NHL Gameday: Couture heating up as Sharks host Preds

NHL Gameday: Couture heating up as Sharks host Preds

Programming note – Sharks-Predators coverage starts today at 12:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California


Sharks: 40-19-7, 87 points, 1st Pacific Division
Predators: 32-24-11, 75 points, 3rd Central Division


***Fresh off of their 40th win of the season, the Sharks will host Nashville in the second of a six-game homestand. They have won five of the last six overall (5-1-0). 

On Thursday against Washington, it was a pair of power play goals that keyed a 4-2 win over league-leading Washington. Previously, that unit had been just 2-for-23 over the last nine games.

“I think we pinpointed some of the things in a pretty small package what we needed to fix that we thought could start to help us,” Pete DeBoer said. “The guys went out and did that.”

***Nashville remains in playoff position in third place in the Central Division, but has dropped its last four (0-2-2). It fell in a shootout decision to Anaheim on Tuesday, 4-3, and suffered a 3-2 overtime loss to the Kings on Thursday.

All three of Los Angeles’ goals were scored on the power play. Nashville has allowed six power play goals-against in 11 opportunities during its four-game skid.

"Needs to be better," Predators coach Peter Laviolette told reporters regarding the penalty kill.

***This is the second of two meetings between the teams, which faced each other last season in an entertaining second round Stanley Cup playoff matchup. The Sharks beat Nashville at home on Oct. 29, 4-1. They face off again at Bridgestone Arena in exactly two weeks.

Sharks: Logan Couture. The second line center has arguably been the Sharks’ best player since the bye week, with four goals and three assists for seven points in his last six games. He scored both of the Sharks’ power play goals on Thursday, and 10 of his 23 on the season have come with a man advantage, tying him for 12th in the NHL.

Predators: Filip Forsberg. The Preds’ forward has been among the league’s hottest scorers of late, with 11 goals in his last nine games. The NHL’s second star of the month of February has 24 goals in his last 37 games, and is tied for second in the NHL with three shorthanded tallies. He’s tied with Ryan Johansen for the team lead in points (51).


Jannik Hansen – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Mikkel Boedker
Joonas Donskoi – Tomas Hertl – Melker Karlsson
Micheal Haley – Chris Tierney – Joel Ward

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – Dylan DeMelo

Martin Jones (starter)
Aaron Dell

Filip Forsberg – Ryan Johansen – Viktor Arvidsson
Kevin Fiala – Mike Fisher – Craig Smith
Colin Wilson – Calle Jarnkrok – James Neal
Cody McLeod – Colton Sissons – Austin Watson

Mattias Ekholm – P.K. Subban
Matt Irwin – Roman Josi
Anthony Bitetto – Yannick Weber

Pekka Rinne
Jusse Saros


Sharks: David Schlemko (lower body) is out.

Predators: P.A. Parenteau (finger) and Ryan Ellis (lower body) are day-to-day. Miikka Salomaki (lower body) is out. 


“I’d lie if I said it wasn’t nice. It felt good. Not just that we scored, it felt like we were going to score before the power play even started. … We kind of felt that intensity throughout the group, and it showed tonight.” – Joe Pavelski, on the Sharks’ two power play goals on Thursday against the Capitals


Sharks need better goaltending with NHL playoffs just around corner


Sharks need better goaltending with NHL playoffs just around corner

SAN JOSE – Goaltending has been a hot topic all season for the Sharks. Even when they’ve been winning games, the performance between the pipes has been under scrutiny.

Now, with the playoffs just a couple weeks away and San Jose tryng to snap a season-long five-game winning streak, the performance of Sharks goaltenders Martin Jones and Aaron Dell is yet again being scrutinized.

There’s no mistaking it – they need to be better.

Even Sharks coach Peter DeBoer, who isn’t one to call out players after a loss, seemed particularly perturbed with the Sharks' play in net. He said just as much after San Jose's fifth straight defeat, a 4-3 loss to the lowly Anaheim Ducks on Friday.

