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Sharks feeling messy sense of deja vu


Sharks feeling messy sense of deja vu

The Sharks were left with a messy sense of deja vu in the wake of Tuesday night’s loss to the Arizona Coyotes, as disparate narratives of the past five seasons rolled into one.

For one, they once again lost to the Coyotes despite a big shot advantage. Including last night, Arizona has a league-leading *six* wins against San Jose when allowing 40 or more shots and taking less than 30 since the lockout-shortened 2013 season.

Naturally, they also have more all-time wins against the Sharks under those parameters (10) than any other franchise.

Joe Thornton was also out with another knee injury, just as he was down the stretch last season. San Jose dropped to 4-5-1 on the year without Thornton, and 6-6-1 over the last two.

Of course, those three games last season came without Thornton and Logan Couture, and the Sharks have only been down one top-six forward during Thornton’s recovery this season. At least until Tuesday.

Specifically, until Tomas Hertl left with an injury of his own in the first period. Hertl’s missed nearly a full regular season’s worth of games (77) because of various injuries to his right knee, excluding the four he missed in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

He didn’t appear to injure his knee against Arizona, but his absence was felt just the same. The power play, which had especially improved since Hertl’s move to the top unit, failed to convert on all three of its opportunities after the Czech forward left the game with just 18 seconds remaining in the first period.

Head coach Peter DeBoer told reporters Wednesday morning that Hertl’s doubtful to play on Thursday against the Vancouver Canucks, but that the injury “isn’t as serious as it probably could have been.”

Absence, however short-term, only makes the heart grow fonder, and Hertl’s left the Sharks fondest for the most surprising narrative return of all: Brent Burns skating as a forward, a position he has not played since 2014.  

DeBoer told reporters after the loss he wanted to spark the team, and it’s hard to blame him for playing that card. After all, Burns scored 68 points in 92 games in two seasons up front, and scored five-on-five points at a higher rate than many elite wingers at the time.

But that was four years ago, and Burns won a Norris Trophy in the intervening years. He’s struggled in his own zone this season, but recently started to find a defensive groove playing alongside rookie defenseman Joakim Ryan.

There are pockets of the fanbase that never wanted Burns to move back in the first place, and they may finally get their wish on Thursday, depending on Hertl’s status. They shouldn’t get their hopes up beyond that, however, as DeBoer said Wednesday that the Sharks are “way, way past” considering moving Burns to forward full-time.

Yet still, that messy deja vu persists, however temporarily. As San Jose tries to look forward, the present circumstances feel far more like it’s looking back.

What they're saying: Happy Mother's Day 2018


What they're saying: Happy Mother's Day 2018

Check out how Bay Area athletes honored their mom's and the mother's of their children today!

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Happy Mother’s Day to my 👑❤️

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Building Raiders roster a 'team effort' for Gruden, McKenzie


Building Raiders roster a 'team effort' for Gruden, McKenzie

ORLANDO, Fla. – Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is a popular guy, widely respected among players and in NFL circles. The same can be said for his coordinators and many position coaches.

General manager Reggie McKenzie understands that. He used those assets to help recruit free agents to Oakland.

He also remains in close communication with those designing new Raiders schemes. Jon Gruden’s in charge of the offense, while coordinator Paul Guenther will install a new defense.

McKenzie is focused on getting guys they want, guys who will fit well within new schemes.

“One thing about Gruden is that I know exactly what he wants, which is great for me,” McKenzie said Monday in a meeting with Raiders beat writers at the NFL owners meetings. “I know exactly what is needed for his (offensive) system. It’s the same with (defensive coordinator Paul Guenther). I know exactly what kind of players they want at each position. That makes my job a lot easier, instead of trying to figure out what works best."

Raiders owner Mark Davis told NBC Sports Bay Area on Sunday that McKenzie plays a different role with Gruden in the mix, and that the head coach’s vision for the team is most important.

“That vision, and that direction is going to be helpful to Reggie more so than not,” Davis said. “I think they’ll work together very well.”

McKenzie agrees. He praised the level of communication with Gruden and his assistants and believes they executed an aggressive free-agency plan well working together.

“The communication is constant, and I’m not just talking about Coach Gruden,” McKenzie said. “I’m talking about the entire staff. It’s well-received.”

The Raiders signed 20 guys in free agency, with 16 new faces and four returners thus far, at least after Reggie Nelson’s deal becomes official in the coming days. McKenzie used the coaching staff to help close deals, and get guys they coveted.

“It’s a team effort, I’m telling you,” McKenzie said. “The good part about it, is that players want to come. Players want to be coached by our guys. When we can get coaches heavily involved in communicating with those guys and when we get those guys in the building, our coaches did a great job recruiting those (free-agent signings).”