NHL Gameday: Sharks shuffle lines again, seeking spark against Pens

NHL Gameday: Sharks shuffle lines again, seeking spark against Pens

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


Sharks: 6-5-0, 12 points, 2nd Pacific Division
Penguins: 7-2-2, 16 points, 2nd Metropolitan Division


***Seeking some offense and riding a two-game losing streak, the Sharks are again shuffling up their lines (see below). Tomas Hertl returns to the top line, while Patrick Marleau will play center for the first time since the second round of last year’s playoffs, skating between Mikkel Boedker and Melker Karlsson.

“It’s just about resetting and getting back to some of the things we do well,” said Joe Pavelski, the Sharks’ leading scorer with 12 points (4g, 8a).

DeBoer’s line changes inspired the team on Thursday against Calgary after a sleepy start, but it wasn’t enough in a 3-2 loss.

“The nice thing about us with the depth we have, we’ve got a lot of good options,” DeBoer said after Saturday’s morning skate. “When you lose two in a row and haven’t scored as much as we’d like, that’s what happens.”

***Tonight will mark the return of Matt Nieto, who was a healthy scratch for the past five games. Nieto, who turns 24 today, will be on the fourth line with Chris Tierney and Tommy Wingels.

“It’s no fun not playing, so really excited right now,” said Nieto, who is scoreless in five games this season, and hasn’t played since a defensive zone blunder in Detroit on Oct. 22. “Just have to bring energy to the team tonight and do what I can to stay in.”

DeBoer said: “I know he’s hungry to get back in, and that’s what depth guys do. It’s his job to come in tonight and make a difference.”

Micheal Haley will come out.

***Pittsburgh beat the Sharks on Oct. 20 at PPG Paints Arena, erasing a 2-0 third period hole to win 3-2 in regulation. That was despite missing Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and Matt Murray, all key cogs to its Stanley Cup championship.

“You look at the lineup tonight, real similar to the one they had in the Final last year," DeBoer said. "Obviously it will be a different game than the first game with the personnel they’re got in, but a familiar opponent.”

***The Penguins are hot, with a 4-0-1 mark in their last five, although they lost in overtime in Los Angeles in their most recent game on Thursday, 3-2. Tonight is the conclusion of a four-game road trip.

***Pittsburgh is 5-for-15 on the power play over its last five games, while the Sharks are a perfect 17-for-17 on the PK over their last six. The last power play goal San Jose allowed was to Pittsburgh’s Patric Hornqvist on Oct. 20.


Sharks: Melker Karlsson. Karlsson brings a two-game point streak into Saturday’s game, including a goal on Thursday against Calgary. The 26-year-old has been working his way up the lineup, even spending time with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski against the Flames. Karlsson scored the game-winning goal in Game 5 of last year’s Stanley Cup Final against Pittsburgh.

Penguins: Kris Letang. The defenseman, who scored the game-winning goal in the Stanley Cup-clinching Penguins win on June 12, missed the first rematch two weeks ago due to injury but is back in the lineup now. He has six points (1g, 5a) in six games on the season.


Tomas Hertl – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Joonas Donskoi – Logan Couture – Joel Ward
Mikkel Boedker – Patrick Marleau – Melker Karlsson
Matt Nieto – Chris Tierney – Tommy Wingels

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

Martin Jones (confirmed starter)
Aaron Dell

Carl Hagelin – Sidney Crosby – Patric Hornqvist
Chris Kunitz – Evgeni Malkin – Phil Kessel
Scott Wilson – Nick Bonino – Bryan Rust
Conor Sheary – Matt Cullen – Eric Fehr

Brian Dumoulin – Kris Letang
Olli Maatta – Trevor Daley
Ian Cole – Justin Schultz

Matt Murray (confirmed starter)
Marc-Andre Fleury


Sharks: None.

Penguins: Derrick Pouliot (undisclosed) is out.


“I think sometimes you expect certain things to happen when you play certain teams, which we shouldn’t. With Pittsburgh, you have to prepare like it’s the best team in the league. You have to earn everything that you get, so you have to come ready to play. You need everybody.” – Paul Martin

Sharks blow out Devils for season-high fifth straight win

Sharks blow out Devils for season-high fifth straight win


SAN JOSE -- Jannik Hansen scored his first goal of the season and fellow fourth-liners Eric Fehr and Barclay Goodrow also scored to help the San Jose Sharks win their season-high fifth straight game, 6-2 over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.

Logan Couture added his 30th goal of the season, and Joe Pavelski and Mikkel Boedker also scored to give the Sharks a four-point lead over third-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division with one game in hand.

Brent Burns added three assists and Martin Jones made 26 saves.

The scoring barrage by San Jose spoiled Cory Schneider's return to net for the Devils. Schneider allowed four goals on 14 shots before getting pulled midway through the second period of his first start since March 8. Schneider has lost 11 starts in a row since his last win for the Devils on Dec. 27.

Taylor Hall scored his 32nd goal of the season and Blake Coleman also scored for the Devils, who lead Florida by just one point in the race for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers have two games in hand.

After Hansen and Fehr scored in the first period, Goodrow chipped one in midway through the second period on a surprising night of scoring from the fourth line when he beat Schneider on a 2-on-1.

