Sharks shuffle lines, seeking offense


Sharks shuffle lines, seeking offense

SAN JOSE There is only so much the coaching staff can do to try and reverse a scoring drought.

The Sharks have just three goals over their last three games, which includes two straight losses after a 1-0 win against Chicago last week. A 3-2 defeat to Vancouver on Saturday was followed by one of their poorer efforts of the season on Monday, when Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings shut them out, 2-0.

Cue the line changes.

Logan Couture was back with Ryane Clowe and Marty Havlat at practice on Wednesday, while Patrick Marleau skated on the wing with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. Thats the look that Sharks are likely to go with for Thursdays home game against Montreal.

Couture and Clowe have had success in the past, of course, including most of last season. The hope from Todd McLellan is that the reunion benefits everyone involved, as Couture, Clowe and Havlat have combined for just a single goal over the last eight games.

Were trying to jumpstart a few players, said McLellan. Our offensive production hasnt been enough for us to win games. When you look at the game as a whole in L.A., we didnt play very well and I wasnt very happy with our overall game, but we still only gave up two. We should be able to win games when we only give up two.

Were trying to jumpstart the offense and trying to create more around the blue paint, and the familiarity that Logan has with Clowie is probably the most important thing right now.

Couture gave the standard it doesnt matter who Im playing with response when asked about the changes, but acknowledged that he enjoys playing with the rugged Clowe.

I think we know how to read off of each other, said Couture. Hes strong on pucks, and I try to get in on the forecheck as hard as I can, and he can lay pucks in to me. Hes big around the net, takes pucks to the net, and last year I was there to bang in some rebounds. Thats something I need to get back to, scoring some dirty goals.

Havlat, who missed the first four games of the regular season while recovering from shoulder surgery, started his season with Couture and Clowe back on Oct. 21 in New Jersey. He recorded a goal and seven assists in his first eight games, playing primarily on that line.

Since then, Havlat has just one assist in his last nine games.

Everyone goes through slumps, thats just the way this game is. Hopefully he can play in the other teams end, said Couture of Havlat. Today, we talked about getting around the blue paint and scoring some ugly goals. Hopefully, thats something that we can do.

The biggest risk with these changes, though, is tinkering with Marleaus game. Since moving back to center the second line, Marleau has been the Sharks steadiest point producer with 11 points in the last nine games (7g, 4a).

Need more proof of how important Marleaus game is to the Sharks? Of his 20 points on the season, only one of those, a goal against Vancouver late last Saturday, has come in a Sharks loss.

Theres always a risk of trying to help one or two others, that you stunt someone else a little bit, said McLellan. Im confident in that Patty feels good enough about his game. Hes still playing with two good players, that he can go back to the wing awhile and produce.

Its whatever is best for the team and whatever the coach thinks, said Marleau of the change. You just have to continue playing the same way.

Marleau was unaware that all but one of his points has come in games that the Sharks have emerged victorious.

It gives you that much more incentive to get on the board and help the team win, he said.

Handzus still recovering

Sharks center Michal Handzus was back at the practice facility on Wednesday after missing Saturdays game in Los Angeles with an illness. Handzus rode the bike and worked out, and is probable to play against the Canadians. Colin White was still missing on Wednesday due to a family funeral. Antti Niemi will start against Montreal.

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


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 fall to Bruins for second straight loss


The San Jose Sharks lost their second straight game at SAP Center on Saturday, as the Boston Bruins ended their California road trip with a 3-1 win in the Bay Area. 

San Jose winger Joonas Donskoi appeared to open the scoring just over a minute in, but his goal was overturned upon review. Nearly four minutes later, Timo Meier got the Sharks on the board with his second goal of the season. Danny O'Regan, who was called up from the San Jose Barracuda (AHL) Saturday morning, picked up his first NHL assist on Meier's tally. 

Bruins forward Peter Cehlarik tied the game 6:17 into the first period with his first NHL goal, and Jake DeBrusk gave Boston a 2-1 lead with his goal 4:29 later.  Danton Heinen doubled their lead with 5:51 remaining in regulation, burying David Pastrnak's backdoor pass. 

The Sharks will try to get back in the win column host the division rival Anaheim Ducks on Monday night.