Sharks-Wild: What to watch for


Sharks-Wild: What to watch for

SAN JOSE Coming off of one of their worst defensive efforts of the season, the Sharks will be without Douglas Murray when they host the NHL-leading Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night. Murray has a right hand injury likely occurred while blocking a shot in the 5-3 loss to Florida on Saturday.

In, it appears, is Justin Braun, who was reassigned to Worcester just a week ago. Based on the morning skate, the struggling Colin White will be scratched.

Todd McLellan was tinkering with his defense pairings even before Murrays injury, and will have no choice to ice some new combinations tonight.

Well start a certain way, and if we like what we see, we wont tinker with it, said the coach. If we dont like what we see of if there isnt chemistry, well look at moving things around fairly quickly.

In practice on Monday, Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic were paired together. Braun and Brent Burns have played opposite of one another at times this season, while Jim Vandermeer and Jason Demers have also skated entire games as a pair.

As for Braun, McLellan had nothing but complimentary things to say when he was reassigned to Worcester last Tuesday. The bottom line, though, was that Braun needed to play. Thats just what he did in Worcester, playing three games with the Sharks AHL affiliate.

It was nice to play a lot and get a lot of minutes. You just wait for that call to come back up and hope that it pays off, he said.

As for the trips back and forth across the country, Braun said: You cant get too up or too down. Thats the nature of the game.

Reunion night, Part 2: It certainly doesnt carry the same emotions as the first time they were in the building on November 10, but former Sharks Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley will play in just their second game at HP Pavilion since the offseason trades between the Sharks and Wild.

Off the ice, that pair remains good friends with some old teammates. On the ice it's a different story, and Ryane Clowe had some reporters laughing this morning with his blunt honestly.

I got to say hello to them last night, but Ill say hello to them again and Ill certainly say hello to them again on the ice when I try to run them over, he said, smiling.

Its a tough part of the business to see those guys go, they are great guys and great teammates. You ask anyone in here, you all miss them, but weve got Mr. Personality over there who could make up for 10 guys in Brent Burns.

Setoguchi is also ready to move on.

Now that the first game is out of the way, this is just another road game, he said. Its always fun coming back, and hopefully this time we can get a couple points outta here.

The Sharks won the first meeting, 3-1, behind a pair of power play goals from Patrick Marleau.
Defense first for Wild: Minnesota enters the game fourth in the NHL in goals against with just 2.18. Thats a credit to their goaltenders, Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding, but also to their team game.

The Wild do a good job clogging up the neutral zone and not allowing any easy entries into their defensive zone.

They have a great goalie but their general style is defense first, said Torrey Mitchell. Having Setoguchi and Heatley, they have some offensive power. They play well as a team.

Setoguchi and Heatley are two of five Minnesota players with eight goals apiece, as the Wild dont have a single player in the Top 40 in scoring in the NHL (nor do the Sharks). Thornton and Mikko Koivu are the respective team leaders with 21 points apiece.

Tops in the league: Minnesotas 37 points (17-7-3) place them in first place overall in the NHL. They have won four in a row, while the Sharks have dropped three of their last four games in regulation.

We better be ready and better than we have been lately, said McLellan. Weve got to get a little more tempo into our game. The back end has to be much more polished, obviously, than it was against Florida. So, it sounds like a complete game to me, the way I just described it.

Theyre just really, really hard to score on, said Mitchell. They seem to get a one or two goal advantage and shut it down, and dont give up much. It will be important to score first and try to build off of that.

The Sharks managed to score first for just the eighth time all year on Saturday against Florida. They had been a perfect 7-0 before the loss to the Panthers.

Minnesota, meanwhile, has erased 2-0 deficits in each of their last three road games to win.

Hopefully we can get up by two, and well take our chances, said Joe Thornton.
Odds and ends: Antti Niemi will oppose Josh Harding in net. ... In four career starts against the Wild, Niemi is 4-0-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average, .939 save percentage and one shutout. Minnesotas roster features Bay Area native Casey Wellman, who was recently recalled. Wellman is a former San Jose Junior Shark. Logan Couture has three goals and an assist in his last two games. Jamie McGinn has scored in consecutive games.

