Sharks-Detroit: What to watch for


Sharks-Detroit: What to watch for

DETROIT, MI There was a noticeable wrinkle on defense for the Sharks at the pregame skate on Friday at Joe Louis Arena.

San Joses third defense pair, which has had a number of different looks through the first seven games, could be Jason Demers and Justin Braun tonight after they skated together this morning. In the past two games, it was Braun and Jim Vandermeer, and before that, Demers and Colin White.

Todd McLellan would not confirm anything after the skate, of course, when asked if he would go with that new look tonight against the Red Wings.

Well make some game-time decisions. Theres a chance there will be, he simply said.

Demers, who admitted it was tough sitting out after he was scratched in Boston, liked what he saw while practicing with Braun.

Hes a great player, smart with the puck. He competes hard, and if we do keep going together it will be good to see how we do as a partnership, he said. It was good today, really good.

Braun, who was recalled from Worcester before Saturdays win in Boston, knows that facing the Red Wings wont be easy.

You look over there and they have some pretty good hands, he said. You have to just not over-commit, and contain, and wait for them to make a mistake and make good passes all night.

As for other potential roster changes, signs point to Benn Ferreiro staying in the lineup for at least one more game. Ferriero and Torrey Mitchell both took some rushes on the third line, but Ferriero came off the ice much earlier than Mitchell, who has been battling upper body soreness for a week.

Havlat new to rivalry: Martin Havlat will get his first taste of the Sharks-Red Wings rivalry tonight, but it will be pretty familiar territory for him.

It was a pretty big rivalry when I played in Chicago too, so its not that much different, he said. I know the last couple years the Sharks and Red Wings met in the playoffs, and both teams are one of the best in the league.

Havlat has registered one assist in each of his first three games, and the goals have been huge the Sharks essentially won all of them by a goal, with the shootout win against New Jersey and a couple of empty-netters in their last two games.

You couldnt tell by watching, but Havlat says there is still some work to be done in terms of gelling with Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe.

We need more games. Its just been three games, he said. Weve started pretty good. They are both good players and very strong on the puck. We just need to get the chemistry going even more, and positioning-wise. Its going to get easier for us.

One other note regarding Havlat in his only shorthanded shift on Tuesday in Nashville, he set up Couture for a goal that that opened the scoring and stood into the third period. But, dont expect he and Couture to get too many shorthanded minutes just yet.

Havlat is into basically exhibition game number four tonight, where basically everybody else is ahead. Were going to manage his minutes, said McLellan.

We talked about trying to take some of the penalty kill minutes away from our bigger players and distribute them evenly. Logan could potentially be one of those guys.

Opposite directions? The logic is simple the Sharks have won three straight, while the Red Wings have suffered two straight ugly losses. That would seem to indicate two teams heading in opposite directions.

Right, Todd McLellan?

I dont know about that, said the Sharks coach. I think both teams are finding their way is probably the best way of putting it. They obviously arent happy with the results in the past two games and I dont think thats indicative of their team on most nights.

Our game is slowly improving. Were finding ways to win now where earlier in the season we probably would have found ways to lose. Were making progress.

Odds and ends: Jimmy Howard will face Antti Niemi in net. Howard missed the last two games while his wife was giving birth, while Niemi will be making his fifth straight start. McLellan was tight-lipped on a couple of topics after practice, when asked about potentially starting Thomas Griess in the second of a back-to-back tomorrow on Long Island, and not having to face an injured Evgeni Nabokov. The Sharks won three of the four regular season matchups with Detroit last season. Joe Thornton has five goals and four assists in his last six regular season games against the Red Wings. Detroit is beginning a stretch of seven home games out of eight. Joe Pavelski has four goals and two assists in the last three games. The Sharks lead the league in shots on goal (38.4 per game), while Detroit is second (36.1).

Time is now for Sharks to experiment with new lines


Time is now for Sharks to experiment with new lines

The San Jose Sharks were shut out for the first time this season on Thursday night, but it sure didn't feel like it.

