Sharks' Marleau wants to keep playing after this season


Sharks' Marleau wants to keep playing after this season

SAN JOSE – Patrick Marleau is emphatic. The 37-year-old forward, a pending unrestricted free agent in the last year of a three-year deal with the Sharks, wants to keep going after this season.

“Yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah,” he said on Wednesday, when asked if he’d like to extend his career into what would be a 20th NHL season.

There’s little doubt he’ll be able to do it, whether that’s in San Jose or elsewhere. Although he’s no longer the offensive force he used to be, the Sharks’ all-time leading scorer has shown in the early going that he can still be an effective player. He has three goals and one assist through his first 10 games, playing on the left wing of the Sharks’ third line, and could have several more goals and points. He’s fourth on the team with 28 shots, trailing only Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture.

Against the Coyotes on Tuesday, a 3-2 Sharks loss in Glendale, Marleau was arguably San Jose’s best forward. He scored a first period goal and finished with four shots and a plus-two rating.

“I’ve liked his game through the first 10,” Pete DeBoer said. “I think he’s been one of our better players. He’s consistently generated chances. He could easily have four or five goals right now with the chances he’s generated. He’s worked hard.”

Marleau, playing with Tomas Hertl and Melker Karlsson on the third line for the past four games, said: ‘It’s one thing to get chances – got [a goal] last night. Building some chemistry with the linemates, and hopefully the chances keep coming.”

Marleau is in the midst of transitioning into what seems to a reduced role. He is averaging 16:42 of ice time per game, down about two-and-a-half minutes from last season’s average of 19:01. He remains on the top power play unit but no longer kills penalties.

He’s also no longer a center, as the Sharks have chosen to put either Hertl or Chris Tierney in the middle of the third line, or a top six forward, as Joonas Donskoi and Mikkel Boedker have bumped him down the lineup. Meanwhile, other younger players like former first-round pick Timo Meier could push their way onto the roster at some point in the near future.

So far, there are absolutely no indications that Marleau is unhappy, unlike this time a year ago when it became public that he was seeking a trade. There were a few more suggestions late in the year, too, that perhaps not all was hunky dory.

Speaking before Game 2 of the Western Conference Final, when asked about Marleau moving from third line center to third line wing, DeBoer said: “You balance, 'are you better as a team,' and 'is the individual better?' That's the balance. I'm not here to make Patrick Marleau feel good. We're here to win games, and we're going to put him wherever we feel we have to [in order to] win games.”

On Wednesday, Marleau said that any suggestions he wasn’t on the same page with the head coach last year were “blown out of proportion. We had a talk. He never said anything and I never said anything, so…”

DeBoer said: “I don’t remember saying there was a disagreement with his role. Whenever you play on a good team you’re asked to make sacrifices. Whether we’re asking you to play out of position, asking you to play more of a depth role, asking you to sacrifice some ice time – penalty killing, or things like that. That’s something that everybody has to buy in to. 

“I think Patrick hasn’t had as issue with those things. You don’t expect everybody to like those things, but I think he understands the greater good theory here that we’re trying to use.”

As for Marleau extending his career in a Sharks sweater, that’s something that likely won’t be decided or announced until the season is over. It doesn’t appear to be something that’s weighing heavily on Marleau’s mind at the moment, either.

“Just focusing on hockey right now,” he said.

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights


SAN JOSE -- Seconds after almost costing the San Jose Sharks a game with a turnover, Logan Couture ended it with his backhand.

Couture scored 39 seconds into overtime after getting bailed out by goalie Martin Jones and the San Jose Sharks won their season-high sixth straight game, 2-1 over the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night.

"I was able to make a move on their guy," Couture said. "(Marc-Edouard Vlasic) did a good job of driving their backchecker back and I was able to go far side."

Couture's goal came at the end of an opening shift of the overtime that started with him losing the puck in his own zone, giving Jonathan Marchessault a chance alone in front. Jones got enough of the shot to stop it, and then Vlasic sent the puck ahead to Couture for the winning goal that moved San Jose within seven points of first-place Vegas with eight games remaining in the regular season.

Brent Burns also scored and Jones made 24 saves to help the Sharks open a four-point lead over third-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division with a game in hand as the Sharks close in on home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

"For us to get a win tonight was important," captain Joe Pavelski said. "Plus, just plant that seed. If we stay hot, you never know, we might be able to catch them and get home ice. We took care of business tonight and we'll try to keep playing well."

