Sharks

Sharks-Predators: What to watch for

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Sharks-Predators: What to watch for

NASHVILLE, Tenn. When the San Jose Sharks battle the Predators tonight, the game will feature the team with the best shot differential in the league against the team with the worst.

San Jose leads the league in shots per game (38.8), as well as shots against per game (25.3). The Predators? Its the exact opposite, as they are last in the league in shots (22.1) and shots against (33.9).

Of course, you can look at stats all day and they dont mean a thing in the standings. The Sharks (3-3) and Preds (3-3-1) each have three wins and three regulation losses.

All those numbers power play percentage, faceoffs, and all that type of stuff when they post the standings in the newspaper they dont talk about that at all. They talk about winning games and losing games, said Todd McLellan. Thats what were here to do.

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Marc-Edouard Vlasic said: Its a good stat, but were 3-3, so the shots weve been giving up have been good scoring chances. But, it also means were playing tight defensively, so it is a good sign.

McLellan conceded that the shot differential, if it keeps up, should help down the road.

All those little things lead, over time, to more wins than losses, I believe. But right now weve got to put more wins on the board.

Key players returning for Preds: Nashville should get a much-needed boost on offense tonight when Mike Fisher makes his season debut. Fisher, who was acquired via trade last season from Ottawa, has been out since left shoulder surgery in the offseason.

Furthermore, defenseman Francis Bouillon is also likely to play. Hes been sidelined since January with a concussion.

Just as the Sharks did when Martin Havlat got in the lineup, McLellan expects Nashville to get some energy from two good players returning.

They are both veterans that have played a ton of games in the league and they are excited about getting back in the lineup, he said. I think theyll have an impact on the game. They are two very talented players, and well have to be aware of them.

One guy who knows Fisher well is Havlat, as the two played parts of four seasons together with the Senators.

For sure, hes one of the hardest working guys in the league and one of the fastest ones, said Havlat. Hes got a great shot, too, so its nice to see him back.

The Predators could use a jolt, especially offensively. They have just 15 goals in seven games, and managed just four on a recently completed three-game road trip in Western Canada.
Mitchell still out: McLellan wouldnt confirm it, but Torrey Mitchell skated for about a half hour later than his teammates at the morning skate at Bridgestone Arena, so he wont be playing tonight. All signs point to the Sharks using the same lineup as they did in Saturday against Boston, meaning Jim Vandermeer and Justin Braun will be the third pair on defense.

The good news on Mitchell, though, is that he should be good to go by Fridays game in Detroit. He was able to partake in contact drills on Tuesday something he wasnt able to do the day before.

Definitely a good shot for Friday, he said. I feel really good.
Odds and ends: This is the first of four meetings between the Sharks and Predators. They split the four last season, although both of San Joses wins came in overtime. Pekka Rinne will faceAntti Niemi in net. Both goaltenders are coming off of strong games, as Rinne made 33 saves for a shutout win in Calgary Saturday while Niemis 37 saves helped the Sharks to a 4-2 win in Boston the same day.

Young Sharks fitting in, not neccessarily standing out

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USATSI

Young Sharks fitting in, not neccessarily standing out

 

The message for the San Jose Sharks’ prospects was quite clear this offseason.

After general manager opted not to re-sign Patrick Marleau, or sign any free agents of consequence, it was readily apparent the Sharks would need to rely on their young players to fill any holes.

Before the quarter mark of the season, that youth movement is underway. Five first or second-year players will suit up at SAP Center Monday night against Anaheim. 

Partially, the infusion is due to injury, as Barclay Goodrow, Melker Karlsson, and Paul Martin are all on the mend. But as the season wears on, the young players’ presence is becoming a necessity. 

Joakim Ryan looks like a natural fit alongside Brent Burns, and the Sharks are a decidedly better puck possession team with him on the ice than when he’s not. Tim Heed leads Sharks defensemen in scoring, and Danny O’Regan assisted San Jose’s lone goal in his season debut on Saturday. 

That assist set up the goal that ended Timo Meier’s drought, and he looks primed to break out: he’s third on the team in five-on-five shots despite playing the ninth-fewest five-on-five minutes this season, according to Corsica Hockey.  Kevin Labanc’s cooled off since his scorching start, but is still tied for sixth on the team in scoring and skated on the top line at Monday’s morning skate, according to the Bay Area News Group’s Curtis Pashelka.

There’s still room for improvement, of course. Labanc and Meier could stand to score more, but the same can be said about most everyone else. Ryan’s made his fair share of mistakes, but Burns has struggled plenty of times alongside him, too. 

So the young players are fitting in, even if all of them aren’t necessarily standing out. That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. 

Meier’s the only first-round pick of the lot, but he’s also only been able to legally buy a beer for a month. Ryan and Heed have made the best adjustment, in no small part because they’re the oldest (24 and 26, respectively) of the Barracuda call-ups, and thus have the most professional experience. 

Of course, fitting in isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is, however, far from ideal, when that’s what many other players on the roster are doing. 

Having all of their young players stand out is what will ultimately make the Sharks stand out from the rest of the pack. It hasn’t quite happened yet, and San Jose’s one of 22 teams separated by six points or fewer. 

And if it doesn’t, the middle of the pack is where the Sharks will remain.