You’d be forgiven, albeit mistaken, if you didn't think the loss was their first goose egg of the season. San Jose’s been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league this year, and has scored two or fewer goals in all but two of their six games in November.

The Sharks controlled play, but their raw possession numbers were misleading: Through the first two periods, San Jose was outshot 23-18, and poured it on in the third looking for the game-tying goal.

In order to break out of his team’s extended slump, head coach Peter DeBoer appeared to throw his lines in the proverbial blender. The changes weren't very significant, though, as DeBoer worked mostly around the edges.

Joe Thornton remained with Joe Pavelski, while Melker Karlsson and Timo Meier rotated in on their wing. Joonas Donskoi swapped in with Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl, and on and on.

The core pair of each line remained intact, while DeBoer swapped complimentary wingers. Subtle changes, unsurprisingly, didn't lead to drastically different results.

He’s been amenable to bigger changes at times, briefly breaking up longtime linemates Thornton and Pavelski last Sunday against Los Angeles. The bottom six, especially the fourth line, has mostly been a revolving door.

That's a start, but far from enough. 

As long as the Sharks struggle to score, similarly significant changes are in order.

DeBoer shouldn't want to sacrifice the team’s defensive dominance, or its strong possession game. But, the Sharks haven't scored enough through 17 games to justify using the same forward combinations. 

In Thornton and Pavelski’s case, those struggles date back to last season. For just about everyone else, the sample size is getting increasingly more significant as the season approaches the quarter pole.

The Sharks bench boss expressed a willingness to mix up his power play units earlier this week, and needs to do the same at even strength. It's time to try Pavelski on Couture's wing, Meier on Thornton's, or any number of permutations.

Tweaking around the edges hasn't made much of a difference, so far more comprehensive adjustments are not only welcome, but necessary. Of course, DeBoer may not find the perfect lineup solutions.

At this point, though, it's worth a shot. It's hard to imagine the Sharks scoring any less than they have so far this season, and the Sharks need to explore if any line changes can provide a remedy.

Luongo picks up a career first in Panthers win over Sharks


Luongo picks up a career first in Panthers win over Sharks


SAN JOSE — Roberto Luongo made 35 saves for his 74th career shutout and the Florida Panthers blanked the San Jose Sharks 2-0 Thursday night on goals by Colton Sceviour and Nick Bjugstad.

Florida coach Bob Boughner won in his return to San Jose. He served as an assistant coach for the Sharks the last two years.

Luongo earned his first shutout of the season and first in 32 games against San Jose.

Martin Jones was nearly as good for the Sharks. He stopped 26 shots, but that wasn't enough to keep the Panthers from winning for the seventh time in their last eight trips to San Jose.

Sharks defenseman Tim Heed had a goal disallowed on a coach's challenge a little less than five minutes into the second period. Replays showed he came into contact with the puck just behind the blue line, making the play offside.

San Jose had another goal overturned after a replay review. Brent Burns took a hard shot that Luongo nearly caught but couldn't handle and it bounced along his pads. Marc-Edouard Vlasic was one of three Sharks trying to poke at the puck and he used his stick to push both the puck and Luongo's pad into the net.

Sceviour scored a minute into the second after digging out the puck along the boards behind the net. He skated around the cage and poked a shot that hit Jones' pads. He took a second shot that got over the goalie's pads and went in.

Sceviour has four points in six games since returning from injury. He had two points in his first six games this season.

The Panthers, who have won three of four, added an insurance goal with less than eight minutes remaining. Radim Vrbata intercepted a pass in the Sharks zone and played it to Jamie McGinn, who got Jones to commit before dishing to Bjugstad for the score.

NOTES: Panthers C Michael Haley received a warm ovation from Sharks fans. He played in San Jose the last couple of years. ... Sharks D Paul Martin missed his 15th game with a lower-body injury, though he has been skating pain-free for the past two weeks. ... Florida center Vincent Trocheck has 12 points in his last 10 games. ... The Sharks have not scored on their past 15 power plays.


Panthers: At the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

Sharks: Host the Boston Bruins on Saturday.