Sharks

NHL Gameday: Sharks facing old friend in net at Florida

NHL Gameday: Sharks facing old friend in net at Florida

Programming note – Sharks-Panthers coverage starts today at 4:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 7-6-0, 14 points, 3rd Pacific Division
Panthers: 6-6-1, 13 points, 6th Atlantic Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***The Sharks won their first game of a season-long six-game road trip on Tuesday in Washington, 3-0. Martin Jones made 24 saves for his first shutout of the season as San Jose snapped a three-game losing streak. They are 3-4-0 on the road this season.

The Panthers, who beat Tampa Bay on Monday, 3-1, have alternated wins and losses in their last six games. They are 5-2-0 in their home building.

***Florida’s James Reimer is expected to start in goal tonight, per reports. The Sharks acquired Reimer last season on Feb. 27, and in eight starts down the stretch he was 6-2-0 with a 1.62 goals-against average and .938 save percentage. He signed a five-year, $17 million contract with the Panthers in the offseason.

***Tonight’s game features three of the five active all-time scoring leaders in Jaromir Jagr (first, 1873 points), Joe Thornton (second, 1352 points) and Patrick Marleau (fifth, 1040 points).

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Kevin Labanc. The skilled 20-year-old forward made his NHL debut on Tuesday in Washington, registering an early shot on goal and playing 13:23 on the second line. With several Sharks forwards simply not generating much offense, Labanc has a great opportunity to stick around for a while if he can produce.

Panthers: Jason Demers. The former Sharks defenseman signed a five-year, $22.5 million contract with Florida in the offseason, and is paired with Keith Yandle in the top four. The 28-year-old is still looking for his first goal, but has five assists in his first 13 games with the Panthers while averaging 19:34 of ice time.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Joe Pavelski – Joe Thornton – Joel Ward
Kevin Labanc – Logan Couture – Joonas Donskoi
Patrick Marleau – Tomas Hertl – Mikkel Boedker
Melker Karlsson – Chris Tierney – Tommy Wingels

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

Martin Jones (starter)
Aaron Dell

Panthers
Jonathan Marchessault – Aleksander Barkov – Jaromir Jagr
Jussi Jokinen – Vincent Trocheck – Reilly Smith
Jared McCann – Denis Malgin – Kyle Rau
Derek MacKenzie – Greg McKegg – Shane Harper

Keith Yandle – Jason Demers
Michael Matheson – Aaron Ekblad
Mark Pysyk – Alex Petrovic

James Reimer (starter)
Roberto Luongo

INJURIES

Sharks: None.

Panthers: Jaromir Jagr (groin) is day-to-day. Nick Bjugstad (broken hand) and Jonathan Huberdeau (Achilles) are out.

QUOTEABLE

“Coming on the road, you want to start well. The last couple games it was hard to create stuff, and bounces haven’t been going our way. We worked 60 minutes, played smart, and it’s a big win.” – Brent Burns, after the Sharks’ win in Washington

NHL.com snubs Sharks-Golden Knights Game 7 as best game of 2010s

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USATSI

NHL.com snubs Sharks-Golden Knights Game 7 as best game of 2010s

NHL.com named a Game 7 ending 5-4 and involving a three-goal comeback, two division rivals and an overtime winner as the best game of the 2010s.

It just wasn't the one with the Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights. 

NHL.com and NHL.com International staff members chose the Boston Bruins' Game 7 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference first-round series during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the game of the decade. In a 9:18 span, the Bruins erased a 4-1 deficit to force overtime and Patrice Bergeron scored the winner 6:05 into the extra frame. 

An epic comeback in a game between two "Original Six" rivals is, on paper, worthy of the crown. But Sharks-Golden Knights is more deserving. 

For one, San Jose and Vegas were much closer in terms of quality than Boston and Toronto. Yes, the Golden Knights jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the 2019 Western Conference first-round series and fewer standings points separated the Bruins and Maple Leafs (five) than the Sharks and Knights (eight). However, the 2013 Maple Leafs greatly benefited from the lockout-shortened 48 game schedule, making the playoffs despite being the NHL's worst puck-possession team.

