Morning Skate: Blackhawks make only visit to Sharks


Morning Skate: Blackhawks make only visit to Sharks

Programming note: Blackhawks-Sharks coverage starts tonight at 7pm on NBC Sports Network.

Where they stand
Sharks: 13-8-0, 26 points, 2nd Pacific Division
Blackhawks: 11-8-2, 24 points, 5th Central Division

The latest

Sharks: The Sharks became just the sixth team in NHL history to sweep a road trip of six games or more, beating the Blue Jackets on Sunday, 5-3. San Jose scored four unanswered goals after trailing 3-1 early in the third. The Sharks open a three-game homestand tonight that continues with Calgary on Saturday.

Blackhawks: Currently on their annual “circus trip,” the Blackhawks dropped a 6-3 decision to the Canucks in Vancouver on Saturday. They are 1-1-1 on the six-game stretch that concludes later this week with visits to Anaheim and Los Angeles.

Keep an eye on…

Sharks: Dainius Zubrus. The veteran winger will be making his Sharks debut after signing a one-year contract on Tuesday. He’ll slot in on the fourth line and could see time on the penalty kill, too. The Sharks coaching staff will hope that the addition of Zubrus helps them avoid shortening their bench late in close games.

[KURZ: Several potential benefits to Sharks signing veteran Zubrus]

Blackhawks: Patrick Kane. If you’re looking for a frontrunner for this year’s Hart Trophy, look no further than the Blackhawks electrifying forward. Kane brings a 16-game scoring streak into tonight’s game, with 10 goals and 16 assists over that span, and is tied for the NHL lead in scoring with 32 points.

Probable lines

Melker Karlsson – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Joonas Donskoi – Patrick Marleau – Joel Ward
Matt Nieto – Tomas Hertl – Tommy Wingels
Dainius Zubrus – Chris Tierney – Mike Brown

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Brenden Dillon
Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Mirco Mueller – Matt Tennyson

Martin Jones (confirmed starter)
Alex Stalock

Artemi Panarin – Artem Anisimov – Patrick Kane
Andrew Shaw – Jonathan Toews – Ryan Garbutt
Andrew Desjardins – Marcus Kruger – Marian Hossa
Marko Dano – Tanner Kero – Brandon Mashinter

Duncan Keith – Niklas Hjalmarsson
Trevor van Riemsdyk – Brent Seabrook
Trevor Daley – Michal Rozsival

Corey Crawford (confirmed starter)
Scott Darling


Goals per game: 2.76 (11th)
Goals-against per game: 2.43 (8th)
Power play: 13.6 percent (29th)
Penalty kill: 79.1 percent (20th)

Goals per game: 2.71 (13th)
Goals-against per game: 2.62 (15th)
Power play: 21.1 percent (7th)
Penalty kill: 78.9 percent (21st)


Sharks: Justin Braun (upper body), Ben Smith (head) and Logan Couture (fractured right fibula) are out. 

Blackhawks: Teuvo Teravainen (upper body) is day-to-day.

Season series

This is Chicago’s only visit to SAP Center this season. The Sharks are in the Windy City on Dec. 20 and Feb. 9.

Odds and ends

*The Sharks are 3-5-0 at home, while Chicago is 3-6-1 on the road.

*Joe Pavelski is tied for fourth in the NHL with 12 goals.

*Brent Burns is second in the NHL with 94 shots, and has 13 points (6g, 7a) in the last 13 games.

*Martin Jones was named as the NHL’s First Star of the Week after posting a 3-0-0 record, 1.63 goals-against average and .951 save percentage.

*The Sharks will honor Jamie Baker before the game as part of the team’s season-long 25th anniversary celebration.

Why Sharks think they're turning things around after win over Oilers

Why Sharks think they're turning things around after win over Oilers

SAN JOSE -- Suffice to say, the Sharks don't look like the same team that started a six-game homestand on Nov. 1 with one of the worst records in the NHL.

With a 6-3 win over the Pacific Division-leading Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night, the Sharks have won four in a row and appear to be climbing out of the hole they dug themselves in the first month of the season.

Not to jump the gun or anything, The Sharks aren't out of the woods yet. But after the past six games, it looks like they're finally turning the corner and playing the way they expect to.