Couture then scored 40 seconds later on San Jose's first shot against Keith Kinkaid for his third career 30-goal season. Boedker added San Jose's second power-play goal of the night late in the second and the rout was on.

The Sharks got off to a fast start in their first game back from a 3-0 Canadian road trip, scoring three goals in the first period and killing 1:20 of a two-man advantage for New Jersey.

The teams traded goals to start with Fehr beating Schneider over the shoulder from a bad angle and Hall answering when he stole a bouncing puck from Justin Braunand beat Jones with a quick shot.

San Jose then scored twice in a span of less than three minutes to take the lead. Pavelski tipped in a shot from Kevin Labanc on the power play to give the Sharks the lead.

Then after Jones denied Damon Severson from in close at one end, Dylan DeMelo sent a long pass that Hansen chased down and then beat Schneider on a breakaway for his first goal since March 30, 2017.

NOTES: DeMelo has 10 assists this month. ... San Jose D Brenden Dillon has a five-game point streak. ... Devils F Miles Wood (upper body) was scratched and Jesper Bratt played in his place.


Devils: Visit Pittsburgh on Friday.

Sharks: Host Vegas on Thursday.

With Devils in town, Sharks will get firsthand look at top contender for MVP


With Devils in town, Sharks will get firsthand look at top contender for MVP

As the season winds down, whispers surrounding players’ awards candidacies are turning into full-blown conversations. None are more interesting than those surrounding the Hart Trophy, awarded to “the player judged to be the most valuable to his team,” according to the NHL’s criteria.

The Sharks have already seen their fair share of MVP candidates since the trade deadline, and will encounter yet another one on Tuesday when Taylor Hall and the New Jersey Devils stop by SAP Center. They’ll see a couple more beyond Hall over the next three weeks, too.

Who do we think has the best case? With no disrespect meant to Nikita Kucherov or Anze Kopitar, Hart Trophy candidates that the Sharks won’t play before the playoffs, we’ll look at the ones the Sharks have played since the deadline or will play before the end of the regular season.

The Dark Horses
Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals: The demise of the ‘Great Eight’ was greatly exaggerated. In his 13th NHL season, the 32-year-old is tied for the league lead in goals (43), 11th in points (78), and has led a depleted Capitals roster to the precipice of a third-straight division title. That probably won’t be enough to earn his fourth Hart Trophy, but this is undoubtedly one of Ovi’s best seasons.

Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild: Staal was a pleasant surprise when he scored 65 points last year, but has been even better this season. He’s tied for fourth in the in goals (39), tied for fifth in even strength goals (26), tied for 19th in points (71), and leading his team in each category as a 33-year-old. The Wild are a near-lock for the postseason at this point, and a resurgent Staal deserves much of the credit.

The Frontrunners
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers: McDavid’s candidacy comes down to where you fall on the “non-playoff players winning MVP” debate, but his value to the lottery-bound Oilers cannot be denied. Edmonton is 28-19-3 when he’s scored a point, and 3-17-2 when he hasn’t.

The former is about a 97-point pace in the standings over an 82-game season, while the latter is about a 30-point pace. In other words, the Oilers are basically a playoff team when McDavid scores, and historically bad when he doesn’t.

We’re sympathetic to questions about how valuable a player can be when his team will finish so far out of the postseason. However, imagining how much worse the poorly-constructed Oilers would be without him makes him a worthy candidate alone.

Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche: The Colorado Avalanche were 31 points worse than the league’s second-worst team last season, and finished 46 points out of the postseason. A full offseason with second-year coach Jared Bednar, as well as some under-the-radar acquisitions have helped the Avalanche’s remarkable turnaround into a Wild Card team, but Nathan MacKinnon is undoubtedly the catalyst.

The former No. 1 pick has put it all together this season, and is tied-for-second in points (89) with McDavid, despite playing eight fewer games. His 1.39 points per game are the most in the league, as are his 3.49 points per 60 minutes of five-on-five play, according to Natural Stat Trick (minimum 500 minutes played).

The Avalanche is the league’s fifth-worst five-on-five puck possession team overall (47.42 percent corsi-for), but are right around league-average with MacKinnon on the ice (50.96 percent). He’d be a very worthy Hart Trophy winner, and likely would be the clear-cut frontrunner if not for the man leading the Devils into SAP Center on Tuesday.

The Favorite
Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils: McDavid is not the only No. 1 pick the Oilers drafted that’s in the MVP conversation, but he’s the only one still on their roster. The other is Taylor Hall, who has the best Hart Trophy case in our eyes.

Hall strikes the sweet spot between McDavid’s case, as a superstar with little support around him, and MacKinnon’s, as an emergent force leading a resurgence, and he has a 26-game point streak to his name. He sits outside the top 10 in points (77), goals (31), and assists (46), but has scored points at a higher rate per game (1.15) than all but six qualifying players.

He also doesn’t have Mikko Rantanen or Leon Draisaitl skating alongside him as MacKinnon and McDavid do, nor does he have a supporting cast like Kucherov and Kopitar. Of all the players the Sharks have and will face down the stretch, Hall’s been the player most valuable to his team this season.