How Aaron Dell's win could boost fellow goalie Martin Jones, Sharks’ defense

How Aaron Dell's win could boost fellow goalie Martin Jones, Sharks’ defense

SAN JOSE -- After Aaron Dell tended twine in the Sharks' first regular-season win Thursday in Chicago, many believe he might start a second consecutive game.

From the looks of things at Saturday's morning skate, however, de facto starter Martin Jones will get the call instead Sunday night when the Sharks host the Calgary Flames.

But the decision to start Dell against the Blackhawks wasn't about sending a message to Jones after four straight losses, Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said Saturday. That decision was about giving his backup goalie more starts.

In the long run, this is something that could greatly benefit the Sharks' goaltending situation.

"It isn't any kind of indictment on Martin Jones," DeBoer insisted when asked about choosing to start Dell in Chicago. "I kind of decided over the summer that I wanted to play Deller more."

While Jones and Dell both faced downturns in performance through their 2018-19 campaigns and ended the regular season with goals-against averages under .900, Dell was the goalie who spent most of the time sitting on the bench. So DeBoer gave his backup some offseason homework ahead of this season so that, hopefully, wouldn't happen again.

Dell then showed off that hard work in his start, making huge saves that kept the Blackhawks from running up the scoreboard early in the contest. In the final minute of play, Dell's insane saves allowed San Jose to hang on for their first win.

"I wanted to play him more last year, but he didn't allow me that opportunity to," DeBoer admitted. "So I told him over the summer that, 'I want to get you in more games than I did last year. I'm going to give you the opportunity early to play some more, but you have to help me and play well when you get in there.' And I think he did that."

Getting better performances out of Dell ultimately can help Jones, too. Jones plays some of his best hockey when the stakes are higher, and he easily could get a boost from his backup having a more reputable season. And since the two netminders have built a solid working relationship, the whole team can benefit.

"We've had a good relationship over the last few years, so it's been good for our team, " Jones said. "We're on the same team here. We all want the same thing. We all want to win."

Now, if the defense in front of both Jones and Dell can tighten up, the Sharks really will be in good shape.

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"We've started to help our goaltenders, but our game in front of those guys isn't where it needs to be yet either," DeBoer said. "I think slowly we've gotten a little bit better every game."

With blue line recovering, Sharks look to end homestand on high note


With blue line recovering, Sharks look to end homestand on high note

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks might be dealing with some bumps and bruises on their blue line. But after playing a good game last weekend against the Predators, head coach Peter DeBoer isn't too worried about penciling another defenseman into the lineup.

Tim Heed will file back into the lineup on Tuesday night against the Edmonton Oilers with Mario Ferraro and Dalton Prout not quite ready to return to game action. Heed has been in the dog house after a slow start to the season, getting glued to the bench for long stretches of games. But after playing what DeBoer called his "best game of the season" last Saturday against Nashville, having to put No. 72 back out there doesn't seem as daunting.

"Those decisions become easy when you play like that," DeBoer said.

The Swedish defenseman clocked 13:25 minutes of ice time on Saturday -- a stark contrast to how little he played in games over the Sharks' road trip at the end of October. Heed also tallied three shots-on-goal and a hit while not allowing any goals against the Sharks. DeBoer explained that, like other players who have underperformed, it's up to Heed to play better if he wants to stay in good standing.

"Coaches don't make those decisions, players make those decisions on whether they're going to play again or how quickly they're going to get back in there again," the head coach said.

It also helps that San Jose's blue line has found its groove since Radim Simek came back into the lineup last week, in part due to the fact that he eats up more minutes and takes some of the pressure off of heavy hitters Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson. If Heed plays another solid game right out of the gate on Tuesday, that gives DeBoer even more room to space out responsibilities among his d-corps. 

It doesn't hurt either that San Jose's skaters are individually getting their game together. So even with Ferraro getting injured, the Sharks' defensive pairs haven't looked completely out of sync.

"For me, it's been about guys individually finding their own games," DeBoer continued. "I think that's what you're seeing."

As far as Ferraro is concerned, DeBoer said the rookie is "really close" to a return and is considered day-to-day. Prout will play one more game for the Barracuda as he rounds out his AHL conditioning stint. 

[RELATED: Win-streak captures Sharks' old form]

Regardless of who is in the lineup, San Jose is looking to end their six-game homestand on a high note with the Edmonton Oilers playing a visit on Tuesday night. After a dismal first month of the season, DeBoer said he's finally seeing some positive patterns in his team's game., even if their record is still below .500.

"At least I'm seeing some consistency to our style of play and our identity, and that's stretching now probably to the beginning of the homestand," DeBoer said. "That's a good thing. I know our record doesn't show it like you wish it would, but I think that's coming. There are some good signs there."

Sharks broadcaster Jamie Baker shares mental health journey in HEADSTRONG

Sharks broadcaster Jamie Baker shares mental health journey in HEADSTRONG

Jamie Baker struggled for a long time. 

The Sharks broadcaster, who played 186 games for the franchise and clinched their 1994 Stanley Cup playoff upset of the Detroit Red Wings with the winning goal in Game 7, revealed to The Athletic's Katie Strang in March that he took multiple leaves of absence from the booth during the 2017-18 season, nearly ending his life as he struggled with his mental health. Baker previously had been diagnosed with depression and ADHD, but undergoing therapy and committing to lifestyle changes that have allowed him to, in his words, "re-train his brain."

"I'm re-training my brain so I can live in this with gratitude, with radical gratitude, radical acceptance, compassion, kindness," Baker said as part of NBC Sports' documentary "HEADSTRONG: Mental Health and Sports." "I don't have the impulsiveness I used to. This has all taken time, but this is worth it."

Every day, Baker writes in his gratitude journal, reads "The Daily Stoic" and practices yoga. He is on his third journal, having written about what he is grateful for every morning over the last year-and-a-half, and he says yoga now "is something I will do ... for the rest of my life."

Baker is embracing the opportunity to "re-train" his brain, and the commitment it requires as part of ending the stigmas surrounding it. He noted that awareness of caring for one's mental health isn't especially widespread. 

"We train our bodies to either look good or to be these athletic specimens," Baker said. "We educate our brains to go out and make money and do all this. Nobody trains their brain to deal with everything that life is going to throw with you. Good, bad and everything else. It's not part of the curriculum."

It's part of Baker's curriculum now, and he says he is much better for it. 

"I'm a happier version of me than I was for a long time," he said. " ... I recently wrote in [my gratitude journal], 'I like Jamie Baker.' That's good, because for a long time, I didn't. Not many people knew that."

[RELATED: Watch all of the vignettes from HEADSTRONG]

Baker's "HEADSTRONG" story will air Tuesday night on Sharks Pregame Live and Sharks Postgame Live on NBC Sports California. You can watch all of the "HEADSTRONG: Mental Health and Sports" vignettes right here. The full documentary will be playing all month on NBC Sports Bay Area and NBC Sports California.

Check our channel listings page for times and dates.