Sharks notes: Depth tested headed into Rangers game


Sharks notes: Depth tested headed into Rangers game

NEW YORK -- The injuries are mounting as the Sharks get set to wrap up their four-game road trip on Monday against the Rangers.

Ben Smith is the latest player that will be scratched, after he was hit in the head with a Marc-Edouard Vlasic shot on Saturday. Coach Pete DeBoer said it was not a concussion, but Smith “took a bunch of stiches in the ear. It’s an ugly gash. That’s what he’s out with right now.”

Smith is still in New York, and was spotted riding a bike on Monday morning.

[KURZ: Morning skate: Jones back in net for Sharks vs Rangers]

Paul Martin remains out with a lower body injury and will miss his second straight game. The Sharks sorely missed the 34-year-old defenseman against the Islanders in a 6-3 loss. DeBoer said Martin told him he’s “feeling better, but not ready to go,” and dubbed him as day-to-day.

Bryan Lerg was recalled from the Barracuda and will center the fourth line in Smith’s absence with Mike Brown and Barclay Goodrow. Dylan DeMelo will remain paired on defense with Matt Tennyson, while Brenden Dillon stays with Brent Burns in Martin’s spot.

Joonas Donskoi (lower body) is also still out, while Logan Couture is sidelined for at least one month with a fractured right fibula. All of the injuries have occurred on the road trip.

* * *

The Sharks have opened the scoring in four straight games, a testament to being “ready to play” at the drop of the puck, according to DeBoer.

Still, they weren’t very strong defensively without Martin on Saturday.

“I think we’ve got to tighten things up a little bit from last game in our own end. I think when you score three goals on the road you should be getting points,” DeBoer said. “That’s the only area that I’ve got issue with, and we’ve got to make sure we’re a little tighter tonight.”

The Rangers figure to be an ornery group, losing to the Devils on Sunday at home in overtime, 2-1. They are winless in their last three (0-2-1) after starting the season with three straight wins.

“We know they’re going to be desperate,” DeBoer said.

* * *

Lerg was one of the rare feel-good stories last season, making his NHL debut at 29-years-old and scoring the game-winning goal at Edmonton on April 9. He played in the season finale in Los Angeles two days later, too.

The Barracuda captain scored 2 goals in the first three AHL games before joining the Sharks at their team hotel in Manhattan on Sunday night a little after 10 p.m.

“I’m ready to go show I can play in the NHL, and I’ve got to do it on a consistent level now,” Lerg said on Monday morning. “Playing with Brownie and Goodie, I think it’s meat and potatoes for all of us. Put it in deep, get on the puck and go after it here. Bang some bodies.”

Lerg played in three preseason games without a point before he was reassigned to the AHL. DeBoer likened him to Stephen Gionta, another smaller, energetic player he had in New Jersey.

“Real versatile, plays with a lot of heart, plays the right way, and can do a lot of different things on the ice,” DeBoer said. “I’m a fan.”

Lerg said: “I wanted to be that first or second guy to knock on the door here, and I’m fortunate to be here and I’ve just got of make the most of it.”

* * *

There was a pair of firsts on Saturday at Barclays Center, as Nikolay Goldobin scored his first NHL goal and DeMelo made his NHL debut.

Goldobin easily angled in a Joe Thornton pass on a three-on-two rush early in the second period, giving the Sharks a 2-1 lead at the time.

“He’s the best passer ever. I just needed to put it in the empty net, that’s it,” Goldobin said.

His parents were watching in the early morning hours in Russia. They texted him the next day, and according to Goldobin – who doesn’t lack for a sense of humor – they said: “Good job son. You’re the best. That kind of stuff.”

As for DeMelo, he was scoreless in 12:40 of ice time. Making things a bit more complicated is that he played on the left side, despite typically being on the right. He figures to remain there against the Rangers.

“Everybody has got to take the opportunity that’s given to them. It’s not always going to be perfect,” DeBoer said. “I like the fact he’s got his first game under his belt now, and those jitters are gone. We’re expecting a better game out of our entire D corps tonight.”


Joe Thornton scores 400th career goal, joins Hall of Fame company

Joe Thornton scores 400th career goal, joins Hall of Fame company

SAN JOSE -- There was a plethora of storylines coming out of the Sharks’ crazy 5-4 victory over the Nashville Predators Tuesday night. Almost all of them were eclipsed by Joe Thornton scoring his 400th career goal.

