Sharks

NHL Gameday: Karlsson, Labanc return as fading Sharks host Rangers

NHL Gameday: Karlsson, Labanc return as fading Sharks host Rangers

Programming note – Sharks-Rangers coverage starts today at 7:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 42-26-7, 91 points, 2nd Pacific Division
Rangers: 46-26-4, 96 points, 4th Metropolitan Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***There are several different scenarios that would clinch a playoff spot for San Jose tonight, but the simpliset would be the Sharks beating the Rangers in regulation or overtime, or the Kings losing in regulation to the Oilers.

***The New York Rangers make their only visit of the season to SAP Center, where they will see a Sharks team that has reached its season nadir. San Jose has lost its last six games, all in regulation, and has been outscored 13-3 in a pair of blowout defeats to Dallas and Nashville.

Coach Pete DeBoer did his best to put lipstick on the pig that is the last two performances, both five-goal losses.

“A loss is a loss. Sometimes you’re better getting beat by five than one,” he said. “We lost, we’ve got to figure out a way to win. I don’t look at the numbers on the board, or the difference – a loss is a loss. A lot of times it’s better to get soundly beaten. [You don’t] fool yourself and lose a one-goal game that maybe you didn’t deserve to win.”

***DeBoer offered the following update on Logan Couture on Tuesday morning, after the center underwent a medical procedure on Monday.

“Status quo. It was dental work, and I don’t have a timeframe for when he’ll be back, but I’m confident he’s going to be back,” DeBoer said.

The Sharks are 1-0-1 in the two games without Couture this season.

***New York won the only other meeting between the Sharks and Rangers on Oct. 17 at Madison Square Garden, 7-4. They are 2-3-2 in their last seven games, including a 6-3 loss in Anaheim on Sunday.

The Rangers have the NHL’s fourth-ranked offense, at 3.13 goals-per game.

“If we play the top end teams like that that have speed, we’re able to shut them down if we manage the puck and we’re not turning it over, and keep that good gap through the neutral zone,” Paul Martin said. 

Marc-Edouard Vlasic said: “We’ve just got to get back to good breakouts and good forechecking.”

The Sharks will try to end a streak of seven straight games allowing the first goal.

***Kevin Labanc was recalled from the Barracuda. DeBoer wouldn’t confirm any lineup decisions, but it appears that Marcus Sorensen will come out. Melker Karlsson (out the last eight games with a lower body injury), Vlasic and Chris Tierney and will all play, too.

Labanc was reassigned to the AHL on Feb. 20, having not scored a goal in his previous 25 NHL games. He has 19 points (6g, 13a) in 49 games with the Sharks this season, and another 19 points (6g, 13a) in 19 games with the Barracuda.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Patrick Marleau. The forward has been one of the only Sharks players lately that’s actually doing something positive, with three goals in the last five games. Marleau will be playing center for the fifth time this season, and probably the foreseeable future, too, with Logan Couture out indefinitely. Whether he can handle the added responsibility could determine where the Sharks finish in the Pacific Division.

Rangers: Mats Zuccarello. The shifty Rangers forward has a three-game point streak, at least one point in seven of his last eight games, with nine points (3g, 6a) over that span. The 29-year-old Norway native also led the way in New York’s win over the Sharks way back on Oct. 17, with one goal and two assists.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Jannik Hansen – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Melker Karlsson – Patrick Marleau – Mikkel Boedker
Kevin Labanc – Tomas Hertl – Joel Ward
Timo Meier – Chris Tierney – Joonas Donskoi

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

Martin Jones (starter)
Aaron Dell

Rangers
Chris Kreider – Derek Stepan – Mats Zuccarello
Jimmy Vesey – Mika Zibanejad – Rick Nash
Michael Grabner – Kevin Hayes – Jesper Fast
Matt Puempel – Oscar Lindberg – J.T. Miller

Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi
Marc Staal – Brady Skjei
Brendan Smith – Nick Holden

Henrik Lundqvist
Antti Raanta

INJURIES/SCRATCHES

Sharks: Logan Couture (face) and Micheal Haley (suspension) are out.

Rangers: None.

