Sharks

Dylan Gambrell embracing challenge of splitting time between Sharks, Barracuda

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AP

Dylan Gambrell embracing challenge of splitting time between Sharks, Barracuda

San Jose Sharks center Dylan Gambrell hasn't played in an NHL game yet this season. But he's certainly getting plenty of work in.

The 22-year-old kicked off his 2018-19 campaign getting on the score sheet for San Jose's minor league affiliate, the Barracuda. But when Sharks' forward Joe Thornton left the Sharks' five-game road trip after one tilt, Gambrell was on a plane to join the big league club on the east coast. In six games so far this season, he has bounced back and forth between the NHL Sharks and their AHL branch three times.

Flip flopping sweaters may seem like a hefty workload. But Gambrell is happily taking on the challenge. And having the opportunity to create chemistry with both dressing rooms has helped make the regular transitions smoother. 

"There's such a great group of guys in both locker-rooms," Gambrell said after a lengthy Wednesday practice as the Sharks gear up to host the Buffalo Sabres. "It makes it so much easier when you come back from a trip, or from the other side of the locker-room."

It also doesn't hurt that the Sharks and their AHL club share a facility, which was not the case just a few seasons ago when players had to fly from Worcester, Massachusetts when they were recalled to the big club.

"It nice that both teams are in the same facility," said Gambrell, who the Sharks picked 60th overall in the 2016 Draft. "That makes it so much easier for a guy like me who's been going up and down a bit."

The Bonney Lake, Washington native was one of the last players at Sharks training camp to be reassigned to the 'Cuda the day before the NHL regular season opened. While the Sharks were starting off their roadie in LA against the Kings, Gambrell was leading the Barracuda with two goals and one assist in a 4-1 victory over the Ontario Reign. 

He joined the Sharks on the east coast a couple days later. And although he didn't play in those games, the rookie said he took plenty of mental notes on what the rest of the team was doing.

"Just taking little notes," the University of Denver product said of observing games. "Watching (the other players) and how they prepare, how they handle themselves on the road, the little things they're doing to get ready for a game situation."

Clearly that note-taking is paying off, even at the AHL level. No sooner had the Sharks returned from their final road game against the New Jersey Devils Sunday that Gambrell was reassigned back to the Barracuda for a Monday night tilt. He registered a goal in the second period for the AHL squad -- despite not playing since their season-opener over a week earlier. 

"It was nice to get a game in, for sure," Gambrell said. "The legs took a little bit to get going, obviously. But after the first period I felt pretty good."

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer was in attendance to watch the young center in that game. DeBoer told the media after Tuesday's practice Gambrell could see NHL game time soon. Although it isn't clear as of yet where Gambrell would slide into the lineup. While he normally plays center, the Sharks' bench boss slotted him in at wing during the Sharks' preseason. But like with switching back and forth between the AHL and NHL, Gambrell is comfortable playing in either position.

"I've played both wing and center throughout my whole life," Gambrell said, clearly okay with the workload he has taken on. "Wherever I'm slotted in, I'm pretty happy with it."

Sharks 'just weren't good enough' vs. Coyotes in first loss of 2019

Sharks 'just weren't good enough' vs. Coyotes in first loss of 2019

You have to hand it to the Sharks, they put on quite the show to kick off 2019. They’ve shown incredible growth since the start of the season, and battled through a jam-packed schedule to defeat some difficult teams and put together a stellar winning streak in the process.

That in of itself probably makes their first loss of the new year -- a 6-3 defeat at the hands of the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night -- a letdown.

“We just weren’t good enough,” Sharks forward Logan Couture told the media in Arizona, “and it’s tough because we were on such a nice run.”

The Sharks were, in fact, shooting for their eighth win in a row. They had just beaten the Pittsburgh Penguins the night before, in arguably one of their most complete 60-minute efforts this season. Playing a lower-level team like the Coyotes afterward can, of course, result in a little bit of a letdown.

