Joonas Donskoi

Joonas Donskoi shows his game-breaking talent in return to Sharks

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USATSI

Joonas Donskoi shows his game-breaking talent in return to Sharks

The San Jose Sharks sure missed Joonas Donskoi, didn’t they?

In his first game in 16 days, the Finnish winger made his presence felt during the Sharks’ 3-2 win over Calgary on Thursday. He assisted on San Jose’s first goal, and scored the game-winner, all in a tidy 13:42 in ice time, the fourth-fewest among Sharks forwards. 

San Jose did well enough in Donskoi’s absence. They went 3-2-1 and picked up seven points, buoyed by an explosion on the power play (six goals in six games) covering up for a lack of five-on-five scoring (nine goals). 

That trend reversed on Thursday, as the Sharks scored once on the power play and twice at even strength. Donskoi factored into both. 

His back-checking ensured San Jose got a clean zone entry, and eventually, a clean look at the goal when Timo Meier buried the rebound off of Chris Tierney’s shot. The game-winner was fortunate, yes, but once again a result of his hockey sense: Donskoi pulled up on Justin Braun’s cross-ice pass at the last second, allowing Thornton to shoot as he drove the net for a rebound. 

Two intelligent plays. Two goals. And ultimately, a Sharks win. 

His return benefitted San Jose on the scoresheet, but also aided the team on the lineup card. His presence allows the team to utilize players in proper roles, even when they aren’t completely healthy. 

The Sharks are still without Mikkel Boedker, and Melker Karlsson likely isn’t the right fit alongside Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton, but the forward lines on Thursday were close to ideal otherwise. Joel Ward and Jannik Hansen, both pressed into third-line duty at times in Donskoi’s absence, comprised two-thirds of a strong fourth line. 

Peter DeBoer will still need to tweak, as Ward, Hansen, and Marcus Sorensen were the only Sharks able to control a majority of the five-on-five shot attempts. The loss of possession, though, reveals another factor Donskoi brings to the lineup.

Game-breaking talent. 

It can only get you so far, and certainly can’t solely be relied upon over long stretches. But sometimes, on a given night when the rest of the team isn’t at their best, that talent is enough to eke out a win. 

Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Martin Jones at his best can all be relied upon to carry the Sharks at times. So, too, can Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, but recovery and injury, respectively, have hampered their effectiveness at times this season. 

Donskoi is another player who fits that mold, and makes San Jose’s offense far more difficult for opponents to handle. He may not be their most valuable player this season, but he’s arguably the most important.

Sharks open road trip with win thanks to Donskoi's late heroics

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USATSI

Sharks open road trip with win thanks to Donskoi's late heroics

BOX SCORE

CALGARY -- Joonas Donskoi scored the game-winner late in third period and had an assist to lead the San Jose Sharks to a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames on Thursday night.

Justin Braun began the sequence by knocking Johnny Gaudreau off the puck in the Sharks end, beginning a 3-on-2 rush.

Eventually, Joe Thornton got a shot on net that Mike Smith stopped but the rebound was loose between his legs and was tapped in by Donskoi.

Chris Tierney and Timo Meier also had a goal and an assist each to round out the scoring for San Jose (17-10-3).

Michael Frolik and Gaudreau scored for Calgary (16-13-3).

Trailing 2-1, the Flames tied it at 7:39 of the third period when Garnet Hathaway neatly set up Gaudreau on a 2-on-1 for his 13th goal.

It came after coach Glen Gulutzan had shaken up Calgary's lines late in the second in an attempt to spark the offense, moving Gaudreau off the top unit and onto a line with Hathaway and rookie Mark Jankowski.

The Sharks had taken their first lead halfway through the second period on the power play.

Off a face-off win in the Flames end, the Sharks worked the puck back to Kevin Labanc. His long wrist shot was stopped by Smith, but Tierney whacked in the rebound.

Tierney's eighth goal moves him into second place on the team behind Logan Couture. In his fourth NHL season, the 23-year-old is closing in on his career high of 11 set last year.

Power plays were a key story line in the game with the Sharks going 1 for 3 while Calgary could not generate anything in going 0 for 3. That included squandering a 37-second two-man advantage early in the second period.

San Jose tied it when the line of Tierney, Donskoi and Meier combined on a nice goal.

Calgary opened the scoring 4:42 into the first period on a giveaway by Sharks defenseman Tim Heed.

Aaron Dell made 32 stops to improve to 6-3-1.

Smith, who had 26 saves, falls to 13-10-3.

Notes: It was the first of four meetings between the teams this season. ... Kris Versteeg (hip) missed his 10th game. ... Jaromir Jagr (lower body) is back skating but is still day-to-day. He's missed the last five games. ... Donskoi (lower body) returned after missing six games. ... The Flames have led after one period only four times, the fewest in the league.

UP NEXT:

Sharks: Are at Vancouver on Friday.

Flames: Host Nashville on Saturday.

Sharks winger Joonas Donskoi has officially arrived

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AP

Sharks winger Joonas Donskoi has officially arrived

It turns out the top-six winger the Sharks needed to replace Patrick Marleau was on the roster all along.

Joonas Donskoi skated on Logan Couture’s line in Monday night’s shootout loss to the Ducks, and was San Jose’s best player. He scored the Sharks’ only two goals, and tied for the team-lead among forwards with four shots on net.

Donskoi added another goal in the ninth-round shootout, but his two goals in regulation were his sixth and seventh on the season. With those goals, he surpassed his total from an injury-riddled campaign a year ago, and stands three tallies clear as San Jose’s second-leading goal-scorer this season.

Due to Melker Karlsson’s injury, Donskoi skated with the Sharks’ leading goal-scorer, Logan Couture, and rekindled the strong chemistry the pair has shown since the Finnish winger arrived in San Jose in 2015.

Of the nine lines Couture has skated on for at least 50 minutes dating back to the beginning of the 2015-16 season, the three best in terms of puck possession have had Donskoi on his wing. Those three combinations have controlled at least 54 percent of the five-on-five shot attempts, according to Corsica Hockey.

Adding Tomas Hertl, who’s already a strong possession player, to that line bodes well for an even stronger second line moving forward. With Karlsson on the wing, the line controlled only 47.7 percent of the shot attempts, per Corsica, meaning the Sharks have been routinely out-possessed with them on the ice.

That was not the case with Donskoi in Karlsson’s place, as Donskoi posted positive possession numbers alongside Couture and Hertl on Monday, according to Natural Stat Trick. The results were there, as evidenced by the game’s opening goal, but it’s a good sign that the process was, too.

The same, frankly, can be said of Donskoi’s entire season up to this point. He likely won’t convert on over 18 percent of his shots all season, of course, but the Sharks have the puck more often than their opponents when he’s on the ice, and should continue to generate pressure, chances, and ultimately goals, even if Donskoi’s personal scoring comes down.

When Karlsson comes back, Donskoi should remain on Couture and Hertl’s line. That would allow the former to slide into a role better-suited to his game, and the latter to bolster San Jose’s top-six forward group.

Donskoi’s earned an extended look in that spot thanks to his resurgence, and subsequent emergence, this season. Thanks to him, replacing Marleau’s production suddenly seems much less daunting.