Sharks

Boedker will be healthy scratch against Wild

Boedker will be healthy scratch against Wild

SAN JOSE – The Sharks’ most notable offseason addition will be a healthy scratch on Thursday, as struggling winger Mikkel Boedker won’t play against the Wild at SAP Center.

Boedker, who has two goals and six assists for eight points in 38 games, was benched for most of the third period of Tuesday’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Kings. 

Pete DeBoer, who has known Boedker since coaching him in juniors, was asked what the 27-year-old could learn from a night off.

“I know this kid and I know his character. My conversation with him was, heading into Christmas, he probably played eight or 10 of the best games he’s played here. Might have been our best player six or seven of those nights. 

“He’s 40 games in, he knows our systems. He knows how we want to play. He’s been able to play that way and been effective for more than a game or two. He’s done it for a stretch. Now, it’s just consistently bringing that. 

“This is a tough division we’re in. You can’t take your foot off the gas. We’ve got tough decisions to make every night, and we’ve got good players sitting out. I think that’s the message, and he gets it. I’m sure we’ll get a good response when he’s back in.”

Boedker was also benched in the third period of a game on Nov. 26 against the Ducks. He recorded an assist in each of the next two games, and has six assists in his last 16 games overall. 

He hasn’t scored a goal in his last 28 games, however, despite playing on the second line right wing with Logan Couture for the eight of the last nine games.

When the Sharks signed Boedker to a four-year, $16 million contract in the offseason, DeBoer and general manager Doug Wilson both indicated that Boedker would benefit from playing with more skilled centermen than he did in his eight seasons in Arizona. In 21 of his 38 games, Boedker has started in the top six, either with Couture or Joe Thornton in the middle.

DeBoer has had no hesitation in scratching struggling forwards this season, in search of a consistent offensive attack. Joel Ward, Joonas Donskoi and Tommy Wingels have all taken turns in the press box, with Wingels sitting for the last five. Matt Nieto, waived and claimed by Colorado on Thursday morning, was pushed out of the lineup as rookies Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier have come up to claim spots.

Wingels will return against the Wild, centering the fourth line with Melker Karlsson and Micheal Haley.

Regarding the internal competition up front, Wingels said: “I think going into this season we knew that the situation we were going to be in. It just forces guys to work harder.”

Sharks notes: Joe Thornton applauds team for 'playing great' in his absence

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San Jose Sharks

Sharks notes: Joe Thornton applauds team for 'playing great' in his absence

SAN JOSE -- Sharks center Joe Thornton had a fan’s view of the team’s last four games, and he said he liked what he saw.

“I think they’re playing great,” Thornton said Tuesday after his first practice since going on injured reserve Oct. 7. “I think the record could be 5-1, 4-2. We looked solid, [five-on-five] play looked really solid.

“But I really, really like our five-on-five play. It felt like what I was watching we were dictating most of the games.”

Thornton experienced swelling in his surgically repaired right knee the day after San Jose’s 3-2 overtime win over the Los Angeles Kings. In the next four games, the Sharks largely controlled play at even strength, attempting 58.92 percent of the five-on-five shots and out-chancing opponents 102-76, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Yet, the Sharks finished the Thornton-less portion of the trip 1-2-1, falling to 2-3-1 overall. That’s, at least in part, because San Jose scored on just 6.56 percent of its five-on-five shots, and 7.27 percent overall.

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said the team wants to clean up some details but also must be prepared to just ride out this stretch. 

“I think there are some things you can do to help yourself,” DeBoer said. “Some net-front traffic, and some more commitment to bearing down. But I also think you’ve got to be careful, too, and some of it is just sticking with it. There are stretches where it just doesn’t go [in].”

Risk-y Business

So, how did Thornton spend his week away from the team?

“Watched the games, played some Risk on my computer, go to hockey games with my kid,” Thornton said. “There’s always stuff to be busy with.”

Yes, Thornton -- along with a surprising number of NHL players, as Sports Illustrated’s Alex Prewitt documented in a great story last year -- is an avid player of the Hasbro classic.

He grew up playing with his older brothers during his childhood summers, and has gotten some of his current and former teammates hooked: HC Davos roommate Rick Nash and former Sharks center Chris Tierney were among the converts mentioned in Prewitt’s story.

Gambrell earns 'a look here soon'

The Sharks did not practice Monday, so rookie center Dylan Gambrell spent the night in an AHL game, suiting up for the San Jose Barracuda. Gambrell scored or assisted on both of San Jose’s regulation goals, all with DeBoer in attendance.

The 22-year-old was one of the last cuts of training camp, and he traveled with the team after Thornton was placed on injured reserve. Gambrell has not played for the Sharks yet this season, but he now has five points in two AHL games. 

“He’s gone down and handled the demotion the right way by being the best player on the ice most nights he’s down there,” DeBoer said. “He’s gonna get a look here soon, and hopefully he takes it and runs with it.”

Gambrell played on the wing at Tuesday’s practice, skating with Timo Meier and Logan Couture while Tomas Hertl sat for a maintenance day. Gambrell played on the wing in the preseason, too, and DeBoer said that can only help his cause. 

“If you’re a centerman, you want to be able to knock on the coach’s door and say, ‘Hey, listen, I can also play wing until you need [one],' ” DeBoer said. “He’s got that versatility to his game because of his speed, so I think the more positions he can play, the more opportunities he’s going to get.” 

Fine Lines

While Kevin Labanc also sat for a maintenance day, Thornton returned to the top line alongside Joe Pavelski and Evander Kane. Other than him and Gambrell, there were no other changes to the line combinations and defense pairs from the end of the road trip, and they shook out as follows:

Evander Kane - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Timo Meier - Logan Couture - Dylan Gambrell
Marcus Sorensen - Antti Suomela - Joonas Donskoi
Barclay Goodrow - Rourke Chartier - Melker Karlsson

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Erik Karlsson
Joakim Ryan - Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon - Justin Braun
Radim Simek - Tim Heed

Second-line center Logan Couture collided with Rourke Chartier in a drill Tuesday, and appeared to be holding his wrist afterward. DeBoer did not have an update immediately after practice.

If Couture doesn’t skate Wednesday, the Sharks could ice much different lines in his absence. 

Logan Couture collides with teammate at Sharks practice, status unclear

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USATSI

Logan Couture collides with teammate at Sharks practice, status unclear

SAN JOSE -- As one center returned to practice on Tuesday, the Sharks could be without another. 

On the same day top center Joe Thornton practiced for the first time since experiencing swelling in his surgically repaired right knee, second-line pivot Logan Couture collided with center Rourke Chartier in a three-on-three drill at the end of practice, and appeared to be grabbing one of his wrists. 

San Jose head coach Peter DeBoer told reporters after practice he had yet to hear about the seriousness

"I don't have an update yet," DeBoer said. "I hope it’s nothing serious, but I don’t have an update.” 

Couture has played in each of the Sharks' six games so far. He leads all San Jose forwards in average ice time (20:03), and has scored three points so far this season. The 29-year-old signed an eight-year contract extension with the Sharks on July 1, and led the team with a career-high 34 goals last season, playing in all but four regular-season games. 

Prior to Tuesday's practice, the Sharks recalled center Dylan Gambrell from the AHL's San Jose Barracuda. Gambrell skated on the wing of Couture's line, while wingers Tomas Hertl and Kevin Labanc sat for maintenance days.