Sharks

Late heroics give Sharks win over Kings in LA

Late heroics give Sharks win over Kings in LA

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LOS ANGELES -- After the Sharks and the Kings struggled to shoot any pucks into either net throughout a defense-dominated night, Joel Ward put his best foot forward.

Ward scored the tiebreaking goal on a long deflection off his skate with 7:10 to play, and San Jose rallied from a third-period deficit for a 2-1 victory over the Kings on Sunday night.

Melker Karlsson scored the tying goal early in the third before Ward got creative and lucky , using his left skate from the faceoff circle to redirect Barclay Goodrow's shot past Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick for his third goal of the season.

"I started playing soccer the last couple of days," Ward said with a laugh, referring to many hockey players' long-standing tradition of using soccer to warm up before games in arena hallways. "I don't know. I saw it coming my direction. I actually knew Timo (Meier) was on the back side, and I just tried to redirect it over to his area."

Instead, it somehow went straight into Los Angeles' net for the eventual winner in the latest chapter of this long-standing California rivalry.

Martin Jones made 26 saves for the Sharks, who have won six of seven overall after evening the season series with Los Angeles.

"Especially when you come back in the third period to win it, it's even more rewarding," Goodrow said. "It's always a tight-checking game against these guys."

Dustin Brown scored on a first-period power play for the Pacific Division-leading Kings, who have lost four of six after a 9-1-1 start. Quick stopped 31 shots, but Los Angeles lost back-to-back games for the first time this season.

"I thought we played 20 (minutes) really well, and then 40 the way they wanted to play," Kings coach John Stevens said. "There were lots of issues before (Ward's) ricochet happened. It may look like an unlucky play, but there was an awful lot of things that could have gone better prior to that puck going into the net."

Captain Anze Kopitar extended his points streak to a career high-tying eight games with an assist for the Kings, but the game was appropriately low-scoring for a meeting of the NHL's two stingiest defensive teams.

"We just pulled back and we weren't attacking as much as we did in the first couple of periods," Kopitar said. "They were able to capitalize on that, but it was just a couple of fluky goals, really."

The Kings went ahead in the first period on Brown's redirection of Kopitar's shot for the Kings' sixth power play goal in six games.

The 33-year-old Brown was stripped of the Kings' captaincy last season and seemed to be on the downslope of his career with an immovable, multi-year contract and declining production.

But the two-time Stanley Cup winner has been utterly revitalized under new coach John Stevens. Playing with his usual physicality while rediscovering his offensive ability, Brown scored his eighth goal of this season nearly three months earlier than he hit the same mark last year, when he failed to crack 40 points for the fourth consecutive season.

After a scoreless second period featuring 15 saves by Quick, Karlsson tied it with his third goal of the season after a Kings clearing attempt took an odd deflection. Logan Couture got his Sharks-leading 15th point with an assist.

NOTES: Kopitar also has a seven-game assists streak, another career high. He leads the Kings with 21 points. Kopitar scored his 21st point last season on Jan. 12. ... Sharks RW Kevin Labanc returned to the lineup after a two-game stint in the minors. Jannik Hansen was a healthy scratch. ... Kings F Adrian Kempe returned to the lineup after missing one game. Rookie Michael Amadio was scratched for the first time since his NHL debut Oct. 26.

UP NEXT:
Sharks: Host Florida Panthers on Thursday to open a three-game homestand.

Kings: Host Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday in the third game of a five-game homestand.

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.”