Sharks

Report: Sharks interested in former NHL star Kovalchuk

Report: Sharks interested in former NHL star Kovalchuk

Ilya Kovalchuk may be ready to return the NHL, and the Sharks could be one of his suitors.

According to a report in the New York Post, the Sharks are one of “more than a half-dozen clubs” to have expressed interest in the 34-year-old winger, who has spent the last four seasons in the KHL in Russia. The other known teams listed in the report are the Rangers, Blues and Maple Leafs.

Kovalchuk played his most recent two NHL seasons for current Sharks coach Pete DeBoer, where he was also a former teammate of Sharks assistant/goalie coach Johan Hedberg. It’s believed that DeBoer and Kovalchuk had a good relationship when they were together in New Jersey.

Kovalchuk surprisingly retired from the NHL after the 2012-13 season, just three years into a 15-year, $100-million contract extension with the Devils. In order for him to play for another club other than New Jersey next season he would have to be signed to a new contract and traded by the Devils, so the Sharks would have to part with some assets for his services.

Last season with SKA Saint Petersburg, Kovalchuk posted 32 goals and 78 points in 60 games. In 816 career NHL games with Atlanta and New Jersey over 11 seasons, he has 417 goals and 399 assists for 816 points. The six-foot-three, 230-pound Russian native was the first overall pick by Atlanta in the 2001 draft.

The Sharks interest in Kovalchuk could make sense.

The team struggled throughout the 2016-17 season to get production from its depth wingers, as Joel Ward, Joonas Donskoi and Mikkel Boedker in particular all had disappointing campaigns. Patrick Marleau, who scored 27 goals, is a pending unrestricted free agent that could move on this summer.

The Sharks added winger Jannik Hansen just before the trade deadline in the hopes that he would fit on the Joe Thornton-Joe Pavelski line, but Hansen ended up skating mostly on the third line in the team’s first round playoff loss to Edmonton. Perhaps Kovalchuk, primarily a left wing, could be a fit there.

The Sharks have added several players in recent seasons that have played for DeBoer or one of his assistants in the past, including Boedker, Dainius Zubrus, Roman Polak and James Reimer.

How Sharks' penalty kill lived up to high expectations in win over Sabres

How Sharks' penalty kill lived up to high expectations in win over Sabres

The power play may have been the main focus of the Sharks’ Thursday night victory over the Sabres, but Team Teal wasn’t the only team with multiple chances on the man advantage. 

Buffalo spent their fair share of time on the power play, particularly in the latter portion of the first frame when the teams were trading off penalties. But even when Jack Eichel and the Sabres’ top power play unit was gaining momentum, the Sharks’ penalty kill robbed them of capitalizing on their opportunities.

Martin Jones had a front row seat to view how the penalty kill performed.

“We knew when to pressure the puck, and knew when to sit back and get in lanes and block shots,” the starting goaltender said after the game. 

Jones himself made some of his best saves of the evening, most notably when the Sharks came off the kill in the last two minutes of the first frame when a save on Jason Pominville resulted in Jones laying on his back to stop a flurry of Buffalo’s shots finding the back of the net.

“He was solid and bailed guys out when (Buffalo) had opportunities,” Joe Pavelski complimented Jones after the game.

This rendition of the Sharks' penalty kill has high standards set for itself. The Sharks' kill ranked second overall in the league last season at 84.4 percent -- far superior to its toughest opponents like the Vegas Golden Knights or the LA Kings. That same caliber of kill made an appearance on Thursday evening.

And although the Sharks likely want to spend less time in the penalty box than they have over the last two games, knowing the penalty kill is firing on all cylinders has to give them confidence, especially going up against its next opponent.

The Sharks play against the Islanders, who have four power play goals in six games played. While that may not look so intimidating on paper, New York’s power play already found a way through the Sharks penalty kill during San Jose’s visit last. Halting New York’s power play can give the Sharks’ kill a boost before it heads on the road next week – where they’ve given up a power play goal in three out of five games.

The Sharks rematch with the Islanders takes place Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Sharks notes: Joakim Ryan, Peter DeBoer and teammates react to fight

Sharks notes: Joakim Ryan, Peter DeBoer and teammates react to fight

SAN JOSE -- Sharks defenseman Joakim Ryan returned to practice on Friday, no worse for wear the morning after his first NHL fight. 

