Sharks

NHL Gameday: Sharks host Panthers; Labanc thrives on top line

NHL Gameday: Sharks host Panthers; Labanc thrives on top line

Programming note – Sharks-Panthers coverage starts today at 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 34-18-5, 73 points, 1st Pacific Division
Panthers: 24-20-10, 58 points, 5th Atlantic Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***The Sharks will play their first home game after a four-game road trip tonight against the Panthers, whom they beat in Florida on Nov. 10, 4-2. San Jose has won the last three head-to-head matchups.

Florida is five points out of the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

“They’re [in] desperation mode with [27] games left,” Pete DeBoer said. “Anybody that’s packed in and fighting for those last playoff spots you’re going to see their best game here for the rest of the season.”

After going 1-8-1 in the first home game after a multiple-game road trip last season, the Sharks are 3-2 in such situations this year.

***It’s uncertain whether rookie Nikolay Goldobin will be in the lineup after the former first round pick was recalled on Wednesday morning. One line that will remain the same, though, is the top line of Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Kevin Labanc.

Labanc had a pair of assists on that line after getting bumped up there to start the second period on Sunday in New Jersey, a 4-1 Sharks win. It would seem he has a chance to stick there now that Tomas Hertl has shifted to third line center.

“It’s an unbelievable opportunity,” Labanc said. “They’re great players, and I’m just fortunate enough to be on that line. I’ve just got to get the puck to them and let them do all the work.”

Thornton said: “He’s forechecking hard, he’s complimenting me and Pav real nicely. He’s been working extremely hard to fit in, and he’s done a great job.”

***Patrick Marleau will be honored in a pregame ceremony for scoring his 500th career goal on Feb. 2 in Vancouver.  He will also become just the 10th player in league history to skate in 600 consecutive games. That iron man streak began on April 9, 2009.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Joe Thornton. The veteran center brings a three-game point streak into tonight’s game (2g, 2a), including his first two goals of the season in a manned net. Thornton is now just four assists away from 1,000 in his career.

Panthers: Jaromir Jagr. The Panthers winger is celebrating his 45th birthday today, and with his 10th goal of the season on Saturday, he’s scored double-digit goals in each of his 23 seasons in the league.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Kevin Labanc – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Mikkel Boedker
Timo Meier – Tomas Hertl – Joel Ward
Micheal Haley – Chris Tierney – Melker Karlsson

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

Martin Jones (starter)
Aaron Dell

Panthers
Jonathan Huberdeau – Aleksander Barkov – Jaromir Jagr
Jussi Jokinen – Vincent Trocheck – Reilly Smith
Michael Sgarbossa – Nick Bjugstad – Jonathan Marchessault
Shawn Thornton – Derek MacKenzie – Colton Sceviour

Keith Yandle – Jason Demers
Mark Pysyk – Aaron Ekblad
Michael Matheson – Alex Petrovic

Roberto Luongo
James Reimer

INJURIES

Sharks: Joonas Donskoi (upper body) and Dylan DeMelo (broken wrist) are out.

Panthers: None.

QUOTEABLE

“He was a trooper, three-year-old, standing behind the bench all game. I thought I have a three-year-old, that’s a tough feat to do. So, come on back and meet some of the boys.” – Joe Thornton, on bringing a young fan into the dressing room after Sunday’s game in New Jersey

Sharks win second straight, beat Devils to start road trip

Sharks win second straight, beat Devils to start road trip

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. — Martin Jones made 28 saves for his first shutout of the season and 16th overall in the San Jose Sharks' 3-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.

Melker Karlsson, Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi scored and Justin Braun had two assists to help the Sharks open a five-game East Coast trip.

Keith Kinkaid, the top goalie for New Jersey with Cory Schneider on injured reserve, stopped 30 shots as the Devils' three-game winning streak came to an end.

The Devils couldn't muster a strong push in the later stages against the rested Sharks. It was New Jersey's second game two nights following a 5-4 overtime victory in Ottawa. And it showed against the Sharks, who played a solid road game, pressed their advantage and solidly supported Jones.

Karlsson scored the lone goal of the opening period at 14:11 on a close-in shot following a slick behind-the-net setup pass from Tomas Hertl.

The shots were 13 for each team in the evenly played period. The Devils came close on several occasions as former Shark Mirco Mueller and Blake Coleman both hit the crossbar and Jones robbed Drew Stafford on a dead-on drive from the slot.

Pavelski and Donskoi got second-period goals as the Sharks steadily tightened their grip on the game.

Pavelski tipped in Braun's point shot at 5:49. Joe Thornton got the second assist, his 1,395th point, to pass Luc Robitaille for 21st on the career list.

Donskoi backhanded a rebound shot with 1:10 left in the period in which the Sharks outshot the Devils 11-6.

The remaining drama centered on Jones' shutout bid.

NOTES: The Devils placed Schneider on injured reserve Friday with a lower-body injury and recalled Scott Wedgewood from Binghamton of the American Hockey League to serve as Kinkaid's backup. ... Mueller, a healthy scratch in three of the previous four games, returned for the Devils to face the Sharks, the team that drafted him in the first round, for the first time. He was dealt to New Jersey over the summer.

UP NEXT

Sharks: At the New York Islanders on Saturday night.

Devils: Host Ottawa on Friday night.

As Joakim Ryan returns home, Sharks reunite with a former top prospect

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AP

As Joakim Ryan returns home, Sharks reunite with a former top prospect

When Joakim Ryan suits up in his first NHL road game against the New Jersey Devils Friday night, he’ll do so in a familiar place.

Ryan, a New Jersey-born Swede, played for the Devils’ youth program and nearby Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) in high school. In fact, he’s already played at the Prudential Center, skating in the state championship game with CBA in 2009.

He’s not the only one due for something of a homecoming, as the Sharks may see a familiar face line up on the opposing blueline.

This is the Sharks’ first matchup against New Jersey since trading 2013 first round pick Mirco Mueller ahead of June’s Expansion Draft. Mueller was once considered the future on the San Jose blueline, a smooth-skating defenseman with size to boot.

The Swiss defender never fulfilled his potential, in part because his development was rushed from the start. He made the NHL roster as a rookie in 2014-15, almost by default. Other than Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the only defensemen ahead of him on left side of the depth chart were a far past-his-prime Scott Hannan and regular scratch Matt Irwin. Such was the nature of the Sharks’ “step back” that year.

Mueller finally got regular playing time, albeit in the minors, during his second professional season. By then, he was pushed down the organizational depth chart by the team’s acquisitions of Brenden Dillon and Roman Polak, and the development of Dylan DeMelo. David Schlemko’s signing last summer kept Mueller there for most of 2016-17, but it was Ryan and Tim Heed that ensured Mueller’s NHL future would lie elsewhere. The Swedes surpassed him, and emerged as perhaps the AHL’s best defensive pair in the process.

It’s fitting, then, that Ryan and Heed will be in the lineup tonight, and Mueller may not, as the fresh start he needed hasn’t quite panned out. He’s averaging a career-high 18:44 in ice time, but has been scratched in three of New Jersey’s seven games, including Thursday night’s overtime win in Ottawa.

So Ryan comes home to New Jersey under much happier circumstances than Mueller will reunite with the Sharks. One prodigal son returns, and the other is simply trying to save face.

It’s still early in his Devils tenure, of course, and Mueller may yet emerge as a regular on the New Jersey blueline. His Sharks reunion, though, will serve as a reminder of what once was, what could have been, and what is now San Jose’s future on defense.