burns, too, has posted better possession numbers with Martin (47.62 percent corsi-for; 50 percent fenwick-for) during the last three contests than without his longtime partner (43.40 percent corsi-for; 41.67 percent fenwick-for). 

The Sharks have also outscored (3-0) and outchanced (17-16) opponents with Martin on the ice, neither of which was the case in Martin's first three appearances earlier this season. The former is owed to a decent amount of puck luck, as the Sharks have converted on 17.65 percent of their shots with him on the ice, but the latter is an extension of his solid underlying numbers. 

Martin's played the least amount of total minutes among Sharks defensemen since coming back, even as Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed time in two of the last three games, and has barely been used in special teams. His days of averaging 20-or-more minutes a night are likely behind him, but the 37-year-old has played well in a limited role. 

Considering Martin's NHL days appeared to be behind him as recently as last month, his play has been a pleasant surprise. With the exception of his head coach, that is. 

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.