Sharks

NHL Gameday: Sharks' Dell faces biggest challenge this year

NHL Gameday: Sharks' Dell faces biggest challenge this year

Programming note: Sharks-Blues coverage starts tonight at 7:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California.

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 42-20-7, 91 points, 1st Pacific Division
Blues: 36-28-5, 77 points, 4th Central Division (WC2)

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***After losing the first two games of the season series, the Sharks will get one more crack at the Blues on Thursday at SAP Center. The Blues beat the Sharks on Nov. 17 at St. Louis, 3-2, and blanked them at SAP Center on Jan. 14, 4-0.

San Jose is 3-1 on its six-game homestand, and 7-2-0 in its last nine overall. Aaron Dell will make his fourth start in the last eight games, in what will be the first-year goalie's biggest challenge so far. The Blues are desperate for points, as they try and hold on to the second wild card spot.

“It’s good to play against one of the higher teams, one of the teams fighting for a playoff spot,” said Dell, who has allowed two or fewer goals in 10 of his 13 starts. “I think that shows some confidence in me from the coaching staff.”

Pete DeBoer expects Carter Hutton to go for the Blues, who will be playing in their second of a back-to-back. Hutton made 23 saves in blanking the Sharks in January, and is a career 3-0-1 with a 0.98 goals-against average and .971 save percentage against San Jose.

***St. Louis is at the midway point of a five-game road trip, beating the Kings on Monday, 3-1, but losing to the Ducks last night, 2-1. They are 8-2 in the second half of back-to-backs this season, including six straight wins.

St. Louis is 5-3-0 in its last eight games since trading Kevin Shattenkirk, allowing just 10 total goals. Is it possible the team is coming together after losing such a key piece?

“You see that around the league a lot of times, they move somebody out and the group rallies around that to show that we’re bigger than one piece,” DeBoer said. “I think you’re probably seeing some of that there. I watched them last night in Anaheim, even though they lost they were right in that game and looked really good and they’re playing very well right now.”

The Blues are 12-7-0 since firing Ken Hitchcock and promoting Mike Yeo on Feb. 1.

DeBoer said: “There been some minor changes to their systems from what they were doing under Hitch. Nothing major, but definitely some different wrinkles than they had before.”

***The Sharks could potentially move into a first place tie for the Western Conference’s top seed tonight. Minnesota (92 points) is in Carolina, while Chicago (93 points) is in Ottawa.

“We want to [be] winning every game now because we know how important [it is] starting at home during the playoffs. During the Nashville series it was really important we started at home,” Tomas Hertl said.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Joe Pavelski. The Sharks captain in among the hottest players in hockey. Fresh off being named the NHL’s First Star of the Week last week, Pavelski posted his second straight two-goal game on Tuesday against Buffalo. He’s taken over the team lead in goals from Brent Burns with 28, thanks to seven goals in his last five games, and is on the cusp of his fifth career 30-goal campaign.

Blues: Alex Pietrangelo. The defenseman has become even more important to the Blues’ success since Kevin Shattenkirk was dealt, and has six assists and a plus-one rating in eight games since then. The 27-year-old is 10th in the NHL with 25:08 of ice time per game, but he’s skating 27:23 per game since the trade.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Jannik Hansen – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Joel Ward
Joonas Donskoi – Tomas Hertl – Mikkel Boedker
Micheal Haley – Chris Tierney – Marcus Sorensen

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

Aaron Dell (starter)
Martin Jones

Blues
Jaden Schwartz – Paul Stastny – Vladimir Tarasenko
Alex Steen – Patrik Berglund – David Perron
Nail Yakupov – Ivan Barbashev – Magnus Paajarvi
Scottie Upshall – Kyle Brodziak – Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester – Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson – Colton Parayko
Carl Gunnarsson – Robert Bortuzzo

Carter Hutton (likely starter)
Jake Allen

INJURIES

Sharks: David Schlemko (right knee) and Melker Karlsson (lower body) are out.

Blues: Robby Fabbri (left knee), Dmitrij Jaskin (upper body) and Jori Lehtera (upper body) are out.

QUOTEABLE

“St. Louis needs the points. They’re coming after a loss, 2-1 against Anaheim. They need every game. Pretty skilled team. We need to be ready for [Vladimir] Tarasenko, [Jaden] Schwartz, and all these guys.” – Tomas Hertl

Sharks headed in right direction, road trip to reveal who they really are

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USATSI

Sharks headed in right direction, road trip to reveal who they really are

The difference between a 2-3-0 start and a 1-4-0 start is bigger than two standings points.

The former is far from ideal, but if you squint hard enough, there's enough wiggle room to improve. There's still time with the latter, too, but the margin for error is much thinner moving forward.

