Sharks

Sharks hoping history of turning season around vs. Canadiens continues

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USATSI

Sharks hoping history of turning season around vs. Canadiens continues

There's something about playing the Montreal Canadiens that prompts the Sharks to turn their game around.

San Jose is 14-4-0 against the Habs dating back to 2005, and some of those wins have occurred when the Sharks needed them the most. In Dec. 2015, San Jose broke out of a seven-game losing streak by beating the Habs in Montreal 3-1. In more recent history, a four-game losing streak -- which was followed by a closed-door meeting -- was snapped by another 3-1 victory at Bell Centre that turned the Sharks 2018-19 season around.

Now, in the first month of their 2019-20 campaign, San Jose could use another one of those turnarounds.

Granted, San Jose is facing some new problems this season than they were when they last defeated Montreal. They aren't coming off a lengthy losing streak or having glaring issues with their goaltending. This time around, however, the team is trying to establish its identity while integrating new players -- and that process hasn't exactly been a smooth one. Miscues and turnovers continue to end up in the back of San Jose's net, and getting a solid 60-minute game out of all four lines is still a work in progress.

Even with three straight victories in the middle of the month and some clear signs of improvement, the Sharks are still at the bottom of the Pacific Division. Plus, their current swing through the East Coast isn't going to get any easier. Perhaps playing against a team who they've fared well against in the past will turn things around?

To be clear, this isn't to say that there's some otherworldly magic that comes from the Sharks playing the Habs. Simply that the Sharks are playing them at yet another point of a season where they need to elevate their game. 

San Jose is coming off of back-to-back losses to the Buffalo Sabres, and even though they got a point out of Tuesday's 4-3 overtime loss, they also blew a 2-0 lead. Erik Karlsson told reporters afterward that "by no means should we be satisfied" despite picking up the one point. Head coach Peter DeBoer said he thinks the team is getting better, but "we're still not where we want to be."

Not every Shark is heading into Thursday's game on the struggle bus, mind you. Karlsson himself will take the ice in Montreal on a five-game assist streak and tallied his first goal of the season on Tuesday night.

Logan Couture has points in seven of nine games so far this season. Young center Dylan Gambrell scored his first regular-season goal in Tuesday's game and continues to play a key role in making San Jose's fourth line more effective.

[RELATED: Sharks' Thornton, Marleau piece together funny memories]

Even San Jose's goaltending looks better than it did last season -- there's no denying Martin Jones was a big reason Jack Eichel didn't allow the Sabres to run away with Tuesday's game in Buffalo.

But the fact is, the Sharks still need to turn things around if they're going to recover from a rough start to their season. And there's no better time for them to do that than on Thursday night against the Habs in Montreal. 

Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau react to ex-teammates on Sharks' staff

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AP

Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau react to ex-teammates on Sharks' staff

SAN JOSE -- No, the days of the player-coach hybrid aren't making a comeback. Although, if you're Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau, it might feel that way.

With the introduction of Bob Boughner as San Jose's interim head coach, the organization brought in staff that includes former Sharks Mike Ricci and Evgeni Nabokov -- two players who were on the roster back when the now 40-year-olds hadn't reached their veteran status yet.

"It will be interesting to see them on the bench," Marleau said. "But they're very professional and they'll do a great job."

Marleau played with both Ricci and Nabokov in the early 2000s, while Thornton only logged time with Nabokov after coming to San Jose from the Boston Bruins in 2005. While it has been some time since either newly-appointed assistant coach has rocked a teal sweater, Ricci and Nabokov have stayed with the organization in different capacities over the last few years. Having that closeness and a high level of familiarity is something that can benefit the team as they go through a midseason coaching change.

"I know what they've been through and I know a lot about them, so it's easy to communicate with them," Marleau said.

Thornton agreed with his teammate's assessment.

"They've been here for a long time now," Thornton said. "To have them on the bench now is going to be fun."

Both Ricci and Nabokov have spent the last several seasons working on the development side of the Sharks' organization and have worked closely with players on the AHL Barracuda -- a team that has been coached by Roy Sommer up until he, too, was recently named assistant coach under Boughner. In his introductory press conference on Thursday, Boughner outlined how he believes his new coaching staff might function.

