Sharks

Sharks take risk as Dell draws Ducks on second night of a back-to-back

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AP

Sharks take risk as Dell draws Ducks on second night of a back-to-back

Aaron Dell last started two games in two days on April 29, 2016. Dell, then the starter with the AHL's San Jose Barracuda, manned the net in Game 4 of the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. 

The Barracuda suffered a season-ending loss to the Ontario Reign that day, and Dell gave up three goals on 34 shots. That was the 20th time in three seasons in the AHL and ECHL that Dell started the first and second half of a back-to-back. 

Dell will end up starting both nights of a back-to-back for the 21st time since 2013 on Sunday. A night after stopping 31 of 32 shots against the reigning champion Penguins, Dell is set to start a pivotal Pacific Division matchup against the Ducks, who are only three points behind the Sharks for the second divisional playoff spot. 

His coach with the Sharks, Peter DeBoer, is no stranger to starting the same goalie on consecutive nights. He's done so seven times in his three seasons behind San Jose's bench, starting Martin Jones in all seven of those games.

Part of that is because of the team's confidence in Jones, who they view as a franchise goaltender. But on some level, these decisions have been driven by an initial hesitancy towards Jones' backups. 

Whatever the reason, DeBoer's been rewarded for rolling the dice and relying on Jones. On the second half of a back-to-back after starting the previous night, Jones has gone 5-2-0 with a .919 save percentage. 

With Jones out due to a lower-body injury, the Sharks once again appear hesitant about Dell's current backup, and rightfully so. Troy Grosenick has made two NHL starts and won the Baz Bastien Award as the AHL's best goaltender last season, but only has a .908 save percentage on 4336 shots in his AHL career, which is enough of a sample to say Grosenick's unlikely to establish himself as a regular NHL goaltender. 

DeBoer's decision to start Dell is thus understandable, but not without its downsides. Eric Tulsky, now the manager of analytics for the Carolina Hurricanes, and Broad Street Hockey associate editor Kurt R. found in 2013 that goalies perform worse on the second half of a back-to-back. That hasn't yet happened when DeBoer's rolled the dice, but it has happened to Dell. 

In his 20 previous starts on the second night of a back-to-back after starting the first half, Dell went 8-9-3, with a .915 save percentage, down from his .921 career save percentage in the AHL and ECHL. That may not seem like a lot, but such a drop in San Jose's save percentage this season would translate to about eight more goals against, which would leave the Sharks in the red in terms of goal differential. 

With only one established NHL goalie on his roster, DeBoer is then left with two bad options. Start Dell, knowing the risks of starting a goalie two nights in a row, or start Grosenick, a minor leaguer without a track record that warrants much confidence.

He opted for the former, and has caught lightning in a bottle before doing the same with Jones. That doesn't mean you can expect it again on Sunday against the Ducks.

Sharks avoid arbitration, re-sign Chris Tierney to two-year deal

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USATSI

Sharks avoid arbitration, re-sign Chris Tierney to two-year deal

Just two days before one was scheduled, the Sharks avoided an arbitration hearing with center Chris Tierney, and re-signed the restricted free agent to a two-year deal on Wednesday, the team announced. The deal is reportedly worth just shy of $2.94 million annually, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman

"Chris had his best season as a professional last year and stepped up his level of play in multiple areas," San Jose general manager Doug Wilson said in a statement. "We've always known he was a responsible, defensive-minded player, but he took his offensive game to the next tier and showed that he can be a productive player in all three zones. We look forward to watching him continue his evolution in 2018-19." 

Last season, the 24-year-old Tierney set career-highs in goals (17), assists (23), points (40), shots on goal (118), and ice time (16:00). Tierney also generated expected goals at the highest rate of his career (0.62 per hour), according to Corsica Hockey. 

A 2012 second-round pick, Tierney entered last season in an uncertain place. He signed his one-year, $735,000 qualifying offer last summer, and head coach Peter DeBoer challenged him to improve. 

“I came into the year wanting to prove a point. I believe in myself. I think I’m a good hockey player,” Tierney told the San Jose Mercury News in December. “I wanted to come in and show people that I could play an offensive role on the team.”  

DeBoer used Tierney slightly differently this season, as the forward started a career-high percentage of five-on-five shifts in the offensive zone (31.12 percent) and a career-low percentage of defensive zone starts (29.68 percent), per Corsica Hockey. Tierney responded in kind with his aforementioned career-best offensive numbers, and seized the third-line center role after versatile forward Tomas Hertl stayed on the wing.  

With Tierney back in the fold, the Sharks now have just under $4.4 million in salary cap space, according to CapFriendly. That’s for a roster carrying 14 forwards, seven defenseman, and two goaltenders, and San Jose’s actual cap space may change depending on the outcome of various positional battles in training camp. 

This summer, Tierney became the fourth Sharks player since 2008 to file for arbitration. In every case, including with Tierney on Wednesday, a settlement was reached prior to a hearing. 

The Sharks also signed a pair of prospects to entry-level contracts on Wednesday. Defenseman Ryan Merkley, San Jose’s first-round pick this June, and 21-year-old forward Alexander True, who scored 28 points in 68 games with the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda last season, both inked deals with the organization.

Martin Jones' new goalie mask will have Sharks fans seeing double

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USATSI

Martin Jones' new goalie mask will have Sharks fans seeing double

Sharks goaltender Martin Jones won't just enter the season with a different paycheck, the result of entering the first year of a five-year, $34.5 million contract extension that he signed last July. He'll also have a new mask.

Toronto-based artist Steve Nash unveiled a look at Jones' mask design for the upcoming season Monday morning on Twitter. The design again features San Jose's secondary logo but with some subtle differences.

Eagle-eyed mask afficionados will notice a couple of tweaks. First, there now are two sharks on the side, compared to only one last season. Those sharks boast orange eyes seen on the back of his mask last season

For comparison, here's a look at Jones' mask from last year.

The 28-year-old netminder is entering his fourth season in San Jose's crease. Jones posted a .915 save percentage in 60 regular-season starts and followed that with a .928 in 10 postseason starts as the Sharks advanced to the second round. 

We'll get our best look at Jones' new mask in action when training camp opens in mid-September, and, assuming he plays, in a game as soon as the Sept. 18 preseason opener against the Ducks.