Sharks

How Sharks' Dylan Gambrell, Noah Gregor have seized regular roles

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AP/USATSI

How Sharks' Dylan Gambrell, Noah Gregor have seized regular roles

SAN JOSE -- Sharks coach Peter DeBoer told reporters last month that he'd like some of the team's freshest faces to earn playing time so he didn't have to keep rotating players in and out of his lineup. His exact wish was for "for somebody to grab these jobs and us [to] go with the same lineup."

Ten games later, a couple of young players have held their place. DeBoer said that there's still work to be done -- like with most things involving the Sharks so far this season -- but Dylan Gambrell and Noah Gregor have taken big strides.

"Out of the group of guys that we've rolled through there, I think Dylan Gambrell has done the best job at figuring out how to be an effective everyday guy and I think Noah (Gregor) has been the second-closest guy to doing that," DeBoer said Saturday morning as San Jose geared up to host the Nashville Predators.

The coach's earlier comments came on the same day Gregor was recalled from the Barracuda. The rookie hasn't tallied his first NHL point yet, but he has played in eight of 10 games since coming up from the AHL. The 21-year-old forward has shown off his speed, DeBoer wants to see more from Gregor in his own zone.

"His speed jumps out at you, his skill jumps out at you," DeBoer said of Gregor. "He's learning how to compete at the NHL level and he's realizing it's hard to create space at this level in order to create offense. You have to be good all over the ice because if you're not creating a goal a night you can't be giving up a goal a night. Those are all the things young guys go through."

DeBoer pinpointing Gambrell as a young player who has seized a role is no surprise. Gambrell, when healthy, has been one of the few regulars on the Sharks' fourth line, although he is another player DeBoer has said he wants to see a tighter defensive effort from.

Not surprisingly, the Sharks are looking for all of their young guns to play more of a two-way game as the season progresses. The biggest key, according to DeBoer? Knowing when to pick your spots.

"You don't want to take away their creativity," DeBoer explained. "But there are times and places for that, and that's the tough thing (about) playing at this level. Unless you're a front-line guy, you've got figure out room and time to make an offensive play and when you don't. The score of the game and the time of the game. I think our young players defensively are still figuring that stuff out and we've got a ways to go."

[RELATED: Sharks' lack of killer instinct almost cost them vs. Wild]

Gambrell and Gregor will be challenged Saturday against the Predators. Nashville already plays a heavy defensive game, but likely will emphasize it even more after surrendering nine goals to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday. While all of the Sharks will be tested, the young fourth-liners face the hardest task.

"When you look around the league at the teams that we've had (in the past), we want to get to the place where we have four reliable lines that we can stick out," DeBoer said. "If they get stuck out tonight against (Ryan) Johansen you're not trying to figure out a way to get them off the ice. That they can survive those situations."

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in skid-busting 4-2 win over Canucks

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USATSI

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in skid-busting 4-2 win over Canucks

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE - It wasn't the cleanest game, nor was it the most dominant. And boy, did it get dicey there at the end. But heck, it was a victory all the same for the San Jose Sharks.

For the first time in the month of December, Team Teal (16-17-2) put a notch in the win column, holding on late to defeat the Vancouver Canucks 4-2.

Here are three takeaways from Saturday's game at SAP Center.

Still in search of that full 60

Perhaps San Jose's biggest issue in their last game was that they didn't put a full effort on the ice for all three periods, thus not being able to hold onto a one-goal lead with 15 minutes left in the game. While they played significantly better on Saturday against the Canucks (16-13-4), there was still some sag in their defense at points during the second and third periods -- especially late in the third period with the game on the line.

San Jose looked its best during Saturday's game when their defense played extra stingy -- pushing Vancouver's offense to the edges and not giving them enough time to get good shots off. Lucky enough for the Sharks' defense, the guy between the pipes was having a heck of a game.

On that note ...

Dell-ightful.

Maybe it was the slick black goalie pads. Or maybe he was just in the zone. Whatever the reason, Aaron Dell put on quite a solid performance in his first start of the Bob Boughner era. Dell was especially good in the second period when Vancouver made a push and pinned San Jose in their own end. His sprawling split save on a Tanner Pearson wrister toward the end of the second stanza was probably his most notable of the night.

The question now is whether Saturday's game earned Dell a second consecutive start in a row. Boughner appears open to the idea of letting both Dell and Martin Jones duke it out for starts. While Dell's shutout bid was snapped in the third period against the Canucks, he certainly made a case for himself starting another game.

The PK prevailed

Yes, the Sharks still need to tighten up for a full 60 minutes. But one area of their game that came up big was the penalty kill. And against the fourth-best power play in the league, that meant a lot for San Jose.

The kill came up huge in the second half of the third period when Kevin Labanc went to the sin bin and the Sharks were clinging to a 2-1 lead. While it is definitely preferable that the Sharks don't take penalties that late in the game when they've had trouble holding onto leads, at least they were able to get the job done.

Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau react to ex-teammates on Sharks' staff

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AP

Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau react to ex-teammates on Sharks' staff

SAN JOSE -- No, the days of the player-coach hybrid aren't making a comeback. Although, if you're Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau, it might feel that way.

With the introduction of Bob Boughner as San Jose's interim head coach, the organization brought in staff that includes former Sharks Mike Ricci and Evgeni Nabokov -- two players who were on the roster back when the now 40-year-olds hadn't reached their veteran status yet.

"It will be interesting to see them on the bench," Marleau said. "But they're very professional and they'll do a great job."

Marleau played with both Ricci and Nabokov in the early 2000s, while Thornton only logged time with Nabokov after coming to San Jose from the Boston Bruins in 2005. While it has been some time since either newly-appointed assistant coach has rocked a teal sweater, Ricci and Nabokov have stayed with the organization in different capacities over the last few years. Having that closeness and a high level of familiarity is something that can benefit the team as they go through a midseason coaching change.

"I know what they've been through and I know a lot about them, so it's easy to communicate with them," Marleau said.

Thornton agreed with his teammate's assessment.

"They've been here for a long time now," Thornton said. "To have them on the bench now is going to be fun."

Both Ricci and Nabokov have spent the last several seasons working on the development side of the Sharks' organization and have worked closely with players on the AHL Barracuda -- a team that has been coached by Roy Sommer up until he, too, was recently named assistant coach under Boughner. In his introductory press conference on Thursday, Boughner outlined how he believes his new coaching staff might function.

"We met last night as a staff and this morning and we still need to work through some things," Boughner admitted. "But Mike Ricci and Roy are going to be on the bench with me. Roy's going to move to the defensive side and run some power play. Ricci was a great penalty killer his whole career and I think we're going to be able to enjoy some of his expertise. I'll be running the forwards and obviously Nabby will (oversee) the goalies. There are still some job responsibilities we'll have to sort out in the next few days. But for now, I think those guys are excited. It was a big day for them as well."

[RELATED: How DeBoer's firing shocked Sharks players]

As far as reuniting Ricci and Nabokov with their former teammates, Boughner thinks working closely with Thornton and Marleau will benefit the entire roster as the Sharks try to, yet again, turn their season around after a tough stretch of losses.

"I think you can see, even in the morning, there's that report there," Boughner said of watching the reunion during morning skate. "There's deep respect. There's a lot of familiarity with those guys and I think that's going to help. Ricci and Roy have seen these young guys all the way up. I think there's great chemistry that we're going to have there."