Sharks should expect a fired up Oilers squad

Sharks should expect a fired up Oilers squad

SAN JOSE – After jumping out to an early 2-0 lead against Vancouver without their top two centers, the Sharks proceeded to play the final 59 minutes of their game on Tuesday looking like they wanted to do as little as possible to preserve the lead.

They got away with it, winning 3-1, because, well, Vancouver. They almost certainly won’t against Edmonton. 

In fact, it sounds like the Oilers will be a pretty fired up squad after they dropped a 6-4 decision in Los Angeles on Tuesday night, putting a serious dent in their hopes of winning the Pacific Division. They and the Sharks are tied with 97 points apiece for second place, four behind Anaheim, with the Oilers holding a game in hand on both California rivals.

When it was suggested to forward Patrick Maroon that Thursday’s game with the Sharks might be the organization’s biggest regular season game in many years, Maroon told the Edmonton Sun: “It really is, this is going to dictate home ice advantage. That was our goal going into the playoffs, to get home ice advantage, so for us this is one of the biggest games we’ll play.”

Maroon and his linemates, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, were dominant against the Sharks just one week ago at Rogers Place in a 3-2 Edmonton win. Maroon had two goals, one set up by McDavid on a two-on-one, while the Oilers’ superstar center had a highlight reel shorthanded score later on.

They were off against the Kings, though, including McDavid taking a minus-three rating, so figure the line will be motivated against the Sharks to make up for that performance.

“[Tuesday] night was one of those things where you throw the game tape out and forget about it. Our line wasn’t good at all last game,” Maroon said. “We are considered the leading group of the team, and our best hockey wasn’t [Tuesday] night.”

The Sharks, though, know they weren’t at their best against the Canucks. Not having Joe Thornton and Logan Couture was certainly part of the reason, but far too many of their players – young and veteran alike – looked like they were content going about half-speed after Kevin Labanc and Joel Ward scored within the first 30 seconds of the first period.

The phrase “taking our foot of the gas” is probably overused in hockey, but it’s applicable here. Even without Thornton and Couture, the Sharks should have been better against a Vancouver team that became one of the worst in the league after selling at the deadline.

“I think our game in all aspects, just be sharper,” Brenden Dillon said. “When you start a game like that and have some success early, you’ve just got to be able to continue that.”

Sharks assistant coach Steve Spott recognized that Sharks-Oilers is a potential, if not likely, first round matchup next week. That possibility should give his team a boost.

“You want to make sure you put your best foot forward and show well, and [make sure] our compete level is where it needs to be,” Spott said. “It was at times [Tuesday] night, but I think the big thing for our hockey club is our compete level. Getting that night in and night out, that’s something we’re going to need against a good hockey club.”

Sharks vs. Penguins watch guide: Projected lines and defensive pairs

Sharks vs. Penguins watch guide: Projected lines and defensive pairs

SAN JOSE – The Sharks have been rolling since the start of 2019. They will face another tough challenge in their last home game before the All-Star break when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night.

San Jose was busy last week, playing five games in an eight-day span. But, they won each of them. After a slow start on Saturday against the Ottawa Senators, the Sharks cruised to a 4-1 victory and extended their winning streak to six games.

The Pens are 8-2-0 in their last 10 contests. Pittsburgh has caught fire after a slow start to the season – including a five-game losing skid in November – and has been playing some of their best hockey of the season. They are 7-2-1 against Pacific Division teams this season.

This is the first of two games the Sharks and Penguins will play against each other this season. In 39 total franchise meetings, San Jose is 19-15-3-2 against Pittsburgh.

Sharks projected lines and pairs

Marcus Sorensen – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Lukas Radil – Logan Couture – Timo Meier
Evander Kane – Tomas Hertl – Joonas Donskoi
Kevin Labanc – Barclay Goodrow – Melker Karlsson

Radim Simek – Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon – Erik Karlsson
Tim Heed – Justin Braun

Martin Jones – projected starter
Aaron Dell

[RELATED: Thornton to notch 'great accomplishment' vs. Penguins]

Penguins projected lines and pairs

Jake Guentzel – Sidney Crosby – Bryan Rust
Tanner Pearson – Evgeni Malkin – Dominik Simon
Riley Sheahan – Derick Brassard – Phil Kessel
Derek Grant – Matt Cullen – Garrett Wilson

Brian Dumoulin – Kris Letang
Olli Maatta – Jamie Oleksiak
Marcus Pettersson – Jack Johnson

Matt Murray – projected starter
Casey DeSmith

Sharks practice notes: Joe Thornton to hit milestone vs. Penguins


Sharks practice notes: Joe Thornton to hit milestone vs. Penguins

SAN JOSE – The Sharks only play the Penguins twice a season. But they are well aware of how tough the Eastern Conference contingent can be.

“We’ve played a lot of good teams lately, and these guys coming into town, they’re playing as good as anyone right now,” Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said after Tuesday’s morning skate ahead of Team Teal’s first contest of the season against Pittsburgh.

Much like the Sharks, the Pens had an uneven start to their 2018-19 campaign, winding their way through a couple losing skids and only tallying four wins in the month of November. They’ve since turned things around, however, and had an eight-game winning streak going before they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks on January 6. 

“I think when you’ve had the deep runs they’ve had, I think it’s natural that you have some lulls in the regular season," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "But you can see they’re starting to pick it up and find another level." 

The Pens enter Tuesday’s contest with a 7-2-1 record against Pacific Division teams this season, using depth scoring and elite special teams play to find success. San Jose is going to have to play a disciplined game if they want to keep Pittsburgh from running away with the game, Pavelski said.

“When they’re playing well, they can beat you in a lot of different ways,” the captain summarized. “It’s a game we’ve got to be ready for. We’ve had a couple days off so (we’ll) get back out there early and re-establish what we were doing.”

“They’re starting to put it together and it’s a great test for us,” DeBoer said.

Big night for Jumbo

Speaking of Joe Pavelski, his linemate Joe Thornton will be skating in his 1,000th game as a member of the Sharks on Tuesday night. 

“I’m sure he’ll say it’s another game,” Pavelski said with a smile. “But obviously it’s a great accomplishment.”

A great accomplishment indeed, given the ups and downs Thornton has had health-wise over the last couple of seasons. The magnitude of his accomplishments isn’t lost on the rest of the team.

“It’s amazing, his career,” DeBoer reflected. “First ballot Hall of Famer. Still playing at a really high level. His greatness is in what he does for other players, how good he makes other people around him. That’s a rare thing.”

One of those special players is 26-year-old Marcus Sorensen, who has spent a good chunk of his breakout 2018-19 season on Thornton’s wing. Sorensen, who just signed a two-year contract extension with San Jose, expressed how happy he was to get to play on a line with the seasoned veteran.

“I play with one of the best players in the world,” Sorensen said. “I’m honored to play with him and Pavs right now. Love playing with those guys. It’s so easy to play with them.”

Tuesday’s game is just one of Thornton’s milestones Sorensen has been part of. The Swedish winger also set Thornton up for his 400th career goal earlier this season.

“It’s special,” Sorensen said. “I was here when he played his 1,500th (NHL) game. I was able to pass (to) him for his 400th goal. I’m going to keep those memories for my whole life.”