Sharks

Three takeaways: Burns provides spark the Sharks needed

Three takeaways: Burns provides spark the Sharks needed

NEWARK – Wrapping up their four-game-in-six-day road trip in New Jersey, the Sharks went on to a relatively pain-free 4-1 victory in their only appearance at Prudential Center. Here are three takeaways from the afternoon tilt…

1 – Burns takes over

On Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia, Burns didn’t look took too good when he turned the puck over to Wayne Simmonds, who promptly scored an overtime goal. He certainly didn’t let that play linger against the Devils, scoring two second period goals that turned the game in the Sharks’ favor.

"We needed a spark, and he's been there all year,” Pete DeBoer said. “A big goal at the right time. He's a fearless player. He walks the line, and under pressure, has a fearlessness offensively to him that is hard to teach and really separates great players from other guys. You saw that on the first goal.”

Burns wakes up on Monday fourth in the NHL in scoring with 59 points, just two behind league leader Connor McDavid. Remarkably, he has a legitimate chance to join Bobby Orr as the only defenseman to ever lead the NHL in points (our friends at NBC have some other notes on Burns, here).

Burns was asked after the game if he keeps track of where he is in the scoring race.

“You look at everything. You’re looking at other guys on the team, the other team we’re playing, you’re looking [at stats]. We hear about it from you guys (the media) all the time about stats and everything, so you’re aware of it.”

2 – Getting some distance from the pack

On Feb. 4, the Sharks had a three-point lead on Anaheim for first in the Pacific with a game in hand. They lost their next four games, although they picked up a point in three of the losses.

On Monday, the Sharks find themselves with a five-point lead over the Ducks, with 25 games remaining for both. The Sharks may have hit a brief rut, but it didn’t hurt them in the standings.

“We played some games that were winnable for us, but we managed to get points, and when you look around the league right now teams are in the tough part of their schedule,” Logan Couture said. “We're in a tough part of our schedule. On the road on the east coast, and it was a back-to-back. To get three (points) out of four in these past couple games is big."

DeBoer said: “We wanted some separation between us Anaheim and Edmonton, and the guys got the job done.”

3 – Couture, Jones return to the lineup

Couture said after the game that he didn’t decide he was going to play until warmups, after missing Saturday’s game with an undisclosed upper body injury.

He played a reduced role, skating just 15:34 and taking only one faceoff. He didn’t register a point, and had one shot.

“Obviously, wasn't 100 percent,” said Couture, who was hurt at some point in the game in Boston on Thursday. “But, I felt I was good enough to try it.”

Jones, on the other hand, was outstanding. If he was feeling any nerves after allowing a goal on the first shot he faced – on the heels of his last two subpar performances, including getting the hook in Boston – it didn’t show.
 
“You always want to bounce back with a good effort,” Jones said. “But, it was everybody tonight. We weren’t happy with the way the last few games have gone, and we responded really well tonight and had a really, really strong game.”

Sharks win second straight, beat Devils to start road trip

Sharks win second straight, beat Devils to start road trip

BOX SCORE

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.

UP NEXT

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

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AP

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.