Sharks

Sharks' goaltending still a question mark with Aaron Dell's struggles

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USATSI

Sharks' goaltending still a question mark with Aaron Dell's struggles

SAN JOSE -- Even as Martin Jones was named one of the NHL's "Three Stars of the Week", the state of the Sharks' goaltending remains a popular topic of discussion.

Don't get us wrong, Jones is very deserving of the recognition after he posted a combined .947 save percentage in back-to-back starts over the post-Thanksgiving weekend. However, the fact that Jones started both games of that back-to-back and backup Aaron Dell didn't play raised some questions about the state of San Jose's goaltending tandem -- and whether it's going to get a shakeup in the not-too-distant future.

Dell has had mixed results in eight games this season, going 3-4-0 with an .890 save percentage. He stood on his head against the Golden Knights in Vegas on Nov. 21 and led the Sharks in getting a 2-1 win, but then struggled on home ice on Nov. 27 and allowed five goals to the Winnipeg Jets.

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer made it clear at the start of the season that he wanted to give Dell more starts, particularly in back-to-back situations. But, DeBoer said that the backup netminder was going to have to earn those opportunities.

"I wanted to play him more last year, but he didn't allow me that opportunity to," DeBoer said back on Oct. 12. From the looks of things, that poor performance against the Jets was enough to cost Dell a start during the Sharks' recent back-to-back.

Of course, this kind of routine can't last for the rest of the season. Jones can't start every game the rest of the way -- he'd be burned out by the All-Star break. The Sharks need a reliable backup netminder, and one who can step in whenever possible without the fear of giving up five goals a night.

So, where does San Jose go from here?

Dell will most likely get another start or two in here at some point, but if he continues to struggle with consistency, the Sharks might need to look at other options. With Dell set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, it isn't totally out of the question for the Sharks to consider making a move close to the trade deadline if they're still in playoff position.

Granted, the Sharks don't have many assets and still have to address issues regarding their forward depth, but it isn't totally unthinkable.

A trade would be more realistic than bringing 21-year-old Josef Korenar up from the AHL. The Czech netminder has registered a .889 save percentage in 13 games with the Barracuda, and that isn't exactly a number that inspires a recall to the big club.

[RELATED: Jones named one of NHL's "Three Stars of the Week"]

Of course, there's a chance that Dell will right the ship and give the Sharks the goalie depth they need as they try to build on a successful month of November. Heck, he already has a couple of stellar games under his belt this season. With San Jose going on a four-game East Coast road trip at the start of this month and playing in a back-to-back after the Christmas break, he could get another look in the not-too-distant future.

Until he gets another start, however, the conversations surrounding the Sharks' depth between the pipes are going to continue.

Sharks' struggles feel familiar on second rough East Coast road trip

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AP

Sharks' struggles feel familiar on second rough East Coast road trip

At the start of the Sharks' recent road trip earlier this week, the team felt like they were in pretty good shape. Despite losing to the Hurricanes in a shootout Thursday evening, San Jose played so well that they appeared primed to pick up a few wins.

But after being outscored 12-2 in back-to-back games against the Lightning on Saturday (7-1) and then the Panthers on Sunday (5-1), the Sharks aren't looking like the team that went 11-4-0 in the month of November. In fact, they're looking like the team that went 1-3-1 the last time they went on a long roadie out East.

Are the Sharks' struggles on this second long road trip just a coincidence, or is it history repeating itself?

"I think every trip is different, you're at different points," coach Peter DeBoer said to the media after the Sharks' loss to the Panthers. "My disappointment tonight was a little like last night. I think they scored on their first shot or their first couple of shots and then you're chasing the game right off of the bat. It's tough on the road to do that."

San Jose looked for a moment like they could trade in their bad luck during Sunday's game when Kevin Labanc scored a power-play goal in the first period to cut Florida's two-goal lead in half. But thanks to a lopsided special teams battle and Sergei Bobrovsky outplaying Martin Jones, the Sharks were handed yet another loss.

"I thought we hung in there and kept fighting, but it wasn't enough," DeBoer said. "Their goalie was better. Their special teams were better tonight than ours."

It's a disappointing trend to see from a Sharks team that was starting to turn things around after a solid November. Even after a disappointing loss to the Washington Capitals before the road trip, San Jose was able to put on quite the performance in Carolina -- despite only getting one point -- and had momentum in their favor. In both losses that ensued, that fight was hard to come by.

"I think we're a little too relaxed right now," Sharks winger Evander Kane admitted. "A couple of games where we got off to bad starts and weren't able to fight back. We didn't have much fight after we got down. That's probably the most disappointing part."

[RELATED: Simek to miss two weeks for minor knee procedure]

The Sharks might be leaving the Sunshine State behind, but their road trip isn't over just yet. They have one more stop before they can return home -- a Tuesday night meeting against the Predators in Nashville -- and one more chance to turn their luck on the road around. Even though the Predators haven't been playing well either, their home barn poses challenges for visiting teams. Given how the Sharks have played over the last couple of road games, a win won't be easy.

The Sharks have no choice but to buckle down and grind for a win.

"It sucks, but you just have to keep working to get out of this slump," Kevin Labanc said. "And make sure that we're getting out of this hole for ourselves."

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in lackluster 5-1 loss vs. Panthers

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AP

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in lackluster 5-1 loss vs. Panthers

BOX SCORE

The Sharks needed a big turnaround on Sunday afternoon after suffering a 7-1 loss at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning the night before, but they didn't come close.

San Jose played better on the back end of a back-to-back, but the Florida Panthers had all the answers. In the end, the Sharks dropped their fourth game in a row, this time by a score of 5-1. 

Here are three takeaways from Sunday's game:

A goalie made the difference -- again

While Martin Jones didn't get pulled from Sunday's game like he was in Team Teal's loss to the Lighting, he still provided a mixed performance. He made a few saves to take some momentum away from the Panthers' offense, but he also gave up an early power-play goal and let two shots from the blue line find the back of the net. While he didn't receive much support from the defense early on, he still needed to buckle down more later in the game when San Jose was battling to put more points on the board.

The Sharks' offense did try to make up for the damage on the scoreboard and got some really good offensive-zone time as the game went on. Unfortunately for San Jose, Sergei Bobrovsky was in fine form and had an answer for most of the best chances.

Can't blame Kane 

The NHL says they're taking hits to the head more seriously. So it's a mystery as to why Mackenzie Weeger's hit on Evander Kane at the start of the second period didn't at least draw a penalty. Although Kane only left the ice for a quick moment and then returned to the bench, you can't blame him for standing up to Weeger on his next shift to defend himself. With Kane leaving the ice afterward with 17 minutes worth of penalties, Florida created momentum from a power-play opportunity, as the Panthers scored their third goal at even strength almost immediately afterward.

Credit should go to the Sharks for not letting the incident ruin their flow. Even though the altercation led to Kane being penalized for the rest of the period, San Jose continued to build momentum in an effort to even up the score. It's just unfortunate the Sharks couldn't get at least one goal to show for that effort.

[RELATED: Sharks' Simek to miss two weeks for minor knee procedure]

Special teams still struggling 

Yes, San Jose scored a power-play goal in the first period, the team's first in more than 20 attempts on the man advantage over a nine-game span. However, the Sharks were unable to capitalize at the beginning of the third period when they got some extended power-play time and could have trimmed the deficit to one. 

San Jose's No. 1-ranked penalty kill struggled as well, surrendering two goals to the Panthers. Whatever is ailing the Sharks' special teams, they'll have to fix if they want to get back into the win column.