NHL Gameday: Sharks-Kings has the potential to be nasty

NHL Gameday: Sharks-Kings has the potential to be nasty

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


Sharks: 23-13-1, 47 points, 1st Pacific Division
Kings: 18-15-4, 40 points, 5th Pacific Division


***The Sharks will host the Kings in the second of a home-and-home, after Los Angeles won 3-2 at Staples Center on New Year’s Eve. 

In that game, the Kings had the Sharks on their heels early, and San Jose never recovered from a 2-0 hole. Coach Pete DeBoer said on Tuesday morning that his club got “pushed out of that game for stretches, which is a little uncharacteristic for us. We’ve got to get that fixed.”

“When we’ve had success against this team it’s when we’ve put our work boots on and been prepared, and gone nose-to-nose with them in the trenches,” said the coach. “There’s nowhere to hide when you’re playing the L.A. Kings. You’ve got to be willing to do that. I think we will be tonight.”

Joe Thornton said: “I expect us to push at the start tonight. They pushed pretty hard in their building, so I expect us to push hard in ours.”
The Sharks won the first two games of the season series, which concludes on Jan. 18 in L.A. – the third time they will meet in a 19-day span. San Jose has won four straight on home ice, and is 13-4-0 at SAP Center. The Kings will be playing their 10th road game in the last 11, where they are 7-11-3.

***As is typical in games between the Pacific Division rivals, who have met in the playoffs three of the last four seasons, it got a bit chippy in the third period of Saturday’s tilt. Thornton and Dustin Brown got into it in the faceoff circle, and moments later Thornton steamrolled the former Kings captain from behind. A slash by Thornton to Los Angeles defenseman Derek Forbort’s arm followed, and earned him a two-minute minor.

Could we see more unpleasantness tonight?

“Every game against the Kings, it’s usually a big game for both teams,” Thornton said. “Tonight will probably go the same way. High-intensity game.”

DeBoer didn’t mind Thornton’s extra-cirricular activity on Saturday.

“He’s as competitive a guy as we have in the room,” DeBoer said. “I think in a game where you’re getting pushed out a little bit, I like a little pushback from our guys, and he’s usually the first guy in line for that.”

As for Brown’s perspective, he didn’t seem to be dwelling on it. On Monday, he told LA Kings Insider: “I just wasn’t expecting the hit. He was [coming] from the backside, so it is what it is. I’m alright with it.”

***Marc-Edouard Vlasic will miss his second straight game with a facial injury, and David Schlemko is also out tonight with an upper body injury, perhaps from a hit by the Kings' Jordan Nolan on Saturday. That means Mirco Mueller will play his first game with the Sharks since April 9, which was also his only NHL appearance of the calendar year 2016.

“He’s earned the right to get up here,” DeBoer said of the 21-year-old former first round pick. “Just do what all the other young guys that have stepped in the lineup have done. Play your game, help contribute, and we’re confident he can do that.”


Sharks: Justin Braun. Missing his partner Marc-Edouard Vlasic for at least the next two games, Braun will look to rebound from his tough outing on Saturday when he was paired with David Schlemko, and was on the ice for both of the Kings’ even strength goals. Braun will likely be paired with Brenden Dillon on Tuesday, so they'll likely get plenty of ice time with the inexperienced third pairing consisting of Mirco Mueller and Dylan DeMelo.

Kings: Drew Doughty. The defenseman snapped a 10-game goal drought with a power play goal against the Sharks on Saturday, while skating a game-high 28:47. The 27-year-old defending Norris Trophy winner, who’s third in the NHL in ice time, helped keep the Sharks’ top line from having any sort of impact on the game during five-on-five play.


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

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon – Justin Braun
Mirco Mueller – Dylan DeMelo

Martin Jones (starter)
Aaron Dell

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

Derek Forbort – Drew Doughty
Jake Muzzin – Alec Martinez
Brayden McNabb – Kevin Gravel

Peter Budaj (starter)
Jeff Zatkoff


Sharks: David Schlemko (upper body), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (face) and Tomas Hertl (right knee sprain) are out.

Kings: Jonathan Quick (groin) and Tyler Toffoli (lower body) are out.


“Just got to stay above him, know when he’s on the ice. He’s playing good hockey right now. He’s one of those guys when he’s got the puck on his stick, he can make stuff happen.” – Justin Braun, on facing Jeff Carter, who is tied for second in the NHL with 20 goals

NHL rumors: Brinson Pasichnuk, Sharks nearing contract agreement


NHL rumors: Brinson Pasichnuk, Sharks nearing contract agreement

The Sharks reportedly are close to adding some promising defensive depth to their organization.