The Sharks and Golden Knights, on the other hand, were both legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. Both finished the regular season in the NHL's top three in terms of shot share and shot quality. Had Vegas beaten San Jose, it's likely the expansion franchise would have played in a second Western Conference final in as many years. 

What unfolded on the ice in the third period in Boston doesn't hold a candle to the third period in San Jose last April. Then-captain Joe Pavelski's head bled as the result of a fluky collision with Golden Knights forwards Paul Stastny and Cody Eakin, leading to a highly disputed five-minute major penalty. The Sharks then matched an NHL record with four power-play goals on the non-releasable penalty, nearly blowing the roof off SAP Center. 

A 3-0 deficit turned into a 4-3 lead, but the Sharks couldn't escape regulation with a win. Then-Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant pulled goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and iced six forwards when Jonathan Marchessault scored the game-tying goal with 47 seconds remaining in the third period. That set up an overtime that lasted nearly 20 minutes before Barclay Goodrow sent San Jose to the second round, and the Sharks' win left the Golden Knights with a summer of animosity that made Vegas' decision to replace Gallant with fired San Jose coach Peter DeBoer so much more shocking. 

[RELATED: How struggles in faceoff circle plagued Sharks on disastrous road trip]

To recap: Game 7 of Sharks-Golden Knights included one of the most controversial (or worst, if you ask Golden Knights fans) calls in NHL history, a historic power play that sent the SAP Center crowd into delirium, a game-tying goal that silenced the same crowd not even six minutes later and nearly a full period of extra hockey. 

By comparison, the twists and turns of Bruins-Maple Leafs seem rather straightforward. 

How struggles in faceoff circle plagued Sharks on disastrous road trip

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USATSI

How struggles in faceoff circle plagued Sharks on disastrous road trip

That is not how the Sharks wanted to enter the All-Star break.

Coming off consecutive wins over the Columbus Blue Jackets and Dallas Stars, San Jose had a chance to reach the unofficial midway point of the regular season riding a massive wave of momentum, perhaps large enough to carry the team back to the postseason. All that sat between the Sharks and that development was a crucial three-game road trip against Western Conference foes.

At the very least, San Jose needed to keep its head above water. Instead, the Sharks drowned in disaster.

Facing the Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche and Vancouver Canucks -- all teams San Jose potentially would have to leapfrog to make the playoffs -- the Sharks reverted back to kind of performances that put them in such a deep hole in the first place.

San Jose was outscored 14-4 and outshot 117-73 over the course of the three games. Those two stats obviously are interconnected, but Sharks interim head coach Bob Boughner pointed to another area of failure as a big reason for his team's struggles.

"The big difference this road trip is we've been horrible in the faceoff circle," Boughner said following the 4-1 loss in Vancouver on Saturday night. "You're never starting with the puck. Even in the offensive zone, you're chasing, and you can't chase pucks all night. That limits your possessions and tires you out."

Boughner's correct. The Sharks were thoroughly dominated in the faceoff circle over the course of the road trip, which might have had something to do with them scoring only one goal over its final six periods of play. San Jose won only 45.1 percent of the draws against the Coyotes, 45.6 percent against the Avalanche and only 38.0 percent against the Canucks.

It's only the third time this season the Sharks have won fewer than 49.0 percent of the draws in three straight games, and the most recent instance also coincided with a three-game losing streak. Whether it's shooting, scoring or simply gaining possession of the puck, Boughner is hoping the All-Star break will provide the Sharks with the needed respite to address their shortcomings.

"This is probably a great break for everybody, mentally," Boughner said. "Recharge the batteries and come back and try to forget about this week of hockey and put a good week in as soon as we get back."

[RELATED: Report: Wilson won't disrupt Sharks' core at trade deadline]

The Sharks' final week heading into the All-Star break was an unmitigated disaster. If they're still planning on qualifying for the postseason, they can't have any more like it.