Sharks

Instant Replay: Sharks can't tame the Wild, losing streak now at four

Instant Replay: Sharks can't tame the Wild, losing streak now at four

BOX SCORE

ST. PAUL – The Sharks have picked a bad time to go through their worst stretch of the season.

The Wild never trailed in a 3-2 win over the Sharks, who lost their fourth straight in regulation for the first time. Minnesota, which entered with a five-game regulation losing streak of its own, swept the three-game season series.

San Jose enjoyed a nine-point lead on the division just seven days ago after a win over Buffalo, but could be in a tie in points with Edmonton by the time the puck drops for their game on Friday in Dallas.

Minnesota carried a 1-0 lead late into the second period before an outrageous sequence in which the teams combined for four goals in just a 63-second span.

The Sharks tied it on David Schlemko’s wrist shot that deflected in off of a body in front. Patrick Marleau was battling for position in the slot at the time of the goal at 17:57.

Minnesota struck for the next two. Jason Pominville and Martin Hanzal chopped away at a loose puck at the side of the net and it bounced through at 18:30 with Hanzal getting credit, and just 15 seconds later, Zach Parise pushed Tomas Hertl off of a loose puck and fed Charlie Coyle for a snap shot at 18:45 to increase the Wild’s lead to 3-1.

San Jose got one back at the 19-minute mark, though. Devan Dubnyk and Ryan Suter got mixed up on a puck behind the Minnesota net, and Marleau swooped in and banked it in off of Dubnyk before the goalie could get settled back in the crease.

That was as close as the Sharks would get, though. The fell to 9-4-1 in the second half of back-to-backs. They are just 2-7-2 in their last 11 games in St. Paul.

Minnesota dominated the opening frame, jumping ahead on a Matt Dumba power play goal. Eric Staal dug out a puck along the wall to Parise, who poked it to Dumba for an open wrist shot in the slot at 10:29.

Martin Jones kept the game manageable for the Sharks, making a series of remarkable stops on Mikko Koivu and Nino Niederreiter on a Minnesota power play early in the second.

Minnesota had a 16-4 edge in shots after that power play, before the Sharks finally got some more offensive zone pressure later in the middle frame. Joonas Donskoi lost the handle on a breakaway, though, and Micheal Haley’s turnaround wrist shot from the slot was turned away by Dubnyk before the late flurry of goals prior to the second intermission.

Special teams

The Sharks had just one power play attempt, and did not score. They finished 0-for-5 against the Wild in the three head-to-head games. In their last 12 games overall, the power play is just 4-for-35.

Minnesota was 1-for-3 on the power play, and 3-for-8 against the Sharks in the season series, with one goal in each of the three meetings.

In goal

Jones and Dubnyk each played each of the three games against one another. The Sharks’ starter fell to 2-4-0 in his career against Minnesota, allowing three goals on 27 shots, while Dubnyk ended a personal four-game losing streak with 21 saves.

A Vezina Trophy candidate, Dubnyk evened his record to 8-8-2 career against San Jose.

Lineup

Marc-Edouard Vlasic was a late scratch due to the flu. Chris Tierney returned after he was sick on Monday in Dallas.

The Sharks remain without Jannik Hansen, who missed his second straight game with an upper body injury. Coach Pete DeBoer did not rule out the possibility that Hansen could return before the end of the road trip.

Brent Burns remains with no goals in his last 14 games, and no points in his last seven.

Up next

The Sharks go back to Dallas for a game on Friday at American Airlines Center. They lost to the Stars on Monday, 1-0, but beat them on March 12 at SAP Center, 5-1.

The road trip concludes on Saturday with their only visit of the regular season to Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

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.”

While Erik Karlsson tries to fit in, Sharks just want him to be himself

While Erik Karlsson tries to fit in, Sharks just want him to be himself

SAN JOSE -- At his introductory press conference Wednesday afternoon, new Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson drew an interesting parallel when he was asked about trying to fit into a new team, after being the leading man for so long. 

The Swede mentioned playing for his national team at best-on-best tournaments; first at the Sochi Olympics in 2014, and then at the World Cup of Hockey two years later. 

“It was something that I always enjoyed,” Karlsson told reporters, “And I think that it challenged me to do things in a different way sometimes … I’m looking forward to that here as well.”

It’s not necessarily an outlandish comparison. The salary-capped Sharks aren’t as good as a Swedish national team that, if its latest World Cup iteration played in the NHL, would have been about $28 million over the current upper limit. But, Karlsson’s move from the 67-point Ottawa Senators to the 100-point Sharks in last week’s blockbuster trade represents a significant upgrade in the talent surrounding him.

The two-time Norris Trophy winner joins a defense corps featuring another Norris recipient (Brent Burns) and a shutdown defenseman with international pedigree of his own (Marc-Edouard Vlasic), on a team led by a Hart Trophy winner (Joe Thornton), the NHL’s sixth-leading scorer since 2013-14 (Joe Pavelski), and the fourth-best player by Corsica Hockey’s wins above replacement (WAR) model last season (Logan Couture). 

“We’re a good hockey team,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said. “We still have a lot of work ahead of us. There’s a lot of good teams in the West, but I think [the Karlsson trade] puts us in position to have the ingredients to go compete with all the top teams.” 

Karlsson, then, just might be the active ingredient for a franchise still looking for its first Stanley Cup. He has two Norris Trophies to his name, four first-team All-Star appearances, and more points than any other defenseman since he entered the league. He led the Senators to within a double-overtime goal of the Stanley Cup Final just over a year ago, and scored more points than all but five defenders in a “down” year last season. 

If anything, Karlsson may have undersold his role on the Swedish national team when making the comparison. 

At the Sochi Olympics, Karlsson tied for the tournament lead with eight points, winning a silver medal. The Swedes weren’t as successful at the World Cup two years ago, but Karlsson still tied for the team lead in scoring. He also led his team in ice time in three out of four games, edging out the likes of Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman and Arizona’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson. 

The former ultimately won the Norris Trophy last season, while the latter will have the third-highest salary cap hit ($8.25 million) of any defenseman next season, when his eight-year contract extension kicks in.

In other words? “He’s one of the best players on the planet,” according to Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer, and not just because of his offensive ability. 

“We can use him in every situation,” DeBoer said Wednesday of his newest defenseman, adding that Karlsson was one of “very few players in the world that you could use in the last minute of games when you’re up to shut down the other team’s best players, or use to create offense when you’re behind.”

Karlsson sounded very aware of the situation he’s joining in San Jose. He knows he’s coming to a team that’s “been together for a long time that has good chemistry,” and he said it’s on him to find a way to fit in by doing whatever is asked of him. 

DeBoer indicated he will simply ask the four-time, first-team All-Star to be himself. 

“I don’t think there’s any adjustment,” DeBoer said. “We play up-tempo. We play aggressive. We play the way he plays.

“He’s gonna fit right in.”