Sharks

NHL Gameday: Sharks getting healthy on D in time for Blues

NHL Gameday: Sharks getting healthy on D in time for Blues

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

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 25-15-2, 52 points, 2nd Pacific Division
Blues: 21-16-5, 47 points, 3rd Central Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***The Sharks will get David Schlemko back and probably Paul Martin, too. Schlemko has missed the last five games with a nagging upper body injury, while Martin didn’t play on Wednesday in Calgary after getting hurt the night before in Edmonton.

Martin was called a game-time decision by coach Pete DeBoer, but the veteran defenseman said after the morning skate that he’ll “most likely be in tonight.”

It would mark the first time the Sharks had a healthy top six on their blue line since Dec. 30 against Philadelphia, when Marc-Edouard Vlasic got dinged.

“It will be nice,” Martin said. “We’ll get six D back that are fairly comfortable with each other. We have a good crew.”

Joonas Donskoi will miss the game with an upper body injury, so Tommy Wingels will return after sitting out the previous two. Ryan Carpenter was recalled, but only as a spare forward, according to DeBoer.

***The Blues will be making their first appearance at SAP Center since San Jose clinched the Western Conference Final on May 25. St. Louis won the first meeting on home ice on Nov. 17, 3-2, and returns to San Jose on March 16 to close out the season series.

St. Louis has lost its last two games to Boston and Los Angeles, giving up five goals in each, and falling behind 4-0 in each. They’re struggled mightily on the penalty kill lately, too, giving up 10 goals on 36 chances over their past nine games.

***After four games on the top line, Timo Meier was bumped to the third line for Friday’s practice. Indications are that’s where he’ll play against the Blues.

Patrick Marleau goes back up to the Joe Thornton-Joe Pavelski line.

“It’s a long season and sometimes you need to just change things around for a week or two to freshen things up. That’s a unit that has had success this year and we’re comfortable with,” DeBoer said.

***San Jose is 10-9-2 against Western Conference teams this season, at 14-5-1 at home. The Blues are 5-11-1 on the road. 

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Brent Burns. The Sharks defenseman has four consecutive multi-point games, with nine points (2g, 7a) over that span. Burns, who scored a goal in each of the two Sharks games in Alberta this week, has 17 on the season – seven more than any other NHL defender. He still leads the league with 166 shots, one more than Washington’s Alex Ovechkin.

Blues: Jaden Schwartz. The Blues winger had two goals in St. Louis’ win over the Sharks on Nov. 17 at Scottrade Center, and his 12 goals this season is second on the team behind Vladimir Tarasenko’s 20. Schwartz has four career multi-point games against San Jose in his career, with a total of four goals and seven assists in 10 games.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Patrick Marleau – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Kevin Labanc – Logan Couture – Mikkel Boedker
Timo Meier – Chris Tierney – Joel Ward
Micheal Haley – Tommy Wingels – Melker Karlsson

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

Martin Jones (starter)
Aaron Dell

Blues
Jaden Schwartz – Paul Stastny – Alex Steen
Nail Yakupov – Jori Lehtera – Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby Fabbri – Patrik Berglund – David Perron
Dmitrij Jaskin – Kyle Brodziak – Ryan Reaves

Alex Pietrangelo – Colton Parayko
Jay Bouwmeester – Kevin Shattenkirk
Joel Edmundson – Robert Bortuzzo

Carter Hutton (starter)
Jake Allen

INJURIES

Sharks: Paul Martin (lower body) is probable. Joonas Donskoi (upper body), Dylan DeMelo (broken wrist) and Tomas Hertl (right knee sprain) are out.

Blues: Carl Gunnarsson (lower body) is out.

QUOTEABLE

“St. Louis is very good. We played them in the playoffs last year, and a team that we battled right to the end into the Conference Final. They’re big, they’re strong, very well coached, good goaltending. It’s another good test. There’s no easy nights, but it’s a real good test for us.” – Pete DeBoer

Sharks need better goaltending with NHL playoffs just around corner

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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.”