Tomas Tatar scored the lone goal for the Golden Knights, who were kept in the game by a sterling performance by goalie Malcolm Subban. He stopped 42 shots but it wasn't enough for Vegas to come up with the win, although he helped earn a point that gave the expansion team 100 this season.

"It's impressive," forward James Neal said. "It's a great season for our guys. Guys came together real quick. A great job so far but we're not done yet."

The Golden Knights struck first on a pretty passing play early in the first period that ended when Marchessault found Tatar cutting through the slot ahead of Justin Braun. Tatar skated past Jones and backhanded the puck into the open net.

Vegas has been dominant when getting off to a lead, posting an NHL-best 31-5-1 record when scoring first heading into this game. But the Sharks carried the play in the second period, outshooting the Golden Knights 18-4 and getting the equalizer on a blast by Burns from the point after another strong shift by San Jose's fourth line.

"We want to be playing really good hockey this time of year and heading into the playoffs. I think that's the goal," coach Peter DeBoer said. "Whether we would have won tonight or lost, I like how we played for most of the game, so that's what I'm concentrating on."

Vegas managed to keep it tied despite the lopsided shot totals, killing off a four-minute penalty to Colin Miller and another late power play that started late in the second.

That penalty carried over until the third period and the Sharks got 25 seconds of a two-man advantage after Brayden McNabb was called for throwing his stick but still couldn't get anything past Subban.

The Golden Knights squandered a power-play chance later in the period when Miller was called for cross checking with the man advantage. That nearly led to a power-play goal for San Jose but Subban appeared to get a piece of a shot from in close to Joe Pavelski to keep the game tied at 1.

"He's the main reason we got the point," coach Gerard Gallant said. "He looked comfortable."

NOTES: Vegas G Marc-Andre Fleury didn't make the trip to San Jose with an undisclosed injury but is expected to join the team for Saturday's game in Colorado. ... Burns became the 15th player to play 500 career games with the Sharks.

Golden Knights: Visit Colorado on Saturday.

Sharks: Host Calgary on Saturday.


How the Sharks can catch the Golden Knights and win the Pacific


How the Sharks can catch the Golden Knights and win the Pacific

About a month ago, the Sharks appeared locked into the Pacific Division's second, third, fourth, or fifth spot. At the end of trade deadline day, they were 12 points back of the division-leading Vegas Golden Knights, and only two points up on the fifth place Calgary Flames.

24 days later, thanks to an 8-2-0 record over the last 10 games (second-best in the NHL), San Jose's still in second place. Now though, those margins are eight points and 11 points, respectively. 

The latter's pretty much locked the Sharks into a playoff spot, while the former's created a path for a late run at the Pacific Division crown. Beginning Thursday night, they will play the Golden Knights twice over both team's final nine games. 

What does the path look like to the Sharks' first division title since 2011? To start, they'll have to beat the Golden Knights twice in regulation to even have a shot. 

That is the foundation of any run at the Pacific's top spot. If the Sharks win both remaining games in regulation, they'll trail the Golden Knights by four points, leaving aside results against other teams for now.

They have to win in regulation, however. A win in overtime or the shootout on Thursday would only cut the gap to seven, and a subsequent win in regulation would leave it at five. Two losses, in any situation, would create a gap of 10-12 points, which would be nearly impossible to overcome this late in the season. 

One point doesn't seem like a lot, but this late in the season, it makes a world of difference. A five-point gap means they'll need to earn six more than the Golden Knights in those other seven games, while a four-point gap means they'll need to earn five in order to pass them. 

The simplest way to five extra points, is for the Sharks to have a record that's two wins and an overtime loss better (2-0-1) than the Golden Knights in the seven games where they don't play each other. That's impossible if Vegas earns at least 10 points in those seven games, so a 5-2-0 or 4-1-2 record would ensure a division banner raising in Sin City.

Taken all together, then, the Golden Knights' 'magic number' is 10 points. Even if the Sharks win on Thursday, their path to a Pacific title remains difficult, if not improbable. 

If a season with an expansion team leading their division has taught us anything, though -- it's that improbable is not impossible.