Sharks

Sharks training camp: Injury updates on Erik Karlsson, Radim Simek

Sharks training camp: Injury updates on Erik Karlsson, Radim Simek

SAN JOSE - The Sharks' blue line is something of a magnet for attention. Everything from Erik Karlsson joining the team to the state of Brent Burns' beard seems to be worthy of its own storyline.

With training camp for the 2019-20 season officially getting underway on Friday, the big talk is how healthy San Jose's defense will be by opening night -- mainly when it comes to Karlsson and Radim Simek, both of whom sustained major injuries last season that took them out of the Sharks' lineup.

While camp is only a day old, things are looking good for Team Teal's d-corps

Karlsson appeared to be moving well in the first day of camp as he was paired back up with last-season d-partner Brenden Dillon. It was surely a happy sight for the Sharks after Karlsson missed significant playtime last season, being sidelined with a groin injury and then having surgery early in the offseason

Sharks' bench boss Peter DeBoer went so far as to say Karlsson is in better shape at the start of camp than he'd anticipated.

"He looks way ahead of where I expected him to be," DeBoer admitted after the first day of camp concluded. "I wasn't sure what to expect. But he looks great and feels great, so that's a real positive sign. I think if you'd asked me a month ago if he'd look like he did right now and he was participating full-out, I'd probably be a little reluctant to say yes. But that wasn't even a question. I thought he looked great out there."

Karlsson said he isn't sure yet how many preseason games he'll appear in, admitting he's played a different number of tune-up contests in just about every camp he has participated in.

"We'll see how it feels," Karlsson said. "For me, it's about getting my own personal game ready and I think I'll be able to accomplish that whether I play five games or if I play one."

As for Simek, he missed even more time last season than Karlsson did, having his impressive rookie campaign cut short when he sustained a knee injury on March 12 against the Winnipeg Jets, and had subsequent surgery to repair his right ACL and MCL.

Simek didn't skate with the rest of the team on Friday as he continues to rehab and build up strength in his knee. However, fellow countryman Tomas Hertl told the media he spoke with Simek a bit over the summer and that he's working hard to get back to playtime.

"He's working his ass off," Hertl said. "He's working on it and hopefully he can come back skating with the guys. But you can't rush this. You have to make sure everything gets strong, because if you come (back) early you can get hurt again."

Simek made a fast impression last season when he successfully paired with Burns and visibly beefed up San Jose's defensive effort. Hertl admitted SImek's play was missed by the team down the stretch.

"We for sure missed him last year, I think, in the playoffs," Hertl said. "It will be nice getting him back for the season."

Having their blue line at full strength will be huge for Team Teal heading into the new season. While the team ranked second in the league in goals scored last season, they also had stretches when they struggled with defensive breakdowns and other mishaps in their own zone. 

Fine-tuning their defensive side of the game is one area the Sharks are looking to clean up, DeBoer discussed.

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"The foundation of our game since I got here has always been about defending well," the coach said. "We did score last year, we did give up too much in that area. And I thought we started to find a little bit of a happy medium down the stretch and through the playoffs. But, you know, for us to always starts with defending hard and getting the puck back so that we can create on offense."

Having a healthy blue line can certainly help that effort.

Sharks have Martin Jones to thank for keeping winning streak alive

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USATSI

Sharks have Martin Jones to thank for keeping winning streak alive

SAN JOSE -- The SAP Center crowd was on the edge of its seats during overtime play as Brent Burns went to the box for tripping and the Sharks went on the penalty kill. 

But goaltender Martin Jones was there to keep the game moving right along, making stop after stop against the Red Wings and giving San Jose the boost it needed to get to the shootout and tally its sixth straight victory.

On a night when the Sharks weren't at their best, Jones was -- as head coach Peter DeBoer aptly put it -- San Jose's "best player." And this certainly wasn't the first time this month that he came up with some big saves at a very big moment.

Without Jones playing at the level he has been over the last few contests, the Sharks might not finally be climbing out of their early-season hole.

"When he can steal games like that, it's huge for us," Kevin Labanc said. "He had an unbelievable game today and that's why he's the goalie that he is. We have a lot of faith in him and he's winning us games right now."

