Sharks-Stars: What to watch for


Sharks-Stars: What to watch for

DALLAS The Dallas Stars are slumping.


After surprising much of the hockey world with an 11-3-0 start despite losing Brad Richards in the offseason, the Stars have lost their last four, including shutouts in back-to-back games. That includes last night in Colorado, when they fell 3-0 to another club that has struggled lately in the Avalanche.

A peek at the standings shows the Stars are still ahead of San Jose with 22 points to the Sharks 21, although Dallas has played two more games.

Regardless of whats happened lately, San Jose expects a strong showing from the Stars.

Every time we play them its a really hard game, said Torrey Mitchell. "They seem to play well, all four lines, and kind of come in waves when theyre playing well. We just need to stick together and try to counter that.


Even so, its impossible to overlook just how bad the Stars have been of late. They have been outscored 17-3 during their losing streak, including 12-0 over the last seven periods. They havent scored a goal in 147:49.

Can the Sharks use it as a motivating factor to not let the Stars get back on track? Yes and no.

Yeah, wed like to keep them from scoring. It gives us a better chance to win, said Todd McLellan. But, what other teams have done against them to create a goalless streak has nothing to do with us. Its about our 60 minutes of time.

Logan Couture said: I think theyre hungry. Theyve lost four in a row. Were not looking to put up a zero. Thats what we want, but were just looking to win the game.

Better against the Pacific: The Sharks are just 2-3 against the Pacific Division this year, with wins against Phoenix and Los Angeles but losses to the Coyotes and Ducks (twice).

Thats one mark the 10-5-1 Sharks would like to improve upon, as they prepare for the first of six games with Dallas.

We know every point is important right now, said Joe Pavelski, who leads the team with 18 points. You have to put a lot of work in to get some separation. We have to be better against our division.

First goal woes: San Jose fell behind 1-0 to Detroit on Thursday, but that didnt matter when they tallied five unanswered goals to blow the game open and cruise to a 5-2 win.

Still, the Sharks have scored first just five times. They are 5-0 when doing so, and 5-5-1 when they dont.

What has to change?

Thats a good question, said Mitchell. Its more of an individual thing, not collectively. Its just individually showing up and being prepared right from the puck drop. I dont know if our overall team preparation has to change, but individually you have to get yourself ready to play right away.

Fortunately for them, the Sharks have owned the second period. They have scored 26 times in the middle frame, tying them with Chicago for the league lead. Theyve also surrendered just 11.

Its a credit that the Sharks dont let early deficits get them down, but

You dont want to be coming from behind. Look at Thursday; we were lucky that it was tied after the first period, said Mitchell. We switched our game around, but why are we doing that in the second period and not the first period? Thats what were figuring out right now.

A better start in general, though, may be more important than which team actually scores first. That includes being strong on the forecheck and winning battles along the boards.

We feel our way into games, said McLellan. We have to have more of a killer instinct and go-for-the throat instinct right off the bat. Tonight, well need that, because they will have it.

PK bringing up the rear: The Sharks surrendered two power play goals in three chances to the Red Wings on Thursday, and have dropped to 30th in the NHL in that category (73.2 percent).

But, dont expect any drastic changes.

Were going to keep doing what were doing. Positionally, we need to be a little bit better, said McLellan.

Odds and ends: Antti Niemi will start for San Jose, and is expected to oppose Stars backup Andrew Raycroft, who is 0-3. The Sharks had an optional skate this morning. Everyone skated except for Douglas Murray, Martin Havlat and Patrick Marleau. Dallas had a full team skate at their practice rink, despite playing last night on the road. The Sharks and Stars split their six meetings last season. This is San Joses first road game of the month. They concluded a six-game road trip with a 5-2 loss in New York on Oct. 31, snapping a five-game road winning streak. The Sharks were 4-1-1 on their six game homestand that concluded with Thursdays win over the Red Wings.

Sharks should be thankful for these two players on Thanksgiving


Sharks should be thankful for these two players on Thanksgiving

The San Jose Sharks woke up this Thanksgiving and found themselves in a playoff spot, albeit barely. 

They hold the second and final wild card spot by the thinnest of margins, edging out the Colorado Avalanche not on points, games played, regulation and overtime wins, but a single goal in the goal differential column. 

As early as it is, it’s a critical time to be in playoff position. Since the NHL expanded to 30 teams in 2000, 79 percent of teams holding playoff spots on Thanksgiving made the postseason. 

If the Sharks avoid becoming a member of the dreaded 21 percent, they’ll have two players to thank, more than anyone else, for their good fortune: Logan Couture and Martin Jones. 