However, the Sharks had yet to fall into that trap in 2019, defeating the lowly Los Angeles Kings after a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Ottawa Senators two nights after beating the Vegas Golden Knights. This is a team that, clearly, knows not to overlook lesser competition.

But even knowing the difficulties such a game can present, the Sharks had trouble early against the Coyotes.

“We knew coming in that we had to get our emotional level back engaged again after last night,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer acknowledged. “We didn’t do it quickly enough or for long enough.”

[RELATED: Sharks GM says trade deadline deals must strike right balance]

It didn’t help either that San Jose was playing Arizona on the tail end of yet another back-to-back. All three times these teams have met this season have been on the second night of a Sharks back-to-back. The Coyotes, on the other hand, were well-rested after losing to the Calgary Flames on Sunday.

That extra time showed on Wednesday. 

“You have to give [Arizona] credit,” DeBoer continued. “They were rested, and they played with a lot of energy and won a lot of battles.” 

San Jose has battles of their own to fight, and no time to dwell on the end of a season-long winning streak. The Sharks entered Wednesday just one point behind the Calgary Flames in the Pacific Division, but fell back another point after the Flames lost to the Buffalo Sabres in overtime.

Plus, they'll have another emotionally-charged game coming up on Saturday when they travel to Tampa Bay for a rematch with the Lightning. San Jose’s already beaten the Bolts once before, and a loss to the Coyotes shouldn’t deter them from thinking they can do it again.

“We’re not happy about this loss, but we’ve got to keep doing what we’ve done before,” Timo Meier said. “We’ve done some good things, we’ve played some great hockey. We’ve got to continue.”

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in streak-ending 6-3 loss to Coyotes

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AP

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in streak-ending 6-3 loss to Coyotes

BOX SCORE

All good things must come to an end. Yes, even the Sharks' winning streak. 

San Jose made things interesting Wednesday night in the desert against the Arizona Coyotes. Evander Kane stayed hot, Kevin Labanc got off the schneid, and Logan Couture got a late power-play goal to keep it close. But the Sharks came up just a little bit short, falling 6-3 to the Desert Dogs.

Here are three takeaways from Wednesday’s game:

You have to give the Coyotes some credit

Arizona may be occupying the cellar of the Pacific Division, but that didn’t mean San Jose could come into their house and steal a victory uncontested. The Coyotes played a smart game on Wednesday night, jumping on the Sharks when they showed signs of getting tired and not giving them a ton of room to build up momentum.

This is something we’ve seen from San Jose’s opponents since they got hot at the start of December. Even teams who aren’t as good as the Sharks – like the Ottawa Senators and Wednesday’s opponent, the Coyotes – have turned up the heat against San Jose.

[RELATED: Doug Wilson says Sharks' moves at trade deadline must strike right balance]

Aaron Dell’s performance

Yes, Dell should have stopped Lawson Crouse's game-open goal. But after that he really settled in, even bailing out a couple of his teammates before the first 20 minutes expired. His most impressive saves occurred later in the game.

The first, with a little over five minutes left in the second stanza when he froze Richard Panik with a magnificent glove save.

Then, there was the third-period stop when he kicked Vinnie Hinostroza’s chance out of the way.

Dell didn’t have as much help in front of him. San Jose was playing on the second night of a back-to-back – why are they always playing Arizona on the tail end of a back-to-back – with travel. That’s in addition to playing a tough game against the Pittsburgh Penguins the night before. The Sharks didn’t look their sharpest, but Dell, who hadn’t played the night before, did his best to keep his team in it.

It’s almost time for Timo Time, right?

This has been a subject of Twitter chatter for a few games now. Timo Meier has now gone a career-high 16 games without scoring. In the last few contests, his level of play has really come up a notch as he tries to snap the drought. And that’s saying something, because if you have watched Meier play this season, you know he’s a player who doesn’t sit back on his heels.

On Wednesday in Arizona, he led all Sharks’ skaters with seven shots on goal. Make no mistake, Meier is primed to break out. Heck, getting a goal or two on Saturday in Tampa Bay against the Lightning would be a nice way to bust his slump.