"We met last night as a staff and this morning and we still need to work through some things," Boughner admitted. "But Mike Ricci and Roy are going to be on the bench with me. Roy's going to move to the defensive side and run some power play. Ricci was a great penalty killer his whole career and I think we're going to be able to enjoy some of his expertise. I'll be running the forwards and obviously Nabby will (oversee) the goalies. There are still some job responsibilities we'll have to sort out in the next few days. But for now, I think those guys are excited. It was a big day for them as well."

[RELATED: How DeBoer's firing shocked Sharks players]

As far as reuniting Ricci and Nabokov with their former teammates, Boughner thinks working closely with Thornton and Marleau will benefit the entire roster as the Sharks try to, yet again, turn their season around after a tough stretch of losses.

"I think you can see, even in the morning, there's that report there," Boughner said of watching the reunion during morning skate. "There's deep respect. There's a lot of familiarity with those guys and I think that's going to help. Ricci and Roy have seen these young guys all the way up. I think there's great chemistry that we're going to have there."

Sharks fail to correct bad habits in first game after coaching change

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USATSI

Sharks fail to correct bad habits in first game after coaching change

SAN JOSE -- Thursday could have been a fresh start for the Sharks. As shocking and emotional as it was to go through a midseason coaching change, they were presented with the opportunity to turn things around.

Unfortunately, Thursday's game against the Rangers featured a lot of the same problems. Missed opportunities, loose late-game play and yet another notch in the loss column.

Sure, getting accustomed to a new coach's ways can take some time. But that doesn't give the Sharks a pass when it comes to playing a full 60-minute hockey game.

"It's tough, it's difficult, but there's no excuse," captain Logan Couture said after the 6-3 loss. "Lots of teams have [gone through a coaching change]. A lot of teams in this league have done it and they've gone on winning streaks. The team that did it last year won the Cup. So, we've got to find a way. Tonight wasn't good enough once again."

San Jose did, in fact, have a great chance to get back into the win column in Bob Boughner's first game behind the bench. Even with New York continuing to grind away, the Sharks were able to take a 3-2 lead at the 4:12 mark of the third period thanks to a big goal from Brenden Dillon.

But then the defense took its foot off of the gas and Martin Jones couldn't stop Mike Zibanejad or Artemi Panarin from pushing the Rangers over the hump. In a matter of minutes, the Sharks went from defending a lead to being in a hole they didn't have time to dig out of.

"When you have a lead in the third with 15 minutes left, you have to defend a little bit harder and not turn the puck over like we did," Couture continued. "Play harder in our own end, which we did not. Defend our slot harder tonight, and I don't think we did."

Dillon agreed. "Frustrating when you have a lead like that. Especially at home, we have to be able to close it out. If we give up the tying goal, and then a couple more, it's just frustrating."

Letting up late isn't the only thing that is plaguing the Sharks right now. San Jose has struggled to play a full 60-minute game for the bulk of the season thus far. Thursday's loss showed yet again that San Jose isn't playing full games on a nightly basis -- regardless of who is behind the bench.

"I think we did some good things tonight, but obviously it still wasn't a full 60," interim head coach Bob Boughner observed. "I think in the third period we ran out of gas there a little bit."

[RELATED: Boughner confident in staff, wants Sharks to play inspired]

Martin Jones, who surrendered three goals in the third period, agreed. "Have to play a full 60 minutes, you have to," he said, acknowledging that having an adjustment period with a new coaching staff isn't an excuse. "They had more jump in the third period than us. We've got to find a way in a tied hockey game to come out with a little bit more energy. I don't know how many shots or scoring chances we had in the third, but we need to apply more pressure in a close hockey game like that."

Whether it's applying more pressure or tightening up, the Sharks clearly still have a laundry list of things they need to clean up. Now with the dust settling in regards to the coaching change, San Jose has no other option but to dig deep and keep working.

"There's a lot of work to be done," Boughner reminded everyone. "We'll have a good practice day tomorrow. Sort some things out."