Childhood Sharks fan Ovechkin can make history against San Jose


Childhood Sharks fan Ovechkin can make history against San Jose

Nearly 6000 miles away in Moscow, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin grew up a San Jose Sharks fan in the early 1990s, all because a childhood teammate's attire caught his eye.

“Actually, it’s fun story,” Ovechkin told The Washington Post in 2016. “One of my teammates back then wear the hat with a shark, and we were like, ‘What is it?’ Because we don’t know the team. He said it’s the team over in San Jose, so I have a hat, I have a hoodie and like a jacket. Ulf Dahlen, I remember, my dad gave me a jersey of Ulf Dahlen. It was on my wall. That was kind of fun.”

The jersey's still sits on the wall in his family's country home, according to The Post's Isabelle Khurshudyan. Growing up in Russia, Ovechkin's experience watching the NHL was largely limited to store-bought highlight tapes. He idolized players like Sergei Fedorov and Mario Lemieux, but he told Graham Bensinger in a 2015 interview that he had a special affinity for a former Sharks captain.

"Of course, my favorite player was Owen Nolan, who played in San Jose," Ovechkin said. "He was physical, he can score goals, and he was a great leader."

That sure sounds the way Ovechkin, arguably the best power forward of the modern era and one of the best goal-scorers of all time, plays. The 32-year-old is in the midst of a renaissance season, hitting the 40-goal mark for the ninth time in his career, tied for the fourth-most all-time.

Ovechkin is nearing another major milestone, sitting just two goals shy of becoming the 20th player in league history to score 600 goals. With four more, he can pass Jari Kurri for 19th all-time. 

He'll have his latest shot at history in his 10th trip to San Jose Saturday afternoon, when his Capitals wrap up a three-game, California road trip against his favorite NHL team from childhood. 

Expecting him to pass Kurri in the matinee would be a stretch, but the former is certainly possible against the NHL team he grew up rooting for. He's been fairly prolific against the Sharks (eight goals in 17 games), and scored in his last game against San Jose on Dec. 4. 

But the Sharks have largely limited Ovechkin, as well as the Capitals, in his previous nine appearances at SAP Center. He's only scored two goals there, none in his last five trips, while San Jose's not lost to Washington at home in regulation since 1993.

The bad news for the Sharks, and the good news for Ovechkin's pursuit of history, is that he may be due. He's only scored on about six percent of his 33 shots at SAP Center, compared to a career average of 12.4 percent on 4825 shots. Ovechkin's also recorded multiple shots on goal in each of those games, and it's difficult to imagine him remaining out of the goal column at SAP Center.  

Whether he scores twice against the Sharks or not on Saturday, Ovechkin's surely going to reach the 600-goal mark this season. The milestone's special enough on its own, but there would be something fitting about Ovechkin reaching it against his boyhood NHL team, and in the building where his favorite player dazzled fans for parts of seven seasons. 

If he does score 599 and 600 in San Jose, Ovechkin should send the pucks to that childhood teammate. 

Erik Karlsson unveils Sharks' black third jersey with an on-ice skate

San Jose Sharks

Erik Karlsson unveils Sharks' black third jersey with an on-ice skate

Erik Karlsson did not play for the Sharks in Saturday's preseason game against the Vegas Golden Knights, but he still managed to suit up. 

Karlsson took the ice in front of the fans at SAP Center as a Shark for the first time, all while wearing San Jose's newest uniform. He officially unveiled a black alternate jersey that the Sharks will wear in 13 home games this season. 

Teal is the only prominent accent color aside from some orange in the shark's eye. It looks like Martin Jones' new mask design offered a bit of a thematic preview of the Sharks' new look.  

The "Stealth" jersey also features a black-and-teal version of San Jose's original secondary logo, a cool nod to the franchise's history. Sharks co-president John Tortora told NBC Sports California's Brodie Brazil in February that the logo would "start showing back up again."

In all, it's the third black jersey in the club's history, and the team's first alternate uniform since Adidas took over as the NHL's jersey manufacturer last season. 

