Sharks

Sharks vs Flyers: For at least one night, the future is now

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AP

Sharks vs Flyers: For at least one night, the future is now

The last time the San Jose Sharks opened a season without Patrick Marleau on the roster, ties were still a thing. A day shy of 21 years ago, the Sharks last began a season without Marleau and tied the New York Islanders 2-2 on October 5, 1996.

The Sharks will begin their season tonight against an Eastern Conference foe for the first time since that night, hosting the Philadelphia Flyers (7:30 PM, NBCSN). Marleau, meanwhile, begins his a conference and a country away: Suiting up for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Winnipeg Jets three-and-a-half hours prior.

San Jose is wasting no time without Marleau, at least if tonight’s lines are any indication. Top prospects Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier made the team out of training camp, and will begin the season on the first and third lines, centered by Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl, respectively. This summer, Sharks management expressed confidence in their young players’ ability to fill Marleau’s void, given the remaining veteran talent on the roster.

“We talked to them about it. They know there aren’t many guys in this league of their age who get to play with centers like Logan Couture, Joe Thornton, Tomas Hertl and Chris Tierney,” director of hockey operations Doug Wilson Jr. told the San Jose Mercury News in July. “It’s really on them. They know the opportunity is there, and if it’s not them, it’s going to be someone else.”

On opening night, Labanc and Meier get an opportunity to do just that. And for one night, at least, the future is now in San Jose.

SHARKS LINES

Joe Pavelski-Joe Thornton-Kevin Labanc

Surprisingly, Thornton and Pavelski were Labanc’s most common linemates last season. The trio played a hair over 143 minutes together, and attempted 54.48% of the shots at even strength, according to Corsica Hockey. That was the fifth-best of any San Jose line that played at least 50 minutes together last season. It’s a comfortable place for Labanc to begin the season, and the Sharks are hoping the scoring follows, as Pavelski and Thornton are both coming off of down years.

Mikkel Boedker-Logan Couture-Joonas Donskoi

This is a combination that Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer envisioned when Boedker signed last summer, reportedly going as far as writing the trio on a cocktail napkin. They only played limited minutes together last season, in part because of Donskoi and Couture’s injuries, but they were effective. They controlled 53.38% of the shot attempts in just over 78 minutes together last year, according to Corsica. All three players will need to bounce back this season. Boedker scored 25 fewer points last year than in 2015-16, while Donskoi’s dropped by 19 points, albeit in 15 fewer games. Couture’s 52 points in 73 games were also down from his last “full” season, when he scored 67 in 82 in 2014-15.

Jannik Hansen-Tomas Hertl-Timo Meier

Hansen, Hertl, and Meier played together in a very limited four minute sample last season, but Hertl played some substantial minutes with Hansen, as well as Meier, in 2016-17. On paper, this seems to be natural combination for a third line with offensive upside. Hertl and Meier, in particular, are strong possession numbers, but need to begin converting their chances. Hertl hasn’t shown he can be a reliable scorer centering his own line, while Meier scored just three goals last season.

Melker Karlsson-Chris Tierney-Joel Ward

In just under 32 minutes together last year, Tierney, Karlsson, and Ward attempted 50.85% of the shots at even strength, according to Corsica. A fourth line breaking even in puck possession is just about all you can ask for, but this is another line that will need to convert on their chances, as limited as they may be. The line didn’t combine for a goal at even strength last year, and with Barclay Goodrow and Ryan Carpenter waiting in the wings, the leash may not be long.

Paul Martin-Brent Burns

Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Justin Braun

Brenden Dillon-Dylan DeMelo

No surprises on the blueline, which remains intact from last season. I’m curious to see how, if at all, Deboer changes Vlasic and Braun’s usage. The two struggled against exceptionally tough competition last year, and the Sharks attempted 46.64% of the shots with Braun and Vlasic on the ice, according to Corsica. That freed up Burns offensively en route to the first Norris Trophy win of his career, and also allowed Brenden Dillon and then-partner David Schlemko to mop up minutes against softer competition (52.66% Corsi-For, per Corsica). Dylan DeMelo, who fills in for Schlemko after he was selected in the expansion draft by Vegas and eventually traded to Montreal, was not as effective with Dillon, but is probably ready for full-time duty after spending most of the last two seasons in the press box.

Martin Jones

Aaron Dell

No surprise in net, either, as San Jose’s $34.5 million man begins the season between the pipes. Jones signed a big extension this summer, but will need to be better than he was last season. His save percentage in all situations dropped to .912 from .918 in 2015-16, and his even strength save percentage fell to .915 from .925. His postseason resume speaks for itself, but he hasn’t performed at that level in the regular season consistently.