The Sharks experienced that difference firsthand after Tuesday’s 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens. It's not an ideal record, but they’ve managed to salvage a poor start. 

There are still some flaws, to be sure. The power play isn't just the Kevin Labanc show after the top unit scored all three power play goals Tuesday, but is still carrying a disproportionate offensive load. The penalty kill’s scoreless streak came to an end, but they were called into action six times.

Despite all that, Tuesday's win was San Jose’s best effort this season. Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and Joe Thornton all had multi-point games for the first time this year. Martin Jones had another strong game, and appears to have shaken off his slow start.

In short, San Jose’s game is headed in the right direction. It needs to be, with a five-game road trip beginning on Friday. 

Now comes the hard part.

It's on the road where we’ll get our best sense of who this team really is. Peter DeBoer won’t have the benefit of last change, and won't be able to dictate matchups. 

Under these circumstances, we’ll begin to really see if Joakim Ryan is ready for a top-four role, whether Kevin Labanc is a viable first-line winger, and how the rest of the young reinforcements stack up. They will have less time off, too, as all but one game occurs after one day (or less) of rest and travel. That missed practice time isn't ideal for any team, let alone one still trying to work out the kinks.

Fortunately, the competition is forgiving, at least on paper. Other than the Devils, none of the Sharks’ four other road trip opponents have winning records as of this writing. The topsy turvy nature of the standings, though, show how little “on paper” means this early in the season.

We’ll know a lot more about who these San Jose Sharks are by the time their road trip ends. Their record still won't tell the whole story, but by then, they'll have played about an eighth of the season. 

And by then, we’ll have a much better idea of how good this team really is.

Sharks' offense comes alive, leads charge in win over Canadiens

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AP

Sharks' offense comes alive, leads charge in win over Canadiens

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE — Logan Couture credited a teammate for scoring his second goal. He took credit for the first one.

Couture scored a pair of goals and the San Jose Sharks extended their dominance of the Montreal Canadiens with a 5-2 victory on Tuesday night.

Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl also scored for the Sharks, who have won the past 11 home games against the Canadiens, a streak that dates to Nov. 23, 1999.

On a power play late in the third period, rookie Tim Heed took a shot off a face-off that bounced free in front of the net. Pavelski couldn't get his stick on it but managed to kick it across the net for Couture, who found a huge opening.

"That was pretty special," Couture said. "I don't know if he knew I was there but he kept his balance and kicked it over."

Couture opened the scoring 3:30 into the first period, grabbing a rebound off the back board, skating across the front of the net to get Price to commit and then firing into an open net.

Jonathan Drouin and Shea Weber scored for the Canadiens, who are winless since an opening night victory at the Buffalo Sabres.

"It's a very poor start from our team, from myself, from a lot of individuals," Canadiens' Max Pacioretty said. "It's a good time to look in the mirror and see what we're made of because a lot of people are probably doubting this team right now."

Martin Jones stopped 28 of 30 shots for the Sharks, who finish their season-opening homestand with a 2-3 record.

"The biggest thing is finding that energy for the whole game," Jones said. "We started OK and then we got better as the night went on."

Carey Price, who stopped 31 of 35 shots, fell to 2-7-1 in 10 games against the Sharks.

The Canadiens responded 36 seconds later when Drouin picked up a pass from Artturi Lehkonen close in and fired it over Jones' left shoulder and into the net.

Pavelski gave the Sharks the lead for good when he redirected Kevin Labanc's shot just under a minute into the second period. The shot hit Weber's left shin pad and bounced into the net.

"There were a lot of good things out there," Pavelski said. "We didn't have the homestand we wanted but we can leave on a positive note to take on the road."

Hertl padded the lead midway through the second on a power play. Standing on the right side of the net, he was trying to control a pass from Joe Thornton but the puck fluttered off his stick and got behind Price.

"I'll take it any way I can get it," Hertl said. "There are times I've had great shots that just bounced off the post."

Weber's power-play goal two minutes later kicked off Jones' skates for the score.

The Sharks needed five seconds to score on a power play late in the second period. Tim Heed shot on goal and it bounced off Pavelski's skate. Couture picked it up and found a huge opening.

NOTES: After allowing three power play goals over their first five penalty kills, the Sharks killed off 14 straight until Weber scored in the second period. ... Couture recorded his 24th career multi-goal game. ... Sharks D Tim Heed recorded his first NHL point with an assist on Couture's power-play goal. ... Brendan Gallagher needs one assist for 100 with the Canadiens.

UP NEXT:

Canadiens: plays at the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday in their second back-to-back of the season.

Sharks: open a five-game road trip on the east coast with a game at the New Jersey Devils on Friday.