Jones' work on the penalty kill was just one highlight of his performance from Saturday night. He was steady as Detroit's offense picked up steam and used its speed to wedge into San Jose's zone. Jones was quick to save some of the Red Wings' best shots, most notably a Brandon Perlini attempt that he batted out of the crease with his outstretched right leg. He then topped it off by completely stymying Detroit's top scorers in the shootout.

"A big reason we got the two points was him tonight," captain Logan Couture said of Jones. "He made massive saves. You think of that penalty kill, that save in the second there which was huge, big saves in the third that he made. He's playing great. And then the shootout -- he's been unbelievable in the shootout so far."

Considering the rough start Jones had this season, one wonders if he has been doing something different recently in his preparation for games. But when asked postgame why he's been more successful lately, the netminder -- who is typically a pretty cool customer -- couldn't pinpoint where his current confidence is coming from.

"I have to play the game," Jones said. "I can't rely on making a big save early, sometimes that's just the way the game unfolds. I get confidence from practicing hard and making sure I'm focused on the details."

Granted, Jones' numbers on the season as a whole still aren't great. He's 8-7-1 through 16 starts and currently possesses an .889 save percentage. Even over the course fo San Jose's current six-game winning streak, he's sitting on an .891 save percentage. While the team in front of Jones obviously is scoring enough goals to win games and piggyback on his big saves, it still needs to give him a little more help.

"I still think we can be tighter and better defensively," Couture critiqued. "Too many grade-As in our slot and breakaways. So we'll tighten up on that."

[RELATED: What we learned as Sharks beat Red Wings in shootout]

But the Sharks aren't going to scoff at another win, especially if it comes at the hands of a big performance from their goalie.

"When you're putting together a winning streak, you're going to have to win all kinds of different ways," DeBoer said. "You're going to put some really solid games together, and then you're going to win some like this where you've got a couple of guys with big performances."

In this case, Jones' performance is what kept the winning streak alive.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 4-3 shootout win over Red Wings

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AP

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 4-3 shootout win over Red Wings

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- Another night, another Sharks’ win.

San Jose certainly didn’t make things easy on itself against the Red Wings at SAP Center on Saturday night, and although the Sharks jumped out to an early lead, Detroit bounced back from two deficits and forced the contest into overtime. Kevin Labanc, though, played the hero with the lone marker in the shootout to clinch a 4-3 victory and extend Team Teal's winning streak to six games.

Here are three takeaways from Saturday's exciting win:

Jones comes up big

Martin Jones deserves credit for his solid play throughout the month of November, and San Jose's goaltender had another good start against Detroit. The Red Wings picked up speed over the course of the game and outshot the Sharks, but Jones was a steady presence throughout. Taro Hirose's second-period goal that tied the game 2-2 wasn't his fault and, frankly, he didn’t get much help from the defense when Andreas Athanasiou tied it up 3-3 late in the third period either.

One of Jones' best saves of the night actually came just before that Hirose goal when he made a huge kick save on Brandon Perlini that narrowly missed dribbling into the net. Although, to be fair, his blocker saves when San Jose went on the penalty kill in overtime were equally impressive.

If Jones continues making big saves like that on a nightly basis, the Sharks' fortunes will continue to turn for the better. 

Still in search of that four-line game 

The Sharks have been an improved even-strength team since the start of the month, but against the Red Wings, the forward attack didn't look as deep as it has on other nights. Labanc and Logan Couture did their fair share of the heavy lifting on the top line, as evidenced by Labanc's first-period goal and Couture's three assists on the evening. 

But other than that, San Jose's lines didn't generate much against a Red Wings team that doesn't have much forward depth itself. With two big divisional games coming up next week against the Oilers and the Golden Knights, the Sharks need more players to start producing on a regular basis. There's no way around it.

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On a positive note ...

Keep the big hits coming 

One of San Jose's top concerns heading into Saturday's game was being able to contain Detroit's speed. When the Wings did manage to break into the Sharks' defensive zone, San Jose did a good job of imposing its physicality and breaking up plays. Through the first two periods, the Sharks out-hit the Red Wings 10-5.

While San Jose still needs to work on taking more of the center of the ice away from the opposition, that's the kind of heavy game the Sharks must play regardless of how fast or physical the opponent is. If they can build off that performance, the wins will keep on coming.