Sharks

NHL Gameday: Hot Sharks visit rival Kings for key division battle

NHL Gameday: Hot Sharks visit rival Kings for key division battle

Programming note – Sharks-Kings coverage starts today at 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 13-9-1, 27 points, 1st Pacific Division
Kings: 12-9-1, 25 points, 4th Pacific Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***Both the Sharks and Kings are coming in hot as they clash for the second time this season. San Jose capped off a 4-1 homestand by beating the Coyotes on overtime on Tuesday, 2-1, while Los Angeles has won its last five games.

The Kings lead the NHL with only 25.5 shots allowed per game, while the Sharks are second (25.9).

San Jose won the first meeting on opening night at SAP Center on Oct. 12, 2-1.

***Despite playing last night, Martin Jones will return to the net against his former club for a key division battle. The goalie is 4-1-1 against the Kings in his career, with a 2.31 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.

Los Angeles’ Peter Budaj has been outstanding while filling in for an injured Jonathan Quick. He has played in 20 straight games, starting 18, going 12-6-1 with a 2.04 GAA and .917 SP over that span.

***Brent Burns leads the Sharks and all NHL defensemen with nine goals, including the overtime winner against the Coyotes last night. He has as many or or more goals than the entire defenses of 17 NHL teams.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Joe Pavelski. The Sharks captain brings a seven-game point streak into tonight’s game, with two goals and five assists over that span. Pavelski is tied for the Sharks team lead with 21 points, tied for ninth in the NHL. Against the Kings, he has 45 points (21g, 24a) in 54 career regular season games.

Kings: Jeff Carter. The Kings’ center leads the team in goals (10) and points (19), including eight points in his last six games. He has scored the game-winning goal in four of the past five games, all Los Angeles wins, and his six game-winners leads the NHL.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Patrick Marleau – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Joonas Donskoi – Logan Couture – Joel Ward
Mikkel Boedker – Chris Tierney – Melker Karlsson
Micheal Haley – Ryan Carpenter – Kevin Labanc

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Martin Jones
Aaron Dell

Kings
Dwight King – Anze Kopitar – Trevor Lewis
Tanner Pearson – Jeff Carter – Tyler Toffoli
Dustin Brown – Nic Dowd – Devin Setoguchi
Marian Gaborik – Nick Shore – Jordan Nolan

Derek Forbort – Drew Doughty
Jake Muzzin – Alec Martinez
Kevin Gravel – Matt Greene

Peter Budaj
Jeff Zatkoff

INJURIES

Sharks: Tommy Wingels (lower body) and Tomas Hertl (right knee sprain) are out.

Kings: Jonathan Quick (groin), Brayden McNabb (arm) and Andy Andreoff (upper body) are out.

QUOTEABLE

“I was a ref growing up and I thought I had good karma with that, but that's two now against me.” – Brenden Dillon, who has been a part of two overturned goals, after Tuesday’s game

Sharks need better goaltending with NHL playoffs just around corner

jonesap.jpg
AP

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.”