“I don’t want to sugarcoat it, but I think we had them for six chances, and they scored four goals,” he said at the time. “You can’t lay it at one guy's feet, but you can’t win in this league with [an.800 to .900] save percentage. We’ve got to find a way to get an extra save, and on (the other) end we’ve got to find a way to get another goal.”

DeBoer isn’t wrong. Jones might be tied for third place among all NHL goalies with 34 wins under his belt, but his .898 save percentage is 58th out of 69 goalies who have played at least 10 games. Dell's .887 save percentage is 67th. Combined, the Sharks' .891 save percentage is last in the league.

In March, a month in which the Sharks have gone 6-4-1, San Jose has scored 37 goals and allowed 36. Those aren’t stats you want to see heading into the postseason.

To be fair, all the blame can’t be laid at the feet of the netminders, much like DeBoer said. Defensive breakdowns in front of the net don’t do Jones and Dell any favors – and with a banged-up blue line that’s missing Erik Karlsson and Radim Simek, those mistakes become more apparent.

It also doesn’t help the Sharks' offense has dried up, scoring no more than three goals in each of the last five losses. Leading goal-scorer Joe Pavelski has missed the last three, making matters worse.

But San Jose still, as DeBoer mentioned, needs to get more key saves from its goaltenders. 

[RELATED: Why Sharks believe five-game skid will strengthen them]

Now, with the Sharks having secured a playoff spot over the past week, the last few games of the season are going to be focused on being ready for the first round. In addition to getting the lineup healthier, the Sharks also have to focus on allowing fewer goals. A better defensive effort will go a long way, but Jones and Dell also have to buckle down and stop the puck more if San Jose is to hang on to home-ice advantage in the first round.

Don’t expect the goaltending conversation to cool off during these last weeks of the regular season. Goaltending is going to be a major focus as the playoffs get closer. If the Sharks want to still be playing hockey in May and June, it simply has to be better than it is right now.

Sharks not satisfied with single point, believe skid will strengthen them

Sharks not satisfied with single point, believe skid will strengthen them

Well, the Sharks certainly made it interesting. Every time the Ducks scored a goal on Friday evening, the Sharks came back and were able to tie things up. They even got the game-tying goal late in the third period that took their contest into overtime – at least, before they lost 4-3.

Perhaps at a different time of year, getting their first point in five games would feel better. Not on this night. 

The focus remains on the work to be done with just seven games left in the regular season. For Team Teal, they need to clean their game up and get back into the win column.

“It’s better than nothing, but overall, we’re just not finding ways to win games now,” Timo Meier told the media in Anaheim regarding the single point. “We’ve got to find a way to win games. It’s an important time of the year. Playoffs are really close.”

San Jose put a better effort on the ice on Friday than they did the previous evening in LA against the Kings, but the opportunistic Ducks were able to bury more of their chances,

"I don’t think we gave them very much," Peter DeBoer said. "Every chance they got, they stuck in the net, though."

DeBoer was more critical of the team a second night in a row, and rightfully so. Despite outshooting the opposition, the Sharks weren’t able to find the back of the net enough times. They allowed two goals while playing on the penalty kill and tallied 14 giveaways. Plus, outside of Meier’s power-play marker, San Jose still went one-for-five on the man advantage. Despite tying the score up three times, the Sharks couldn’t keep the Ducks from responding.

Clearly, all areas of the game need to be tweaked.

“We’ve got to find a way to get an extra save, and on (the other) end we’ve got to find a way to get another goal,” DeBoer said. “We could’ve used a power-play goal tonight -- another one.”

Perhaps the only silver lining, as Meier put it, is that the Sharks are going through this stretch now instead of once they get into the playoffs. San Jose is still trying to get some of its key players healthy and into the lineup so they can make a deep playoff run with the lines and pairs they want. The goal, at least at the moment, is to make sure this five-game skid is a lesson to learn from and not a prelude to the future.

"Get stronger as a team, get tighter as a group, and learn," Meier said. "It’s going to make us stronger going into the playoffs because there are going to be lots of ups and downs coming up. It’s going to make us stronger and we’ve got to react the right way.”