With the score tied up 4-4 in the waning minutes of regulation, the towering forward receiving a magnificent cross-ice pass from linemate Marcus Sorensen before sending the puck past Nashville goalie Juuse Saros into the back of the net

The energy at the Tank after the goal was electric. As his teammates swarmed him in celebration, Thornton was full of emotion as his 400th marker put the Sharks on top 5-4.

“I was on the ice, it was awesome,” Joe Pavelski said with a smile after the game. “It’s hard to put in perspective at times just what he’s been able to accomplish.”

The only thing making the goal even more impressive was that it put him on an exclusive list of seven players in NHL history who have scored 400 goals, tallied 1,000 assists, and played in over 1,500 games. Not surprisingly, though, Thornton told the media he was more focused on helping the team win than notching the milestone goal.

“Just trying to improve my game right now,” he said, a reminder to everyone he’s still battling back from those knee issues that sidelined him at the start of the season.

Wait, so he doesn’t know what highly-touted company he’s joined after scoring his 400th goal?

“No idea,” he admitted. “I haven’t checked to be honest with you.”

His teammates have been paying closer attention.

“It’s like every other night, there’s some kind of stat getting thrown out there,” Pavelski said of following his teammates' accomplishments. “They’re fun to look at, they really are.”

Defenseman Erik Karlsson has only been Thornton’s teammate for a little over a month. But since he has experience playing against No.19, he offered some perspective on what it was like for the Predators’ defense when Thornton came barreling down the ice.

“He’s one of those guys that you always have to be aware of,” Karlsson explained. “You always have to be aware of where he is because he’s such a good hockey player and if he gets the opportunities, you know he’s going to make you pay.”

Of course, the goal couldn’t have been made possible without the beautiful set-up from Sorensen, who Thornton has had a lot of success playing with as of late. 

“Marcus made a great play,” Thornton complimented. “I love playing with him. It seems like we’ve got some chemistry together now.”

When asked what it was like contributing to the milestone goal, Sorensen kept his answer straight-forward.

“It was pretty cool,” he said. “I’m happy for him.”

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in wild 5-4 win over Predators


Sharks takeaways: What we learned in wild 5-4 win over Predators


SAN JOSE -– There was no denying that Tuesday night’s rematch between the Sharks and the Nashville Predators would be a good game. But it’s likely that nobody expected just how lopsided this eventual nail-biter could get.

The Sharks jumped out to a convincing three-goal lead in the first period while the Predators looked tired and unable to create any offense. Then, the visitors rallied in the second stanza to notch three unanswered goals of their own, tying the score heading into the second intermission.

It looked as though Nashville would skate away to a one-goal victory halfway through the third, but Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton put two big goals on the board to give the home team the 5-4 victory.

To top everything off, the game-winner was Thornton’s 400th career goal.

Here are three takeaways from Tuesday’s topsy-turvy game.

The Sharks' first period was amazing

The Sharks opened the game with the most dominant period of hockey they’ve played all season. It embodied everything the team has been saying it wants: Great puck possession, a strong defensive presence and contributions from all four lines.

The strong start was important, given the Predators were playing on the tail end of a back-to-back on the road and had just lost to the Anaheim Ducks in a shootout the previous night. Nashville was visibly tired in the first frame, and San Jose took advantage.

That being said …

The second period was the opposite of amazing

It was like a completely different Sharks team took the ice in the second period. They played a looser game and gave the Predators an opportunity to get back into the contest – not something a team wants to do against a squad with an 8-0-1 road record.

San Jose’s biggest problem in those 20 minutes was not being able to capitalize on any power-play opportunities. The Sharks even had a five-on-three opportunity after the Predators were called for having too many men on the ice. But through 3:40 on the man advantage, San Jose didn’t register a single shot on goal.

The third-period push is alive and well

If there’s one thing the Sharks are good at, it’s making that big third-period push when they’re on their heels. Sometimes it’s too little too late. It came at just the right time Tuesday. 

Goaltender Martin Jones made his best saves at the end of the game. He was particularly impressive when Nashville pulled its goalie with less than two minutes left in the game, and the Predators' forwards swarmed into San Jose’s zone.

Of course, the highlight of the game came on the final goal, when Thornton seemed to skate up to Nashville’s net in slow motion after getting a spectacular feed from Marcus Sorensen. Predators netminder Juuse Saros appeared to not even see Thornton’s milestone marker float past him stick side.