San Jose is nearing agreement on a contract with Arizona State defenseman Brinson Pasichnuk, The Athletic's Kevin Kurz first reported and The Hockey News' Ken Campbell and Bay Area News Group's Curtis Pashelka later confirmed.

Pasichnuk, 22, scored 107 points (39 goals, 68 assists) in 136 games over four seasons with the Sun Devils. The 6-foot, 180-pound defenseman ranked third among blueliners with 37 points this season, tying for second in goals (11) behind only Hobey Baker Memorial Award finalist David Farrance of Boston University.

Campbell reported Monday that Pasichnuk narrowed down his 20 suitors to the Sharks and Arizona Coyotes. He told The Hockey News that he knows where he is signing, but is "just waiting to see what (the NHL is doing)" for the remainder of the season during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Sharks got a glimpse at Pasichnuk last summer when he skated in the team's development camp, along with his brother, Steen. The NHL's Central Scouting Bureau ranked the younger Pasichnuk 115th out of all draft-eligible skaters in 2016, but the defenseman was not drafted.

[RELATED: Sharks' Burns says teachers are legends amid pandemic]

A standout collegiate career got him on to NHL scouts' radar, and Pasichnuk conceivably could be in line for playing time this season -- assuming the Sharks play if the season resumes -- or next. Nikolai Knyzhov and Jacob Middleton have played on San Jose's third defense pairing since Brenden Dillon was traded to the Washington Capitals last month, and Pasichnuk -- a left-shooting defenseman like those three -- could then slot in behind Radim Simek and Mario Ferraro.

Ferraro, 21, and top prospect Ryan Merkley, 19, are the Sharks' most promising young defensemen. Pasichnuk's time at Arizona State indicates he'll warrant consideration, too. 

How Sharks' wild comeback win vs. Predators epitomized 2018-19 season

How Sharks' wild comeback win vs. Predators epitomized 2018-19 season

Progamming note: Watch the re-air of the Sharks' comeback win over the Nashville Predators from Oct. 23, 2018 tonight at 8 PT on NBC Sports California.

They didn't know it at the time, but a win over the Nashville Predators on Oct. 23, 2018 ultimately laid bare the Sharks' strengths -- and weaknesses -- that would define their 2018-19 season.

The Sharks beat the Predators 5-4 that night in Nashville, overcoming a two-goal deficit with just under eight minutes remaining in the third period with a three-goal barrage in five minutes and 28 seconds. San Jose’s offense could keep up with just about any team last season, and lackluster goaltending largely necessitated said firepower.

Martin Jones stopped just 25 of the 29 shots he faced, even though the Sharks outshot the Predators in all situations (32-29) and held slight edges in 5-on-5 shot attempts, shots and scoring chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. Nashville created more high-danger chances (8-6) and expected goals (1.46-1.38) than San Jose at full strength.

Only the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning scored more goals (319) than the Sharks (289) last season, which was the most prolific in franchise history. Yet the Sharks finished with just a plus-31 goal differential, as Jones and backup goaltender Aaron Dell posted career-worst save percentages while the Sharks allowed the NHL’s 11th-most goals (258).

The Sharks ranked no worse than 12th in suppressing high-danger chances, scoring chances and expected goals at full strength, yet San Jose allowed 111 5-on-5 high-danger goals in the NHL. Only the Ottawa Senators -- defenseman Erik Karlsson’s former team -- and the Edmonton Oilers allowed more, and those teams finished an average of 22.5 points outside of the postseason.

But the Sharks had enough offensive talent to overcome their goaltending woes, finishing two wins shy of a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. San Jose was too depleted to hang with the St. Louis Blues by the end of the Western Conference final, but a healthy Sharks team would’ve had a great chance to advance. The 2018-19 Sharks were an elite puck-possession team, capable of scoring in myriad ways.

That was evident in the aforementioned comeback win over the Predators. The Sharks scored twice on the power play, twice at even strength and once short-handed. Brenden Dillon got the comeback started with an end-to-end rush on the penalty kill, then-captain Joe Pavelski finished off a 3-on-2 fewer than 30 seconds later and a pair of Norris Trophy winners -- Karlsson and Brent Burns -- combined to seal the victory.

[RELATED: Sharks' Burns says "teachers are legends" amid pandemic]

The Sharks couldn’t have known their ninth game of 2018-19 would prove so instructive, but the win over the Predators set the tone for what was to come.

For better and worse.