FLYERS LINES 

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek

Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds

Dale Weise-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny

Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

2017 second overall pick Nolan Patrick is set to make his NHL debut, and Claude Giroux will debut at left wing. Giroux’s produced on the wing before, but previously played on the right side and has largely played center over the last few seasons. The Flyers are hoping the move sparks Giroux, who is coming off of his worst offensive year since 2010, as well as his center, Sean Couturier.

Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald

Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg

Philadelphia boasts one of the youngest, most promising bluelines in the league, but some of that promise will have to wait at least one night: 21-year-old Travis Sanheim will not make his NHL debut tonight, nor will 22-year-old Samuel Morin play in his second NHL game. There’s still plenty of youth in the lineup tonight, as Gostisbehere, Hagg, and Provorov are 24, 22, and 20, respectively.

Brian Elliott

Michal Neuvirth

The Flyers opted not to bring back Steve Mason, who will begin his season against Marleau with Winnipeg, and instead signed Brian Elliott to a two-year, $5.5 million deal this summer. Elliott’s coming off of his worst season since 2013. He may never again reach the heights of the .935 even strength save percentage he posted with St. Louis two seasons ago, but some better luck shorthanded (.873 shorthanded save percentage last season, his worst since 2011) could allow Elliott to re-emerge as one of the league’s better goalies.

Sharks pick up first win of homestand as Burns moves back to blueline

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AP

Sharks pick up first win of homestand as Burns moves back to blueline

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE --Brent Burns and Chris Tierney each had a goal and an assist, and the San Jose Sharks beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-1 on Thursday for their third win in four games.

Mikkel Boedker and Marcus Sorensen also scored for the Sharks, who improved to 3-0-1 against the Canucks this season. Martin Jones stopped 29 shots.

Daniel Sedin scored for the Canucks, who lost their sixth in seven games. Anders Nilsson made 40 stops.

Boedker scored at 8:41 of the first period, picking up a soft rebound from Tierney's shot.

Burns scored his 10th goal, tops among NHL defensemen, taking a pass from Joakim Ryan and sending a laser shot into the net just under five minutes into the second.

Sorensen scored his first goal since Dec. 23, punching it in with an assist from Justin Braun at 3:06 into the third. Marc-Edouard Vlasic had an assist in his third straight game, getting the second assist on Sorensen's goal.

Sedin scored at 6:43, taking a nice pass from Thomas Vanek that gave him clear shot into the net. It was Sedin's 14th goal, one shy of his total last season.

Tierney made it 4-1 after taking a nice pass from Burns with 7 1/2 minutes remaining.

NOTES:Tim Heed was recalled from the AHL and joined a makeshift Sharks lineup, allowing Burns to play up front at times. ... Sharks C Logan Couture has points in four of his last five games. ... Boedker recorded games in consecutive games for the second time this season, and the first since Jan. 15-16. ... Sedin has five points against the Sharks this season and 45 in 69 games. He's recorded points in three straight.

UP NEXT

Canucks: Host Boston on Saturday.

Sharks: Host Dallas on Sunday.

Sharks co-prez: Original fin logo to 'start showing back up again'

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AP

Sharks co-prez: Original fin logo to 'start showing back up again'

Fans of the original set of San Jose Sharks logos can rejoice: The fin is coming back in a yet-to-be-announced capacity. 

The original secondary logo, a gray fin atop a teal background enclosed by a black circle, "will start showing back up again in a special surprise appearance next year," Sharks co-president Jonathan Becher told NBC Sports California in an interview with Brodie Brazil and alongside co-president John Tortora on Sharks Pregame Live. The logo appeared as a shoulder patch on the team's home and away jerseys from 1991-98, and on its black alternate jersey from 2001-07.

Becher did not elaborate what form that 'special surprise appearance' will take, but it's possible it will appear on an alternate jersey. In Adidas' first season as the league's jersey manufacturer, no teams have alternate jerseys this year, aside from the teams that played in the league's various outdoor games. 

That's reportedly set to change next season. 24-26 teams will have alternate jerseys, the league told Greg Wyshynski in June, and some teams will utilize previous designs. The Sharks wore a version of their original teal jersey as a 25th anniversary alternate during the 2015-16 season -- perhaps it will return next season? 

Becher also told NBC Sports California that the team's newest alternate logo, the 'yelling shark' featured on the shoulders of their current teal jerseys, will begin making more appearances. It will not replace the current logo, Becher said.