Sharks

Vandermeer adjusting to life as a forward

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Vandermeer adjusting to life as a forward

SAN JOSE At various times this season the Sharks have had eight healthy defensemen on their roster, meaning two able-bodied players would be sitting out at any given time.

The Sharks have found a creative way to remedy that situation, lining up typical defenseman Jim Vandermeer as a winger on the fourth line.

For the second consecutive game on Tuesday night, Vandermeer skated as a forward. He played more than 11 minutes, noticeably getting into two fights with Jared Boll, but also making a good account of himself during even-strength play.

Its coming. Its a work in progress, Vandermeer said after Wednesdays practice at Sharks Ice.

Both games that hes played there, hes played very well, said Todd McLellan, also alluding to the Sharks last game before the All-Star break on Jan. 24 in Calgary. Very reliable, when he gets down low in his own zone, hes basically another defenseman.

Obviously, his physical attributes are something we need most nights. I like him there. I know hes a defenseman, I understand that, but to be a utility guy is a real good asset, too.

Vandermeers physical presence certainly came in handy against the Blue Jackets. Bolls hit on Thornton resulted in a long bout with Vandermeer, who was sticking up for the team captain.

Thats a key element Vandermeer brings to the ice, no matter what position hes playing.

I think in general thats more my style, when the bodies are flying, and guys take liberties, Vandermeer said. Boll hit Jumbo a little high that first shift, and it was good for our guys to respond.

KURZ: Boll fined for hit on Thornton

Hes not the only one on that fourth line willing to play the tough guy role, though.

Winnie (Brad Winchester) was ready to go. Hes like are we going? And I said its either you or me, you pick. We got on the ice, and Boll was more looking at me so I just switched sides with him and went at er.

McLellan admitted that Vandermeer, who missed 21 games with a broken hand from early December to mid-January, has a better chance to dress against teams that have more of an edge. That could include Thursday nights opponent, when the Dallas Stars visit HP Pavilion.

McLellan was asked if thats the type of game Vandermeer will be used up front.

Likely. It makes sense. But, that doesnt mean we wouldnt play him in any other scenario or situation, McLellan said. Some nights we just feel better about seven d-men. Maybe someone is not feeling as good, or is banged up or bruised. We could start him there with the ability to throw him back on defense.

Although the competition from the lowly Blue Jackets wasnt exactly fierce in the 6-0 Sharks win, the fourth line provided good early energy as San Jose jumped in front with a pair of first period goals. On one shift, in particular, they held the puck in the Columbus zone for well over a minute with a heavy forecheck and an aggressive, energetic style.

Were not a real offensive threat as much as the other guys, Vandermeer said. For us to go out there and get a couple hits and a good forecheck, it just leads in the next line going out there. I felt the first 10 to 12 minutes we had our game going, playing in their end, getting on the body.

Its not the first time Vandermeer has lined up as a forward in his hockey career. He spent some time there during his stint with the Calgary Flames in 2007-08 to 2008-09, as well as his Western Hockey League club in Red Deer.

In actuality, his expertise of the defense position could help him when it comes to being a fourth line forward.

Some of those d-men that go up front are often more reliable than the forwards that play up there permanently, McLellan said. They know how to play on the defensive side of the puck.

Odds and ends: Jason Demers remains out with a lower body injury and will not play against Dallas. Ryane Clowe skated on Wednesday and could return against the Stars. Forward Andrew Murray has sat out the last two games in place of Vandermeer.

Jones strong in goal, contains Coyotes to snap Sharks' three-game skid

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USATSI

Jones strong in goal, contains Coyotes to snap Sharks' three-game skid

BOX SCORE

GLENDALE, Ariz.  — Logan Couture scored his team-best 11th goal to help lift the San Jose Sharks to a 3-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday night.

Joe Thornton also scored and Joel Ward added an empty-net goal with 47.8 to play for the Sharks, who snapped a three-game losing streak.

