Sharks-Wild: What to watch for


Sharks-Wild: What to watch for

SAN JOSE The Minnesota Wild have won five games in a row, and its due in no small part to their penalty kill. Theyre a perfect 21-for-21 over that span, and are thriving in an area the Sharks are not.

Overall, Minnesota is allowing just 1.79 goals-per game, second in the NHL.

Obviously, it starts with the goalies, said Dany Heatley. Theyve been unbelievable.

Nicklas Backstrom will be the latest of the hot goalies to face the Sharks, who lost to Nashvilles Pekka Rinne on Saturday but defeated the Kings Jonathan Quick on Monday. Backstrom is coming off a 41-save shutout of Calgary in a 3-0 Wild win on Tuesday.

Overall, the Wild have allowed just three goals in the last five games.

Its definitely going to be a challenge for us to get our offense going, said Patrick Marleau. Theres not going to be too many opportunities out there, so you have to take advantage of it.

They look like theyre a group thats playing together on the same page and same system, and they obviously believe in it, said Todd McLellan.

Reunion night at the Tank: The Sharks and Wild had one another on speed dial in the offseason, completing no less than three trades. Marty Havlat and Brent Burns will face their former club for the first time, while Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi return to HP Pavilion.

Just as they do in Boston whenever Joe Thornton returns to his old building, McLellan hopes the Sharks get some energy from playing for their new comrades.

I think you want to play for those players in that situation, he said. Thats human nature. When youre that tight as a team and youre around each other, you reach out and pull each other along.

McLellan wont spend any extra time with Burns and Havlat, though. They are, after all, pros.

Thats their responsibility. They played a lot of games between the two of them, he said. Theyve been in the league for a lot of years. The last thing I have to do is fool with their heads before the game.

Changes on D: The Sharks look like they will dress the same six defensemen as they have the past two games, but there could be a tweak in the pairs. Dan Boyle and Douglas Murray remain together, but look for Burns to play with Colin White and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to skate with Justin Braun.

Theyre both real smart and able to read off of what Im doing, said Burns of Vlasic and Braun.

On the Minnesota side, the Wild have been able to successfully integrate some fresh faces on their blue line, as evidenced by their goals-against numbers. Marco Scandella, just 21, is third on the team in ice time (21:05) while fellow 21-year-old Jared Spurgeon is also getting valuable minutes. It has allowed the Wild to pick up some signature wins early, including two against Detroit and one against Vancouver during their winning streak.

Against those teams, one thing I was really happy about is we just played our game, said first year Wild head coach Mike Yeo. Thats one thing weve been getting better at. Maybe its confidence, maybe were starting to get a little bit of a swagger that were going to need to have.

In our more recent games against some of the top teams I feel like weve gone out and initiated the play and took the game to them. I think that breeds confidence.

Odds and ends: The home teams won each of the four games in the season series last year. The Sharks are 8-0-1 in their last nine home games against Minnesota. The first four games of the Wilds winning streak were backstopped by Josh Harding. Joe Pavelski has eight multiple-point games this season, including Monday against the Kings (2a). Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck will play after missing the last game with an upper body injury. Backstrom is just 1-5-1 with a 3.39 goals-against average against the Sharks in his career. Antti Niemi will start for the Sharks.

Two Donskoi goals not enough as Sharks fall to Ducks in shootout

Two Donskoi goals not enough as Sharks fall to Ducks in shootout


SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Antoine Vermette beat goalie Martin Jones in the ninth round of a shootout to give the Anaheim Ducks a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Monday night.

Corey Perry, Cam Fowler and Brandon Montour also scored during the tiebreaker for Anaheim.

Joonas Donskoi, Tim Heed and Brent Burns had shootout goals for the Sharks. Tomas Hertl missed his attempt in the ninth round, leaving Vermette a chance to win it.

Perry and Rickard Rakell scored in regulation for the Ducks. Reto Berra made 40 saves in his first start of the season.

Donskoi had two goals for the Sharks, including the tying score in the third period. Jones stopped 28 shots.

Donskoi helped create his own goal by knocking the puck away from a Ducks defender and getting it to Logan Couture for a give-and-go as the Sharks took a 1-0 lead 3:31 into the game.

The Ducks came back in the second period to even the score 45 seconds in. After winning a faceoff in the San Jose zone, Brandon Montour sent a sharp pass to Perry's stick. Perry settled it and fired into the net for the equalizer.

Rakell gave the Ducks a 2-1 advantage midway through the second, just as a power play ended. Perry took a shot that bounced off Jones' pads, and Rakell knocked it into the net before Jones could cover up.

The Sharks snapped an 0-for-17 streak on the power play with a goal midway through the third to tie it. Donskoi tracked down a rebound and flipped it off Berra's right pad and into the net for his second career multi-goal game.

NOTES: Ducks D Cam Fowler returned to action after missing 12 games with a knee injury. ... Sharks C Melker Karlsson missed the game with an upper-body injury. ... Sharks forward Kevin Labanc, who hasn't played much recently, started on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. Donskoi was moved to the second line. ... Ducks G Ryan Miller missed the game with a lower-body injury. Berra made his fourth appearance this season. ... Perry has seven points in his last five games. ... Rakell has a point in seven of his past eight games, with a total of 11 during that span. ... The Sharks scored their second power-play goal in eight November games.


Ducks: Host the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday.

Sharks: Play at the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday.

Young Sharks fitting in, not neccessarily standing out


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.