“I feel fine,” Ryan said. “[He] didn’t really get me with too many [punches] there. He got me with one at the end, but kind of just the side of the head. Nothing too bad, really.”

Ryan dropped the gloves with Buffalo Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian with San Jose’s 5-1 win all but over on Thursday. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound blueliner spotted Bogosian five inches and about 40 pounds, per both team’s rosters. 

As the clock wound down, Bogosian checked Sharks winger Melker Karlsson into the boards while they battled for a loose puck. As Sabres blue-liner Jake McCabe knocked Sharks rookie forward Rourke Chartier off the puck, a scrum ensued, and Bogosian dropped his gloves shortly after. San Jose defenseman Brenden Dillon then fought McCabe, as Ryan tried to keep Bogosian away from McCabe. 

The two eventually traded punches, as Bogosian was assessed a roughing penalty and a fighting major, while Ryan was only given the fighting major -- the second of his professional career, and his first since Dec. 26, 2016 in the AHL. 

Bogosian’s gloves were off moments after the initial hit, and before he fought Ryan. Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said he was surprised the Sabres defenseman only picked up seven penalty minutes from the exchange. 

“You know, I was worried for him. It was a dangerous play,” DeBoer said of Ryan. “I’m surprised that there wasn’t a different call on the play. I think we put in the instigator penalty in the last five minutes of a game like that for exactly that reason. There’s no doubt that it was unnecessary, and he could’ve really gotten hurt. I’m just happy that he got out of it without getting hurt.”

According to Rule 46.12 of the league’s rulebook, “a player who is deemed to be the instigator of an altercation in the final five minutes of regulation time or at any time in overtime shall be assessed an instigator minor penalty, a major penalty for fighting, and a game misconduct penalty.” 

Had Bogosian been called for an instigator, he -- and Sabres head coach Phil Housley -- would have faced supplemental discipline. Rule 46.22 adds that a player called for those penalties would face a one-game suspension, and the coach a $10,000 fine. 

Dillon told reporters he didn’t immediately realize Ryan had fought, until teammates told him afterward. He said he appreciated Ryan’s willingness to step in, but the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Dillon joked with reporters he would have been a better match for Bogosian.

“I think at the end of the game I maybe grabbed the wrong guy,” the defenseman said. “I should’ve maybe grabbed Bogosian, not McCabe, but Joaks did a good job under the circumstances.”

Thornton “doubtful” vs. Islanders

Center Joe Thornton skated at the team’s practice Friday morning, but DeBoer told reporters that the 39-year-old is doubtful to play Saturday night against the New York Islanders. 

Could Thornton travel with the team for their three-game road trip next week? 

“I don’t know, we’re day-to-day here,” DeBoer answered. “He looks good in practice. We’ll make that decision when we get to Monday.”

Thornton returned to practice on Tuesday after missing the previous four games. He experienced swelling in his surgically repaired right knee the morning after San Jose’s 3-2 overtime win over the Los Angeles Kings on Oct. 5, and was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 7.

He has not returned to the active roster yet, as rookie forward Dylan Gambrell remains with the team. 

Maintenance days for Hertl, Karlsson, and Labanc

Defenseman Erik Karlsson and wingers Tomas Hertl and Kevin Labanc did not practice on Friday. All three played against Buffalo on Thursday, but have missed practice in recent days.

Karlsson missed practice last Saturday when he was feeling “under the weather.” Hertl returned to practice on Wednesday, but did not skate in Thursday’s morning skate. Labanc missed practice on Tuesday and Wednesday, and DeBoer told reporters on Wednesday he was fighting off a virus. 

Dylan Gambrell wore a white jersey and skated in Labanc’s place with Joe Pavelski and Evander Kane. Thornton, meanwhile, skated with Logan Couture and Timo Meier.

That probably doesn’t mean much, as the Sharks had a very light practice on Friday. Here’s how the rest of the lines shook out. 

Evander Kane - Joe Pavelski - Dylan Gambrell
Joe Thornton - Logan Couture - Timo Meier
Marcus Sorensen - Antti Suomela - Joonas Donskoi
Barclay Goodrow - Rourke Chartier - Melker Karlsson

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Tim Heed
Joakim Ryan - Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon - Justin Braun
Radim Simek

Martin Jones
Aaron Dell