Brendan Perlini scored with 7:37 to go, ruining Sharks goalie Martin Jones' bid for his second shutout of the season. The Coyotes saw their season-high three-game winning streak snapped and lost for the eighth time in nine home games (1-7-1).

Jones finished with 26 saves.

Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta left at 14:37 of the first period with an upper-body injury. Couture had collided with Raanta more than four minutes earlier, earning an interference penalty. Raanta skated to the bench during a stoppage in play and retreated to the locker room.

Scott Wedgewood took Raanta's place and was in net for only five seconds before the Sharks broke through. Wedgewood stopped Brent Burns' long shot from the top of the right circle even after it deflected off San Jose right wing Timo Meier. But the rebound kicked to the bottom of the right circle, where Thornton swept in and beat the goalie with a quick wrist shot.

San Jose made it 2-0 at 4:56 of the second, taking advantage of Arizona's inability to clear the zone while the Sharks were on a line change.

Justin Braun fought three Coyotes for the puck along the right boards before Joonas Donskoi swooped in, skated to the goal line then sent a pass across to Couture. Couture deked Wedgewood to the ice with a forehand fake, then scored on the backhand.

Perlini cut the lead to 2-1 when he redirected Derek Stepan's shot from the top of the right circle past Jones.

NOTES: Thornton has 22 goals and 83 points in 82 career games against Arizona. ... The Coyotes, who had played seven of their past eight on the road, opened a three-game homestand. ... Raanta made eight saves before leaving and has stopped 98 of the past 105 shots he's faced. ... Couture's goal was his first in five games.

UP NEXT:

Sharks: visit Las Vegas on Friday

Don't blame Joakim Ryan for Brent Burns' struggles

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AP

Don't blame Joakim Ryan for Brent Burns' struggles

Over the last three years, Brent Burns played with only one defensive partner more in a single season than he has with Joakim Ryan in 2017-18.

That partner, of course, is Paul Martin, who’s missed all but two games this season due to complications from offseason ankle surgery. Martin is set to miss yet more time after experiencing a setback in his recovery, although the injury is not related to his ailing ankle, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Martin’s absence, combined with the fact that Burns has gone 20 games without a goal this season, has naturally led to questions about whether their separation is causing Burns to struggle.

That’s not the case.

Burns is actually playing a bit better alongside Ryan than he was with Martin. In just over 257 minutes together at even strength, the Sharks have controlled 55.74 percent of the shot attempts with Burns and Ryan on the ice, according to Corsica Hockey, up from Burns and Martin’s 52.13 percent mark together.

The Sharks are attempting more shots than their opponents when Burns and Ryan play, they’re doing so at a higher rate. With Burns and Ryan on the ice, the Sharks are attempting nearly nine more shots per 60 minutes than when Burns and Martin together, and just over two more shots per 60 minutes are hitting the net.

As we’ve written about previously, Burns’ scoring struggles date back to the stretch run last season, when he was playing alongside Martin. It wasn’t Martin’s fault then, just as it’s not Ryan’s fault now.

The puck simply isn’t going in. Through 20 games this season, Burns has 82 shots on goal and zero goals. Through 20 games in his Norris Trophy-winning campaign, Burns had 83 shots on goal and seven goals.

It’s not like Burns was super lucky then, either, as his 8.3 percent shooting percentage through 20 games last season was only one percent higher than his career average. Shooting at a zero percent clip after 20 games is, clearly, the outlier.

Together, Burns and Ryan have been more unlucky than anything else. When the two skate during five-on-five play, the Sharks are scoring on only 3.45 percent of their shots, much lower than the 8.26 percent San Jose scored on when Martin and Burns played together.

At 32 years old, it would be a stretch to expect Burns to match or exceed his heights from a season ago, but it would be an even bigger one to expect him to struggle much longer alongside Ryan. 

They've done everything right, they just haven't scored.