Sharks

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

WHERE THEY STAND

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

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***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.”

KEEP AN EYE ON...

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.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
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

Kings
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

INJURIES

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.

QUOTEABLE

“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

Sharks point to botched third-period penalty kill after loss to Panthers

Sharks point to botched third-period penalty kill after loss to Panthers

In a steep loss, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly where things went wrong. In the Sharks' 6-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on Monday night, though, there was one point late in the game where the wheels really seemed to come off. 

For the most part, the game wasn’t completely out of San Jose’s reach. Heck, after the Sharks tied the game up 2-2 ahead of the second intermission, they looked primed to grab the lead in the third period and get back into the win column. Then, they gave up two power-play goals at the start of the final frame, and the game got away from them.

“That was the difference,” captain Joe Pavelski told reporters in South Florida after the loss. “They came out and scored two quick power-play goals, and sometimes it can happen as quick as that.”

“Quick” is right. The game was still tied when Evander Kane was sent to the penalty box 1:56 into the third for high-sticking Panthers center Nick Bjugstad. Bjugstad drew bad and San Jose needed four minutes of lockdown hockey – of the stellar effort their penalty kill put on the ice night after night earlier in the season.

Instead, they gave up two power-play goals in nine seconds.

“We were in a good spot,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said of heading into the penalty kill with the tie, adding he didn’t think Kane was making an undisciplined play when he got penalized. However “at that point, we need a big kill, we need a big save. We didn’t get either.”

[RELATED: Karlsson will miss final games before NHL All-Star break]

Through their recent seven-game winning streak, the Sharks were able to minimize their mistakes. Whether playing against the highly-competitive Vegas Golden Knights or the less-adequate Ottawa Senators, San Jose played a detailed and defensive game that helped exploit their opponents’ weak spots. In Monday’s loss to Florida, the Sharks didn’t play up to that same level for a full 60 minutes. 

“We weren’t doing the little things right (and) that hurt us at the end,” Timo Meier acknowledged. “I think we were sloppy at some points of the game that cost us some goals.”

This is, without question, an area of San Jose’s game that has changed as of late. Over their current three-game skid, they’ve allowed six power-play goals on 12 opportunities and 18 goals overall. Through the seven games before that, the opposition only scored twice in 17 opportunities on the man advantage, and just 14 goals overall. The tight defensive and disciplined game they were playing hasn’t been put forth for a full game, and those mistakes are costing them.

San Jose has one last chance to get in the win column on this road trip as they visit the Washington Capitals on Tuesday. The Caps are another top team on a losing skid looking to turn things around before the break, and one that can make the opposition pay dearly for their mistakes. If the Sharks are going to go into the break on a high note, that part of their game has to be tighter. 

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 6-2 loss to struggling Panthers

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 6-2 loss to struggling Panthers

BOX SCORE

No, the start to Monday’s meetup between the Sharks and the Florida Panthers wasn’t the most thrilling hockey ever played. But boy, did things get heated in the end.

San Jose settled in after going down 1-0, and took over the pace of the game in the second period But a lackluster start to the third frame did them in yet again, and their frustration boiled over in a big way as the Sharks dropped their third straight, 6-2.

Here are three takeaways from Monday’s game:

What’s going on in the third period?

Certain aspects of San Jose’s game against Florida mirrored the contest against Tampa Bay just a couple days prior, namely how the third periods of both games got away from the Sharks. It made for a disappointing scene on Monday against the subpar Panthers, particularly because San Jose fought from behind to tie the game up 2-2 in the second period.

One of the problems plaguing the Sharks as of late has been that their penalty kill hasn’t been the shutdown force it was earlier in the season. Both the Lightning and the Panthers were able to capitalize on San Jose’s late-game mistakes by putting them in the penalty box, and scoring on the power play. 

[RELATED: Erik Karlsson will miss final games before NHL All-Star break]

You can’t hang all your hope on one player, but …

It has really shown over the last few games how much the Sharks need their defensive corps healthy down the stretch. Their blue-line depth has been tested through the month of January with injuries to Justin Braun, Radim Simek, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and now Erik Karlsson. While other players stepped up to help San Jose en route to a seven-game winning streak, it has become evident through the last few losses they could really use their top defensemen healthy sooner rather than later.

It doesn’t help the Sharks’ all-around team defense – which had improved greatly through December and the first half of January – hasn’t been quite as tight since San Jose defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins about a week ago. This is an area the whole team has to tighten back up, no matter who’s in the lineup.

On a positive note …

About darn time for Timo Time

You really have to hand it to Timo Meier for hanging in there through a frustrating goal drought. While he was visibly showing frustration in his last couple of contests, he continued to grind and create chances.

He looked primed for breakthrough on Monday night on a line with Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski – a line that created some of the Sharks’ best chances on the evening. The line cycled and cycled again trying to create chances in the second period, before Meier finally poked in his first goal in 17 games. Of course, that goal was also initially waved off and then challenged, creating even more drama. Lucky for Meier, the goal withstood both and the 22-year-old finally got off the schneid.