Sharks

Sharks-Phoenix: What to watch for

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Sharks-Phoenix: What to watch for

PHOENIX Thursday nights Sharks-Coyotes game is the latest in the string of most important games the season, and head coach Todd McLellan needs everyone on board.

Thats something he didnt have in Wednesdays 3-1 loss to Anaheim, which sent the Sharks tumbling from the Pacific Division lead and third seed in the conference to eighth place, just a point ahead of tonights opponent.

RELATED: Conference standings

At this time of the year you cant miss bodies. You have jerseys, you have bodies that are wearing jerseys, but if thats all they are, then youre going to be short, said the head coach on Thursday morning. We had a couple key people that I thought could have produced more and given us a little bit more on Wednesday and well need that from them tonight.

The coach, as is his standard style, didnt want to name any names, though guys like Patrick Marleau, Marty Havlat and Brent Burns were hardly noticeable. Instead, he wanted to focus on what has to be done to beat what will be a well rested, rejuvenated and perhaps very healthy Coyotes lineup.

The start is going to be real important, McLellan said. Were going to have to be very conscious of what we do the first 10 or 15 minutes of the game. They are a much different team when they play with the lead.

The Coyotes will be getting captain Shane Doan back now that hes done serving a three-game suspension. Leading goal-scorer Radim Vrbata is possible to return from a two-game absence, and big-minute defenseman Adrian Aucoin could also play after missing the last six games.

Its good to get a lot of guys back, coach Dave Tippett told the Arizona Republic on Wednesday.

The Sharks, meanwhile, will be without defenseman Douglas Murray, who suffered a lower body injury in the first period of Wednesdays loss in Anaheim. Colin White will be back in for the Sharks on defense.

NEWS: Sharks without Murray against Coyotes

Road weary: The Sharks are just 1-5-2 in their last eight road games. McLellan was asked if he could pinpoint a reason why.

We havent scored enough goals on the road, in my opinion, he said. A lot of the games have been 2-1, 1-0, 3-2. Weve got to get some offense. Our defensive play on the road has not been bad.

San Jose has 16 goals in its last eight road games. Of the Sharks final five games, three are away from HP Pavilion. The team concludes its season with a home-and-home against Dallas and another against Los Angeles.

RATTO: Sharks' path to palyoffs runs through Dallas

The Sharks will also be trying to beat a Coyotes team that hasnt played since Sunday, while San Jose is playing for the second time in two nights.

Sometimes when you play back-to-back that second game youre a little looser, if you will. You just flow right into that next game, and that can work in your favor, if you get off to the start that you want to have. Thats what well be looking for, McLellan said.

The Sharks will be trying to put their loss to the Ducks behind them, quickly.

Thats how it is in the playoffs. You have to quickly move on, learn your lesson, take what you can from losses, or even from wins, and move on, Marleau said.

Embrace the pressure: With another playoff appearance far from a sure thing at this point, McLellan would like to see his club embrace the situation they find themselves in. The playoffs have essentially started already.

This is professional sport, its not just hockey. The really elite players and elite teams thrive in these situations, and weve done it before, McLellan said. Weve been through first rounds, weve been through second rounds. Theres no more pressure than playing in Game 7 at home against the Detroit Red Wings last year when we responded.

If we take that same approach and we have that same excitement about potential success, well give ourselves a chance.

TJ Galiardi is one player taking that to heart.

I think theres something wrong with you if you dont enjoy it. This is what we pay for, he said. We wish we were in a playoff position already, but I think that well be better for it.

Odds and ends: Phoenix is 3-1-1 against San Jose in the season series, although the Sharks won in a shootout at HP Pavilion on March 24, 4-3. Ryane Clowe has two goals in the last two games. Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris will be honored before the game for playing in his 1000th NHL game last week. ... Antti Niemi will start in net.

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.