Sharks

NHL Gameday: Sharks to ice new lines against Ducks

NHL Gameday: Sharks to ice new lines against Ducks

Programming note – Sharks-Ducks coverage starts tonight at 7:00 p.m. on NBCSN.

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 3-3-0, 6 points, 3rd Pacific Division
Ducks: 2-3-1, 5 points, 4th Pacific Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***The Sharks will be playing just their second home game. They beat the Kings at SAP Center on Oct. 12, 2-1, and promptly went on a five-game road trip through the Eastern Conference, going 2-3-0. Tuesday’s game against Anaheim is the first of a three-game homestand, and the Sharks have five of their next six at home overall.

San Jose notoriously struggled in its first home game after a multiple-game road trip last season, going 1-8-1. Their lone win was in a shootout over Edmonton.

The coach welcomes a heated rivalry game.

“I’m actually excited and glad we’re having this type of game coming off the way we played last game,” Pete DeBoer said. “There are no speeches that need to be made, you have to be emotionally invested here tonight in order to win. I think we will be.”

Under new/old head coach Randy Carlyle, Anaheim dropped its first four games (0-3-1, all on the road), but brings a two-game winning streak into tonight. Carlyle led the Ducks to the Stanley Cup in 2006-07, and replaces Bruce Boudreau, who was fired after last season.

Both the Sharks and Ducks have scored exactly 14 goals through their first six games, and both are just 3-for-20 on the power play.

***The Sharks are last in the NHL in faceoff percentage (42.9 percent). That’s not typical, as San Jose finished seventh last season, which was actually its lowest overall finish in the Joe Thornton era.

Tomas Hertl (47.6 percent) will replace Chris Tierney (31.9 percent) as the third line center, while Tierney gets bumped to the fourth line.

“Hopefully I’ll be strong and win a lot of faceoffs for guys, and everybody will be better,” Hertl said. “If you’re losing it’s hard, because you’re chasing the puck all game.”

DeBoer pointed out that faceoffs are harder to win on the road, where the Sharks have played five of their first six games, but “it’s definitely a concern.”

“It mimics our five-on-five game a little bit,” DeBoer said. “It’s a compete area for me, and we’ve got to get better at it.”

***Micheal Haley will return to the Sharks’ lineup in place of Matt Nieto on the fourth line. In the final preseason game on Oct. 9, the Sharks and Ducks combined for 86 penalty minutes, including four fights – two involving Haley. 

“They obviously have a few guys that can play a physical style, so we'll be ready,” Haley said. “I don't think it will be like that game (preseason) necessarily, but we're a heavy team, too, so we'll match them.”

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Mikkel Boedker. The offseason addition is off to a slow start with just one goal, no assists and four shots through six games, but will get a look on the Sharks’ top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. San Jose will go with four all new lines after getting shut out in Detroit on Saturday, 3-0.

Ducks: Nick Ritchie. The 10th overall pick in the 2014 draft, Ritchie scored the game-winning goal on Sunday in a 4-2 Ducks win over Vancouver at home. He’s playing on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and has two points (1g, 1a) through the first six games.

PROBABLE LINES

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

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

Martin Jones (confirmed starter)
Aaron Dell

Ducks
Nick Ritchie – Ryan Getzlaf – Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano – Ryan Kesler – Jakob Silfverberg
Ryan Garbutt – Antoine Vermette – Chris Wagner
Joe Cramarossa – Michael Sgarbossa – Jared Boll

Cam Fowler – Josh Manson
Clayton Stoner – Sami Vatanen
Shea Theodore – Kevin Bieksa

John Gibson
Jonathan Bernier

INJURIES

Sharks: None.

Ducks: Nate Thompson (Achilles surgery) and Simon Despres (concussion) are out.

QUOTEABLE

“I don’t know if speed is the biggest thing we’re missing right now. With us it’s compete and battle and playing the right way that we need to worry about. We didn’t play well in Detroit, there’s no way around that. … We just didn’t compete. That’s a frustrating thing, but it’s an easy thing to fix.” – Logan Couture

Top Sharks prospect Merkley soaking in lessons, warm weather in first training camp

merkleyryansharksdraft.jpg
USATI

Top Sharks prospect Merkley soaking in lessons, warm weather in first training camp

Out of his pads, Sharks prospect Ryan Merkley looked like someone who just turned 18. 

Well, that’s because he did. 

The right-shooting defenseman became old enough to buy a lottery ticket on Aug. 14, 53 days after San Jose selected him in the first round, No. 21 overall, at the 2018 NHL Draft in Dallas. The Sharks list Merkley as 5-foot-11, 170 pounds on their training camp roster. Naturally, one difference between junior hockey and the pros stood out to the teenager. 

“The strength. These guys are a lot bigger, stronger, quicker,” Merkley said Monday after the Sharks’ second scrimmage of camp. “[Monday was], what, my fourth practice with these guys who have been doing it for years. The way they move and pass the puck and work the corners is pretty unreal.”

In his pads, he’s looked like a teenager at times, too. Late in Monday’s scrimmage, Sharks defenseman Brent Burns pounced on Merkley’s errant clearing attempt from the right corner of the defensive zone, and wristed a shot just under the crossbar. Merkley also got caught up the ice at times as well, ensuring an odd-man rush the other way.

But the talent was on display, too. More often than not, the defenseman jumped into the play at the right time. He learned from his mistakes, too: At one point after the aforementioned odd-man rush, Merkley hustled back to deny forward prospect Ivan Chekhovich on a breakaway, preventing the winger from getting a clean look at the net. 

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said that’s just part of the development process. 

“It’s about him getting used to the speed, and the time, and that not ever play has to be a great play,” DeBoer said Monday. “But that’s part of being a young defenseman, and I really like what I’ve seen so far out of him.”