Couture, along with Joonas Donskoi, seems to be the only Shark unaffected by a team-wide scoring bug. Even as he’s cooled off slightly, his 11 goals are still tied for 10th-most in the league. 

He’s held a positive share of puck possession on the ice, despite starting the fourth-lowest percentage of his shifts in the offensive zone among Sharks forwards that have played at least 50 minutes this season, according to Corsica Hockey

Couture also leads the team in power play scoring with three goals, and is one of only three San Jose players that’s scored multiple times on the man advantage. It’s hard to imagine the league’s fourth-worst power play (15.1 percent) getting worse, but it undoubtedly would be without the 28-year-old.

While Couture has stood out among a hapless offense, Jones has led one of the league’s best defensive units. The Sharks are among the best teams at limiting shots and scoring chances across all situations, but Jones has not let them down. 

Although his .922 even-strength save percentage is 27th among 51 goalies that have played at least 200 minutes, San Jose’s given him a razor thin margin of error. He had the fifth-lowest goal support of any goalie entering last night, as statistician Darin Stephens noted, and his play has been good enough to keep the Sharks in games in spite of that. 

Jones has also led the way for the league’s best penalty kill, posting a .940 save percentage in shorthanded situations. That’s the best mark among goalies that have faced at least 80 shots on the penalty kill, according to Stephens.

The sustainability of Jones’ penalty kill dominance and Couture’s 20.8 shooting percentage is an open question, but their importance to the team early in the season cannot be overstated. They’ve helped keep the Sharks afloat, and in a playoff spot with history on their side at the critical Thanksgiving mark. 

The Sharks need to not only let them have extra helpings during their holiday feast, but find a way to give them more help on the ice too.


Jones strong in goal, contains Coyotes to snap Sharks' three-game skid


Jones strong in goal, contains Coyotes to snap Sharks' three-game skid


GLENDALE, Ariz. — Logan Couture scored another goal for San Jose but was happier to see the Sharks' top line get untracked.

"We've got to get those guys going to help us offensively," Couture said of teammates Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Timo Meier after the Sharks' 3-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday night. "We need them to produce."

Thornton opened the scoring for the Sharks, with Pavelski adding an assist, the pair's first points since November 8, a span of five games.

"I think with Timo with us last game it brought us a lot of energy and a lot of chances," said Thornton, who scored his first goal since October 26. "Me and Pavs really like playing with him."

Joel Ward added an empty-net goal with 47.8 to play for the Sharks, who snapped a three-game losing streak.

"We got enough offense to win," said Sharks coach Peter DeBoer. "That's all that matters. I thought we played a good road game. I don't care how it looks."

Brendan Perlini scored with 7:37 to go, ruining Sharks goalie Martin Jones' bid for his second shutout of the season. The Coyotes saw their season-high three-game winning streak snapped and lost for the eighth time in nine home games (1-7-1).

Jones finished with 26 saves.

"We defended really well," said Jones, who was tested seriously only twice in the first two periods. "The first 10 minutes they had a lot of jump and were buzzing around our zone, but after that not as much."

Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta left at 14:37 of the first period with an upper-body injury. Couture had collided with Raanta more than four minutes earlier, earning an interference penalty. Raanta skated to the bench during a stoppage in play and retreated to the locker room.

Scott Wedgewood took Raanta's place and was in net for only five seconds before the Sharks broke through. Wedgewood stopped Brent Burns' long shot from the top of the right circle even after it deflected off San Jose right wing Timo Meier. But the rebound kicked to the bottom of the right circle, where Thornton swept in and beat the goalie with a quick wrist shot.

"He (coach Rick Tocchet) looked at me and said go," Wedgewood. "I was like, alright. That's the tough part. Then shot, top, goal. That was tough."

San Jose made it 2-0 at 4:56 of the second, taking advantage of Arizona's inability to clear the zone while the Sharks were on a line change.

Justin Braun fought three Coyotes for the puck along the right boards before Joonas Donskoi swooped in, skated to the goal line then sent a pass across to Couture. Couture deked Wedgewood to the ice with a forehand fake, then scored on the backhand.

Perlini cut the lead to 2-1 when he redirected Derek Stepan's shot from the top of the right circle past Jones.

"We had some costly mistakes," Perlini said. "We got back within a goal but there were too many mistakes."

NOTES: Thornton has 22 goals and 83 points in 82 career games against Arizona. ... The Coyotes, who had played seven of their past eight on the road, opened a three-game homestand. ... Raanta made eight saves before leaving and has stopped 98 of the past 105 shots he's faced. ... Couture's goal was his first in five games.


Sharks: visit Las Vegas on Friday

Coyotes: host Los Angeles on Friday.