Sharks win second straight, beat Devils to start road trip

Sharks win second straight, beat Devils to start road trip


NEWARK, N.J. — Martin Jones made 28 saves for his first shutout of the season and 16th overall in the San Jose Sharks' 3-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.

Melker Karlsson, Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi scored and Justin Braun had two assists to help the Sharks open a five-game East Coast trip.

Keith Kinkaid, the top goalie for New Jersey with Cory Schneider on injured reserve, stopped 30 shots as the Devils' three-game winning streak came to an end.

The Devils couldn't muster a strong push in the later stages against the rested Sharks. It was New Jersey's second game two nights following a 5-4 overtime victory in Ottawa. And it showed against the Sharks, who played a solid road game, pressed their advantage and solidly supported Jones.

Karlsson scored the lone goal of the opening period at 14:11 on a close-in shot following a slick behind-the-net setup pass from Tomas Hertl.

The shots were 13 for each team in the evenly played period. The Devils came close on several occasions as former Shark Mirco Mueller and Blake Coleman both hit the crossbar and Jones robbed Drew Stafford on a dead-on drive from the slot.

Pavelski and Donskoi got second-period goals as the Sharks steadily tightened their grip on the game.

Pavelski tipped in Braun's point shot at 5:49. Joe Thornton got the second assist, his 1,395th point, to pass Luc Robitaille for 21st on the career list.

Donskoi backhanded a rebound shot with 1:10 left in the period in which the Sharks outshot the Devils 11-6.

The remaining drama centered on Jones' shutout bid.

NOTES: The Devils placed Schneider on injured reserve Friday with a lower-body injury and recalled Scott Wedgewood from Binghamton of the American Hockey League to serve as Kinkaid's backup. ... Mueller, a healthy scratch in three of the previous four games, returned for the Devils to face the Sharks, the team that drafted him in the first round, for the first time. He was dealt to New Jersey over the summer.


Sharks: At the New York Islanders on Saturday night.

Devils: Host Ottawa on Friday night.

As Joakim Ryan returns home, Sharks reunite with a former top prospect


As Joakim Ryan returns home, Sharks reunite with a former top prospect

When Joakim Ryan suits up in his first NHL road game against the New Jersey Devils Friday night, he’ll do so in a familiar place.

Ryan, a New Jersey-born Swede, played for the Devils’ youth program and nearby Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) in high school. In fact, he’s already played at the Prudential Center, skating in the state championship game with CBA in 2009.

He’s not the only one due for something of a homecoming, as the Sharks may see a familiar face line up on the opposing blueline.

This is the Sharks’ first matchup against New Jersey since trading 2013 first round pick Mirco Mueller ahead of June’s Expansion Draft. Mueller was once considered the future on the San Jose blueline, a smooth-skating defenseman with size to boot.

The Swiss defender never fulfilled his potential, in part because his development was rushed from the start. He made the NHL roster as a rookie in 2014-15, almost by default. Other than Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the only defensemen ahead of him on left side of the depth chart were a far past-his-prime Scott Hannan and regular scratch Matt Irwin. Such was the nature of the Sharks’ “step back” that year.

Mueller finally got regular playing time, albeit in the minors, during his second professional season. By then, he was pushed down the organizational depth chart by the team’s acquisitions of Brenden Dillon and Roman Polak, and the development of Dylan DeMelo. David Schlemko’s signing last summer kept Mueller there for most of 2016-17, but it was Ryan and Tim Heed that ensured Mueller’s NHL future would lie elsewhere. The Swedes surpassed him, and emerged as perhaps the AHL’s best defensive pair in the process.

It’s fitting, then, that Ryan and Heed will be in the lineup tonight, and Mueller may not, as the fresh start he needed hasn’t quite panned out. He’s averaging a career-high 18:44 in ice time, but has been scratched in three of New Jersey’s seven games, including Thursday night’s overtime win in Ottawa.

So Ryan comes home to New Jersey under much happier circumstances than Mueller will reunite with the Sharks. One prodigal son returns, and the other is simply trying to save face.

It’s still early in his Devils tenure, of course, and Mueller may yet emerge as a regular on the New Jersey blueline. His Sharks reunion, though, will serve as a reminder of what once was, what could have been, and what is now San Jose’s future on defense.