"Every game, I feel like we're more comfortable," said Tomas Hertl, who scored a goal Tuesday. "Everybody plays better. So now we have to just keep going."

The Sharks spent a good chunk of the first month of the season looking out of sync -- offensively, defensively, you name it. The culprit? Focusing too much on individual play and not working together as a unit.

"We weren't playing our system," Marc-Edouard Vlasic summarized Tuesday. "We were freelancing. We were doing our own thing. And it's funny when you stick to it, to what you do best, the results follow."

Erik Karlsson, Vlasic's defensive partner, agreed.

"We lost ourselves a little bit," said Karlsson, who had three assists Tuesday. "But right now we're working hard for each other and getting ourselves in good spots out there."

Sticking to that system yielded positive production on Tuesday against the Oilers. The Sharks scored six goals, and largely contained Oilers superstars Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. 

"We had a big task in stopping one of the best lines in hockey and I think we did a good job of that," Karlsson said. "I think everyone contributed offensively and defensively. I think we played the right way for 60 minutes even though they scored three goals. But I think we stuck with it."

"They're at the top of the division and I thought we did a good job of defending McDavid and Draisaitl as a group tonight," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer added. "I thought we had some individuals who did a really good job, but I thought everyone on the ice with those guys was aware."

Of course, getting the jump on the Oilers fewer than five minutes into the game didn't hurt, either. 

"We got the first goal, which took a little bit of the pressure off," DeBoer said. "We got to play out in front most of the night. Those kinds of things make a difference."

[RELATED: Sharks' Baker shares mental health journey in HEADSTRONG]

Now, as Hertl mentioned, the Sharks have to keep going. With an 8-10-1 record, San Jose is still under .500.

That's not good enough for a team accustomed to playing in the postseason. 

"If you're under (.500) you're not in the playoffs," Hertl said. "We're trying the best and over the last four games, we actually look like the Sharks."

If they keep looking like the Sharks that Hertl is talking about, the outlook on the season gets a little brighter.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 6-3 win over Pacific-best Oilers

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 6-3 win over Pacific-best Oilers


SAN JOSE -- If there was a high note for the Sharks to end their six-game homestand on, they hit it against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday.

The Sharks offensively overpowered the Pacific Division-leading Oilers at SAP Center. Logan Couture and Erik Karlsson had multi-point nights and Barclay Goodrow registered a Gordie Howe hat trick as San Jose skated to a 6-3 victory. 

Here are three takeaways from the Sharks' fourth-straight win.

Coming alive 5-on-5

As fans are probably all too aware, the Sharks had a ton of trouble scoring goals at even strength at the start of the homestand. But as they have improved over this six-game span, their 5-on-5 game has come alive. San Jose scored five even-strength goals in the first 40 minutes Tuesday, the team's most impressive 5-on-5 performance of the season. 

To make things better, the Sharks got scoring from their bottom six in Tuesday's game courtesy of third-liner Patrick Marleau's first-period goal. If San Jose can start getting production from the fourth line as well, the Sharks' offense will be in really good shape going forward.

Playing more than 20 minutes

The Sharks went into the first intermission with a 3-0 lead but had a feisty Oilers' team pushing to get on the board. And as the Sharks learned from their back-and-forth 6-5 win over the Minnesota Wild last week, only playing well for the first 20 minutes isn't a good formula for winning games. 

But the Sharks didn't sit back on their heels, instead scoring another goal 1:26 into the second period and then another before the intermission. Even though the Oilers scored three goals in the last two periods, San Jose had enough of a lead to keep the damage minimal.

Not too shabby for a team with one of the league's worst goal differentials at the start of the homestand.

[RELATED: Sharks' Baker shares mental health journey in HEADSTRONG]

The Sharks' best game to date?

Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. The Sharks have certainly played much better over the last four games, but there are still a couple of areas they need to tighten up as they try to climb their way to a .500 record.

Although the Sharks built a big enough cushion, they did let up a bit Tuesday and allow two goals in the third period to let the Oilers make things interesting. As we discussed earlier, that's exactly how the Sharks almost gave up last week's game to the Wild.

While San Jose goaltender Martin Jones did a pretty solid job against Edmonton's offense, the defense in front of him needs to stay tight late into games so they don't end up blowing any late leads.