QUOTEABLE

“You’re not always going to start with the lead, and if you don’t, you’ve still got to stick with it. There’s two teams out there. It’s 50 percent chance you score the first goal, and if you don’t, you’ve got to stick with your game plan. If you get away from it, that’s when things go bad.” – Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Why Sharks’ goaltending struggles don't bode well for NHL playoffs run

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USATSI/AP

Why Sharks’ goaltending struggles don't bode well for NHL playoffs run

The Sharks have had a hard time keeping the puck out of their own net lately. 

San Jose has lost three straight games, and allowed at least four goals in each of the last four. During that span, starting goaltender Martin Jones and backup Aaron Dell have combined for an .847 save percentage in all situations, and an .865 at full strength (per Natural Stat Trick). 

That represents a continuation of the team's season-long goaltending woes. The Sharks entered Wednesday 31st in save percentage (.891), and dead-last in 5-on-5 save percentage (.900).

As NBC Sports' Adam Gretz observed on Tuesday, that perfomance is not befitting of a Stanley Cup contender. It also puts San Jose in some not-so-elite company historically. 

Gretz found that only 16 teams have made the playoffs with bottom-five goaltending over the last quarter-century. Only two (2008-09 Detroit Red Wings, 2005-06 Edmonton Oilers) made it to the Stanley Cup Final, and every other team failed to advance past the second round. 

This context should concern the Sharks, especially in light of Dell's and Jones' solid play in net prior to the last week.  

From the end of the Sharks' bye week until March 11, Jones (.919 5-on-5 save percentage) and Dell (.929) were far better than before the NHL All-Star break. Jones got the bulk of the work in the crease, and his 5-on-5 save percentage matched that of his first three seasons in teal. 

But since the Sharks' 5-4 road win over the Winnipeg Jets on March 12, Jones (.837) and Dell (.900) have struggled. Neither received much help defensively in San Jose's loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday, but the Sharks haven't been that much worse in their own end in front of the two goalies -- at least at full strength.

In the last four games, the Sharks have allowed 5-on-5 scoring chances (22.14 SCA/60) and dangerous chances (7.7 HDCA/60) at lower rates than they have on the season, according to Natural Stat Trick. Per their data, Jones has actually faced 5-on-5 shots at a further distance (42.88 feet) in the last four games than the season as a whole (36.11 feet). 

It's possible that Jones and Dell are just experiencing an ill-timed blip on their season-long radar, which is a definite possibility considering how small of a sample size we're dealing with. That's also why their penalty-kill save percentages over that span, in fewer than 11 minutes of shorthanded action apiece, aren't all that meaningful in terms of predictive power. 

[RELATED: Sharks clinch NHL playoff spot, now chase Pacific title]

You could probably say the same about each goaltender's improvement after the All-Star break, too. The full-season sample is far more meaningful as the postseason nears, and as Gretz noted, it's far from encouraging. 

Jones has turned it on each of the last three postseasons for San Jose. He posted a higher save percentage in the playoffs than the regular season every time, including during the Sharks' run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016. 

If San Jose is going to get back there this spring, he'll have to heat up in a hurry. 

Sharks clinch spot in NHL playoffs, thanks to Avalanche win over Wild

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USATSI

Sharks clinch spot in NHL playoffs, thanks to Avalanche win over Wild

For the fourth consecutive season, Peter DeBoer has guided the Sharks to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Thanks to the Colorado Avalanche's 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night, the Sharks became the second team in the Western Conference to secure a playoff spot. The Calgary Flames (45-21-7), whom the Sharks (43-22-8) trail by three points for first place in the Pacific Division, were the first. 

The Sharks lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round last year. If the playoffs started today, second-seeded San Jose would match up with third-seeded Vegas in the first round.

[RELATED: 'Concerned' Sharks can't look too far in future after loss to Vegas]

DeBoer took over as Sharks coach in 2015 after the franchise ended a 10-year run of making the playoffs. The Sharks made it to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season, but they haven't advanced past the second round since.

The franchise also seeks its first Pacific Division crown since the 2010-11 season. A division banner would be the first of DeBoer's career as an NHL head coach.