The Sharks will wear the jersey in every Thursday night and Friday night home game -- as well as one Saturday. The full schedule for the uniform is as follows:

  • Thursday, Oct. 18 vs. Buffalo
  • Thursday, Nov. 1 vs. Columbus
  • Saturday, Nov. 3 vs. Philadelphia
  • Thursday, Nov. 15 vs. Toronto
  • Friday, Nov. 23 vs. Vancouver
  • Thursday, Dec. 13 vs. Dallas
  • Thursday, Dec. 20 vs. Winnipeg
  • Thursday, Dec. 27 vs. Anaheim
  • Thursday, Feb. 14 vs. Washington
  • Friday, March 1 vs. Colorado
  • Thursday, March 7 vs. Montreal
  • Thursday, March 14 vs. Florida
  • Thursday, March 28 vs. Chicago

After Erik Karlsson trade, Sharks in line for new defenseman pairings

After Erik Karlsson trade, Sharks in line for new defenseman pairings

SAN JOSE -- Since Peter DeBoer took over as Sharks coach ahead of the 2015-16 season, defenseman Brenden Dillon has played with plenty of partners. Seven defensive pairings have played 500 minutes of five-on-five hockey together in the regular season and playoffs during that stretch, according to Corsica Hockey, and Dillon has played for four. 

He’ll likely join a fifth this season. Dillon’s most regular partner over the last three seasons, Dylan DeMelo, now is in Ottawa after being traded to the Senators in the massive deal that brought two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson to San Jose last week. 

Dillon, like the rest of the Sharks' defensive corps, doesn’t know who he’ll skate with to start the season. But, he said, his experience regularly playing alongside many different players will prove beneficial when he does.

“I think it’ll be to my advantage for sure,” Dillon said Friday at the Sharks' practice facility. “I’m definitely excited. We don’t really know what the lineups are going to kind of shake out as exactly. I think even during the regular season in past years, too, you might start out with a certain guy and finish the game having played with all five guys. … There’s so many different variables.”

Dillon skated with defensive prospect Jeremy Roy on Friday. Marc-Edouard Vlasic paired with Karlsson for the third consecutive practice. Justin Braun, Vlasic’s regular partner to the tune of nearly 3800 regular-season and playoff minutes over the last three years, skated with Burns. 

At least in the Braun and Burns’ case, that was due to availability. Burns’ most common defensive partner last season, Joakim Ryan, played in Thursday night’s preseason game against the Anaheim Ducks, and thus skated in the second session. 

Still, it’s possible Braun will regularly play with someone other than Vlasic for the first time in years. The eight-year veteran last played with someone else for more than 500 five-on-five minutes during the 2013-14 season, when he logged just under 505 such minutes with now-retired defenseman Brad Stuart. 

Braun said there won’t be a big learning curve if he plays with someone other than Vlasic, since he’s played spot minutes with just about everyone else (other than Karlsson). Braun said he’d hope to play a couple preseason games with a new partner, but that practice might be an ideal time to learn their tendencies and develop chemistry. 

“You can learn anywhere,” Braun said. “There’s drills set up where there’s a lot of forechecking. You might chip [the puck], and he’s not there, and you kind of talk about it after. That might be the best place since they’re not scoring goals on you where it counts.”

It might be awhile before DeBoer provides a glimpse into his potential pairings. Karlsson will not play in Saturday’s preseason game against the Vegas Golden Knights at SAP Center, and the Sharks will not cut camp down to one group of up to 26 players (five forward lines, four defensive pairs, and three goaltenders) until Tuesday or Wednesday. 

After Saturday, San Jose will play three more preseason games before hosting Anaheim in the regular-season opener Oct. 3. Who Karlsson, and the rest of the defense, play with then is still to be determined, according to DeBoer. 

“We’ll see,” DeBoer said when asked if he envisioned Karlsson and Vlasic as a long-term possibility. “We’ve had a couple practices, but honestly I’ve got a bunch of different things rolling around in my head. The nice thing about getting [Karlsson] now is that it’s not a trade deadline where you’ve basically got six weeks to figure it out.”

DeBoer added that he hopes his pairings that open the season will stick together stick throughout the season, but he knows the nature of a long schedule will require changes. As Braun and Dillon both noted, that can happen during the ebb and flow of an individual game, too.

No matter who plays with whom, Dillon said he’s confident any new-look pairings will be able to become comfortable. 

“I think that’s just going to come with time,” Dillon said. “But, for us as a group, I think we can all cover for each other if we’re struggling a bit. At the same time, I think when we’re all going well, it’s going to be a tough group to beat.”