Sharks

Sharks and Flames' race for division crown likely to come down to wire

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USATSI

Sharks and Flames' race for division crown likely to come down to wire

SAN JOSE -- After grinding to get a win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday evening, the San Jose Sharks gained two more points in the standings and are once again tied with the Calgary Flames. San Jose and Calgary have been neck-and-neck for some time now, and as both teams roll through the final 20-plus games of the regular season, things are likely to remain that way.

For starters, both teams have similar schedules moving forward. Both San Jose and Calgary have 10 road games left on their schedules, and both finish up travel through the Eastern Conference by the end of February. San Jose is 16-12-3 on the road this season and holds an 11-9-4 record against Eastern Conference teams. Calgary is in a very similar boat, holding an 18-11-2 road record and having gone 13-6-4 against the Eastern Conference. Both the Sharks and the Flames spend the majority of the month of March in their home barns, where both have been quite dominant -- San Jose has gone 19-5-4 at SAP Center, while Calgary has gone 17-5-5 at the Saddledome.

Health will be a major factor in determing how each team does down the stretch. Flames’ forward James Neal took a beating last week, getting eight teeth knocked out against the Canucks and then sustaining an upper-body injury against the Panthers. While Neal hasn’t contributed much on the scoresheet this season, Calgary won’t want to lose any other players who bring playoff experience to the table. The Sharks, on the other hand, are coming off a nearly two-month stretch where they battled to fill in the holes created by injuries to their blue line. Now that they finally have Erik Karlsson back in the lineup after nearly a month, staying healthy through the end of February and into March would be a big help.

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There’s an area where the Flames and Sharks are in drastically different positions, and that's in reference to the trade deadline. San jose isn’t expected to be very active ahead of the February 25 deadline, outside of perhaps picking up a rental player to fill out their bottom six. The Flames, on the other hand, are expected to be busy. Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reports Calgary could be looking to pick up another forward at the trade deadline -- and if Neal is sidelined for any long stretch, that move may be more necessary -- or maybe pick up another defenseman. While adding a couple of pieces at the deadline likely won’t change the complexion of the entire team, Calgary could still get a potential boost if they make the right moves. 

The Sharks and Flames play one more game against each other during the regular season, with the Sharks hosting that matchup on March 31. At that point, both teams will have just three games remaining before the postseason gets underway. Given how similar these teams are, don’t be surprised if the fight for first place comes down to the wire. 

NHL awards: Sharks' Joe Thornton misses out on first Masterton Trophy

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AP

NHL awards: Sharks' Joe Thornton misses out on first Masterton Trophy

Before Joe Thornton makes his return to the Sharks official by putting pen to paper, the veteran center missed out an adding another trophy to his collection.

The 39-year-old did not pick up the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy at Wednesday's 2019 NHL Awards as "the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey," with the award going to New York Islanders goaltender Robin Lehner.

The 2018-19 season marked Thornton's second consecutive campaign recovering from a torn ACL and MCL. He tore the ligaments in his right knee on Jan. 23, 2018, just over nine months after doing the same in his left knee. 

Despite that, Thornton scored 51 points (16 goals, 35 assists) in 73 regular-season games during his 21st NHL season and became a fixture on the Sharks' third line. It was his 17th season with at least 50 points, tying him for 10th in NHL history with the most such seasons. 

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Lehner, 27, won 25 games with the Islanders and was second among NHL goalies (minimum of 10 games played) in save percentage (.930) and third in goals against average (2.13) in the best season of his career.

Before the season, Lehner wrote an article for The Athletic and revealed he had suicidal thoughts while battling drug and alcohol addiction. He wrote that he "was diagnosed bipolar 1 with manic phases" while underoing treatment in Arizona, and revealed his struggles in order to "help make a difference and help others the way I have been helped." 

Columbus Blue Jackets winger Nick Foligno was the other finalist. Foligno, 31, scored 35 points (17 goals, 18 assists) in 73 games, missing time in November and March as two of his three children had separate health scares. He told NHL.com's Dan Rosen in a story this week that his nomination was "humbling and I appreciate it, but it's something that feels weird to me because I get to play a game for a living, and I've got a pretty good life considering all this stuff."

NHL awards: Sharks' Brent Burns finishes second in Norris Trophy voting

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USATSI

NHL awards: Sharks' Brent Burns finishes second in Norris Trophy voting

Brent Burns made the medal stand, but he did not pick up his second career Norris Trophy on Wednesday.

Instead, Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano won his first at the 2019 NHL Awards in Las Vegas.

Burns, 34, scored 83 points (16 goals, 67 assists) in 82 games, setting a Sharks franchise record for points by a defenseman. He became the first blueliner to score at least 82 points in a season since Karlsson did so with the Ottawa Senators in 2015-16, and only the 48th in NHL history.

This marked the third time in the last four seasons that Burns was a finalist for the award, and he dressed for the occasion.

Burns finished second in the Professional Hockey Writers Association's balloting.

Giordano, 35, scored a career-high 74 points (17 goals, 57 assists) and led the Western Conference-leading Flames in ice time en route to being a first-time Norris finalist. 

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman was the other nominee. Hedman, 28, scored 54 points (12 goals, 42 assists) in 70 games, leading the loaded Lightning to a runaway President's Trophy win in a record-setting regular season.