Sharks

Sharks-Kings: What to watch for

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Sharks-Kings: What to watch for

SAN JOSE The Los Angeles Kings, last in the NHL in goals, have led after the first period just four times in their first 34 games. One of those was on Nov. 28 at Staples Center against the Sharks, in what was one of the weakest efforts of the season for San Jose in a 2-0 loss.

The Kings have since changed coaches, but that game is still fresh in the minds of the Sharks and their head coach as the Pacific Division rivals meet tonight at HP Pavilion.

It wasnt a great game for us. We didnt have the start we wanted and dug ourselves a hole. I know they were a lot more intense and physical, and won a lot more battles, said Ryane Clowe. They wanted that game more and they were ready to start.

We know how L.A. plays, weve played them enough. We have to have a good start, and we have a couple days off after this game, so there are no excuses tonight.

Todd McLellan expects a fired up Kings group that will be playing its second game under new head coach Darryl Sutter, but thinks the Sharks should match that based on what happened the last time these teams met.

I know theyll be a motivated group with a new coach, and that coach having some ties to San Jose. Im sure theyll want to play for him, said McLellan. At the same breath, we should be matching that because of our poor effort in L.A. a couple weeks ago. We werent very good, and were outworked and out-battled for two complete periods.

Building momentum: The Sharks will be looking to build off of their most lopsided win of the season when they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, 7-2, on Wednesday night. In was their third straight win, all at home, as San Jose improved to a perfect 3-0 on its six-game homestand.

Well try and do a lot of the same things that worked well, said Joe Pavelski, who will play tonight after missing Thursdays practice with the flu. I think the simple part of our game was good. When we get our opportunities we have to be ready. Thats the biggest thing, guys had some good looks and finished on them.

When you get on rolls and start to get on a winning streak, things come naturally, it seems, said Clowe. You get those bounces around the net. We want to keep that momentum on our side. Theyve got a different look over there with a new coach who is fresh in there, so its a good opportunity to establish our game early and dictate, like weve been doing.

Although the Kings score just 2.12 goals-per game, 30th in the NHL, no one expects the score to be as lopsided as it was on Wednesday.

These are two teams that are more familiar with each other. I dont think there will be any surprises, and that prevents games from getting to 7-2 or 7-3 or whatever it might be, said McLellan.

The Kings have won back-to-back games via the shootout, including a 3-2 win over Anaheim on Thursday night in Sutters first game behind the bench. Los Angeles has a brutal streak of 13 straight games without scoring more than two goals in regulation, though.

You have ups and down, same way sometimes as we have a tough time scoring goals. You have to reestablish your game on a nightly basis, find ways to the net, said Pavelski. We dont know exactly whats going on over there. Were worried more about ourselves.

Special teams improving: The Sharks spent two days at their practice facility on Monday and Tuesday with some intense work on special teams play. The power play and penalty kill had both been floundering before Wednesdays game against Tampa Bay.

They saw some fruits from their labor with two power play goals and none allowed on the penalty kill in five Lightning chances.

That probably was the best number that we had in here, for us, said Pavelski of the 5-for-5 on the PK. Its something thats just a start, and hopefully going in the right direction. We have to build on that.

Roster update: Douglas Murray and Jim Vandermeer both remain on injured reserve and will not play with their respective broken hands.

Goaltender Antero Niittymaki, though, has returned from his conditioning stint in Worcester, and the Sharks now officially have three goalies on their roster.

Whats the immediate plan?

Antti Niemi tonight, Thomas Greiss backing up, and the Christmas break tomorrow, said McLellan.

Niemi will be making his 13th start in the last 14 games.

Odds and ends: This is the third game between the Sharks and Kings. San Jose won the first at HP Pavilion on Nov. 7, 4-2. They dont meet again until March 20 at Staples Center, and finish the season with a home-and-home against one another. Kings forward Mike Richards returned from an eight-game absence last night with a concussion, and scored one of the Kings two regulation goals Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski each have four-game scoring streaks, with five points apiece over that span. Jonathan Quick is expected to start for Los Angeles. He made 33 saves in shutting out the Sharks on Nov. 28. Dustin Brown has the shootout winner in each of the last two Kings wins.

Recovered from injuries, Joonas Donskoi returning to form just in time for Sharks

Recovered from injuries, Joonas Donskoi returning to form just in time for Sharks

Joonas Donskoi’s first goal of the season all but sealed the Sharks’ 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.

It was also a long time coming, too. The Finnish forward finished a chance for the first time in 28 regular season games, 33 if you include his goal-less postseason. He last scored on January 7, when Patrick Marleau was a Shark and San Jose still held a share of the Pacific Division lead.

He struggled mightily after that, largely due to injury. Donskoi separated his shoulder not once, but twice last season, and revealed to The Athletic this week that he also dealt with “foot issues.” He spent over a month on injured reserve and managed just three assists in his final 22 games as a result.

With health on his side, Donskoi’s returned to his rookie year form. Through six games, he's registered three points, all at even strength. That’s tied with Joe Pavelski for the team lead, despite the fact he’s played nearly four minutes less per game at even strength than the captain.

He’s done a lot in less ice time, scoring five-on-five points at a higher rate per 60 minutes than any player on the team, according to Natural Stat Trick. He’s done a lot against lesser competition, too, taking advantage of his assignments in Peter DeBoer’s bottom six forward group.

That’s an important development, given the disappearance of San Jose’s depth scoring last season. Only four Sharks forwards cracked 40 points last season, and one of them is in Toronto. Most damning, though, is that the same number managed to score 30 or more points last year. The Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, by contrast, had eight forwards score 30 points in the regular season.

It’s still early in the season, but Donskoi’s underlying numbers indicate this level of play is built to last. His personal shooting percentage is below his career-high, and the Sharks are scoring on a reasonable 6.52% of their shots with Donskoi on the ice in five-on-five situations. That’s only half-a-percentage point higher than San Jose’s rate during Donskoi’s injury-riddled 2016-17.

Donskoi will undoubtedly hit some bumps in the road, but after struggling so much last season, it appears the 25-year-old is back on track. If the Sharks are to improve on last season, they desperately need depth scorers.

Thanks to Donskoi’s resurgence, they just might have found one.

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.