Merkley could get another taste of that speed on Tuesday, in the Sharks’ preseason opener at SAP Center against the Anaheim Ducks. Early preseason games don’t feature the full cadre of NHL regulars, but the vast majority of Anaheim’s traveling roster for the game played professionally at one level or another last season.

Even for a player of Merkley’s pedigree, that’s a step up. He has spent the last two seasons with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), one of the top-three major junior leagues in Canada. He scored 67 points in 63 games last year, the third-highest total among OHL defensemen. It was also the highest mark of any under-18 blueliner by 22 points. 

Guelph is likely where he will return soon, as he continues to develop on and off the ice. His talent was never in question, but the talented defenseman slipped to the back-end of the first round, at least in part, due to perceived maturity issues. 

He was benched in his first OHL season following an argument with his coach, and he was suspended three games last season for a retaliatory slash in a game against the North Bay Battalion. That didn’t deter the Sharks from selecting Merkley, who was also one of the youngest draft-eligible players. 

San Jose has time to be patient. After the acquisition of two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, the Sharks aren’t hurting for depth down the right side. For now, the focus lies on ensuring Merkley soaks everything in before returning to Guelph.  

“We had [Merkley] stay with [Burns during July’s rookie camp], and he couldn’t believe it,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “[Seeing] everything he eats, how he trains. For an 18-year-old kid to see a Norris Trophy-winning defenseman and that’s what he does? You go back to junior and remember what you just learned.”

Merkley said he’s spent most of camp observing how the Sharks veterans train and practice. If he ultimately suits up Tuesday against the Ducks, he’ll get a chance to show what he’s learned in a professional game. 

The 18-year-old could get used to playing in the cities of the Pacific Division. He said he was hoping to play somewhere warm when he entered the draft, and that he’s enjoyed his time in San Jose so far.

Will that make another winter in Ontario harder to deal with?

“I could leave that behind for sure,” he said with a laugh. 

If all goes as planned, Merkley may get to spend a winter in California soon enough. 

Sharks backup goaltender Aaron Dell stands tall against camp's standout line

Sharks backup goaltender Aaron Dell stands tall against camp's standout line

SAN JOSE -- The scoreline of the Sharks’ second intrasquad scrimmage of training camp favored backup goaltender Aaron Dell’s team by a three-goal margin Monday, but he may have been the biggest reason why.

After playing in the first of half of Sunday’s scrimmage, Dell manned the crease for Group B for the entirety of the two, 25-minute halves. He saw plenty of action, with his team pinned in their own end for extended stretches in a 5-2 win over Group A. 

“It’s huge,” Dell said about getting reps this early in camp. “I don’t know when my first start will be, so I’ve got to get prepared now and get back into that kind of game rhythm so that I can see a little bit of work before I get my first start -- whenever that may be.”

In his second season as the backup, Dell appeared in 29 games with the Sharks, starting 22. He made his first start of the year in the team’s fourth of five straight home games to start the campaign. 

This season, San Jose will open at home before embarking on a five-game road trip through the Eastern Conference, including a back-to-back against the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers on Oct. 8 and 9. Dell said the nature of his position makes his preparation in camp that much more important.

“My role’s kind of a little bit unpredictable,” Dell said. “I don’t know when I’m going to have my first start, so I have to be kind of prepared the whole way through. As well, I may have to go in [for an] injury or the games where we have a slow start. I’ve gotta be prepared to play at any time.”

Dell got plenty of work Monday, in no small part because of what is arguably the standout trio of training camp so far. Wingers Joonas Donskoi and Kevin Labanc scored both goals for Group A, and they were centered by Finnish rookie Antti Suomela. 

Trailing 1-0 early in the scrimmage, Labanc gained the zone with control before dishing to prospect defenseman Jeremy Roy. After an extended stretch of possession, Labanc’s line stole the puck on the forecheck from Group B’s top trio of Timo Meier, Logan Couture, and Tomas Hertl, and Suomela set up Donskoi for a tap-in. Labanc added another on a partial breakaway late in the second half. 

“They’ve had two good scrimmages,” head coach Peter DeBoer said. “[Labanc’s] come in great shape, and is really playing well. The other two guys have some chemistry for sure.”

That line was the only one to beat Dell on Monday. The 29-year-old robbed them of a third goal, sliding over to shoulder Suomela’s wrist shot out of play after a turnover and cross-crease pass from Donskoi left his fellow Finn wide open in the slot. Dell also denied forward prospect Manuel Wiederer on a penalty shot. 

The backup is entering the first of a two-year, $3.8 million deal he signed in February. He posted a .914 save percentage in his second season with the Sharks, down from .931 the year before. In nearly 300 more minutes, his five-on-five save percentage dropped from .949 to .919, according to Corsica Hockey.

DeBoer likes what he’s seen from his backup so far in camp, and said both Dell and starter Marin Jones “looked really sharp” in Monday’s scrimmage. Ahead of Dell’s third NHL season, his head coach has noticed annual improvement in the goaltender’s approach. 

“I think every year he shows up here in a little better condition and a little better shape, a little quicker,” DeBoer said. “I think he’s learning, like everybody, what it takes to be successful every night up here. He’s put a lot of work in.”

That learning extends to Dell’s mental approach as well. The backup goaltender is well-aware he has to be ready at a moment’s notice in the regular season, and he said he has a better idea of when those moments because of his familiarity within the team. 

“I know what to expect a little bit more,” Dell said. “In the games where we have a little bit of a slow start, I know the way he works with that, so I can kind of recognize when we’re starting to have those games like that and I can sort of mentally prepare a little bit, knowing it could go either way.”