Sharks

Three takeaways: Pavelski dominant despite Sharks loss

Three takeaways: Pavelski dominant despite Sharks loss

SAN JOSE – The legs were there, but the heads were not in the Sharks’ 6-5 overtime loss to the Panthers on Wednesday at SAP Center. Here’s what we’re taking away from the game…

1 – Pavelski has a game

It came in a loss, but Wednesday’s game might have been Joe Pavelski’s best of the season. The captain had four points, including those two late goals, four shots, 10 shot attempts and a plus-two rating. He drew a penalty shot, too, that he didn’t convert on in the second period.

Pete DeBoer mentioned after the game that he thought Pavelski was “the best player on the ice.”

It’s worth noting because Pavelski’s line featured a new player on the left wing in Kevin Labanc, who played most of the New Jersey game there on Sunday, and was starting in that spot for the first time since Nov. 19. There’s probably nothing DeBoer would like better than to see a winger finally lock down that spot on the top line, so Wednesday’s game was another step in the right direction there.

Pavelski has now reached 20 goals in each of the last eight full seasons (he had 16 in the 48-game season in 2013). Oddly, both of his four-point games this season have come in losses (Oct. 17 at the Rangers).

2 – Power play slumping again

After showing signs of coming out of its season-long slump about a week ago, the power play was miserable against Florida, going 0-for-3 and generating just four shots in nearly six minutes. They went 0-for-2 in the second period when they were dominating the game, and then got just one shot on a third period advantage – a slap shot from 54 feet out by Logan Couture – with a chance to take the lead in a 3-3 game.

“Obviously, we could have used a power play goal. The power play has struggled,” Couture said.

The Sharks sit 22nd in the league in the power play at 16.8 percent. The only team in postseason position with a lower percentage is Ottawa (24th, 16.4 percent).

3 – Looking ahead to the bye week?

We discussed the Sharks’ mental errors in last night’s recap, and it’s fair to wonder if that’s partly due to the bye week starting after the two weekend games coming up against Arizona and Boston.

One player in particular that looks like he needs a rest is Martin Jones. The goalie made his 49th start in 58 games last night, and his save percentage is down to .882 for the month of February. Although he was hung out to dry a couple times, Jones took some blame for the loss.

“Obviously, we want to be tighter [defensively], but sometimes you need a big save from your goalie. I just couldn’t make the big one tonight," Jones said.

Does he feel like he needs a break?

“A break’s going to be nice, for sure,” he said. “Anybody in the league will tell you a break’s going to be good. I mean, I’ve been healthy, so yeah, I’m fine.”

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.