Sharks

Sharks prepare to face sniper Stamkos

618278.jpg

Sharks prepare to face sniper Stamkos

SAN JOSE Loyal Sharks fans may have missed their chance to see Sidney Crosby when Pittsburgh visited in early November, as the Penguins star was still recovering from a concussion, but that doesnt mean there arent other opportunities to see marquee NHL players from the Eastern Conference.

The Lightnings Steven Stamkos is certainly one of those. The player many consider the NHLs second best behind Crosby makes a rare appearance at HP Pavilion when Tampa Bay visits on Wednesday night.

With goals in three straight games, and seven points total over that span (4g, 3a), the Sharks will likely have their hands full with the guy who has surged to the NHL lead in goal scoring with 20.

Obviously, hes a great young talent, said Colin White, who has the most experience against Stamkos among Sharks defensemen, having played with the New Jersey Devils during Stamkos first three years in the league.

Obviously, his shot comes to mind, and on the power play they look to set him up. Hes got a great release.

Jason Demers may not have as much playing time against Stamkos as White does, but he got a chance to see the former 50-goal scorer last season when the Lightning visited in November. Stamkos scored a power play goal in that game, but it came late in the third period of a 5-2 Sharks win.

Hes just an opportunistic shooter, is the best way to say it, said Demers. You cant give him too many chances because if you give him five shots, theres a good chance one will end up going in. You just have to keep an eye on him and not give him too much separation. Just play hard on him and make it a hard game on him.

Hes a dynamic player. Scores a lot of goals and scores them from familiar spots, so well have to be aware of that, said Todd McLellan.

Tampa Bay (14-16-2) has been among the NHLs biggest disappointments this season after going to the Eastern Conference final last year. The Lightning took the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins a full seven games before a slim 1-0 defeat ended their season in late May.

The biggest reason theyve been unable to duplicate that success this year is an inability to keep the puck out of their own net. The Lightning allow 3.28 goals per game, 28th in the NHL. In their last 10 games, they have held their opponents to under three goals just twice (3-7-0).

Still, with players like Stamkos, Martin St. Louis (9g, 13a) and Vincent Lecavalier (11g, 11a), the Sharks know they cant take Tampa Bay lightly. The Lightning play a very distinct 1-3-1 defense, making it hard at times to get through the neutral zone.

They went to the conference finals last year and even though they havent played that well this year, they still have a lot of firepower and a lot of good players up front and the back end, too, said Michal Handzus. Weve got to be on top of our game.

Odds and ends: Antti Niemi will start in net for the Sharks, his 12th start in the last 13 games. Colin White is expected to play after missing Mondays practice. He was hit in the hand with a shot on Saturday against Edmonton. Defensemen Douglas Murray and Jim Vandermeer are doubtful for the game, but could both be cleared to return by Friday against Los Angeles, according to McLellan.

Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be

jones-khudobin-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be

Martin Jones was a Boston Bruin for less than a week.

The “Original Six” franchise acquired Jones from the Los Angeles Kings on June 26, 2015. Four days later, Jones was traded back into the Pacific Division, this time to Northern California.

The Sharks gave up a first round pick and prospect Sean Kuraly for Jones. It seemed like a fairly high price at the time, but it’s one San Jose was happy to pay: No goalie started more games than Jones over the last two seasons, and the team signed him to a five-year extension this summer.

The first Jones trade in 2015 set off a flood of goalie transactions, as five netminders were traded during Jones’ extremely brief Boston tenure. One of those was Anton Khudobin, who will start for the Bruins as Jones backs up Aaron Dell against  his “former team” on Saturday night.

Khudobin was traded from Carolina to Anaheim, where he started seven games before getting sent down to the AHL. He then signed with Boston in 2016, returning to his former club as the Bruins tried to fill the hole that trading Jones left behind entrenched starter Tuukka Rask.

Jones and Khudobin will have taken vastly different paths to their respective creases on Saturday night. The former enters the game as his club’s undisputed franchise goalie, and the latter the unheralded backup.

Naturally then, Khudobin’s been the better goaltender this season.

Among the 46 goalies that have played 200 five-on-five minutes this season, Khudobin’s .962 five-on-five save percentage was the best entering Saturday, according to Corsica.  So, too, is his .954 save percentage off of high-danger shots.

Jones, meanwhile, ranks 27th (.920) and 14th (.833) in those respective categories.

What does it all mean? For one, it’s early in the season, and the fact that Khudobin’s made seven fewer starts undoubtedly plays a role in his superior performance to Jones.

Mainly, it speaks to just how fickle goaltending can be.

The Bruins backup is arguably getting the nod Saturday night because of how bad the man ahead of him has been. Rask, once one of the league’s best goaltenders, has steadily declined over the last three years and reached a new low this season: This year, he’s 40th out of 46 qualifying goalies in five-on-five save percentage.

Jones has demonstrated this, too. He’s stopped a lower percentage of low-and-medium danger shots at even strength than the last two seasons, but has stopped a higher percentage of high-danger shots.

Plus, he’s played behind one of the league’s best penalty-killing teams after playing behind one of its worst last season, and has benefitted from a corresponding bump in his shorthanded save percentage.

So much of what a goalie does is out of their control. Yet who’s playing in front of them, what kind of shots they see, and how often they see those shots all can affect their performance.

Khudobin and Jones are living proof of that this season.

Sharks fall to Bruins for second straight loss

sharks_bruins_usatsi.jpg

Sharks fall to Bruins for second straight loss

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- Anton Khudobin stopped 36 shots to lead the Boston Bruins to a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

Peter CehlarikJake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen scored to help the Bruins get their second straight win after a four-game skid (0-3-1). Boston had totaled nine goals in its previous five games, scoring more than two for just the second time in nine November games.

Khudobin remained unbeaten in regulation (5-0-2) and improved to 4-1 with a 0.99 goals-against average in five games against the Sharks.

Timo Meier scored and Aaron Dell finished with 18 saves for the Sharks, one of the lowest scoring teams in the league. San Jose has been held to two of fewer goals in five of their seven games this month.

Meier gave the Sharks, losers of two straight following wins in six of seven, a short-lived 1-0 lead after tapping in a rebound 4:50 into the game. Daniel O'Regan, making his season debut, won the puck behind the net and skated around to take the shot that bounced to Meier. It was O'Regan's first career assist and second career point.

Cehlarik, in his 14th game, scored his first career goal about 1 1/2 minutes later to tie it for the Bruins.

Boston took the lead on DeBrusk's goal with 9:14 left in the first. Charlie McAvoy cleared a puck in his zone that DeBrusk chased down and easily beat Dell 1-on-1.

Heinen made it 3-1 with 5:51 left in the third. Kevan Miller skated down the ice, drawing all the attention on the right side. He passed across the crease, from where Heinen tapped it in.

The Sharks had a goal negated for the second straight game, this one two minutes in.

NOTES: Sharks F Danny O'Regan was recalled before the game. He's the leading scorer for the Barracuda of the AHL. ... The Sharks have had three consecutive goals reversed after challenges dating to Thursday's game against the Florida Panthers. ... Sharks F Joel Ward has recorded points in six of his last eight games. ... DeBrusk, who assisted on Cehlarik's goal, recorded his first multi-point game since Oct. 14, a span of 14 games.

UP NEXT

Bruins: At the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.

Sharks: Host the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night.