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.

Patrick Marleau thanks Sharks fans for warm welcome back to San Jose

Patrick Marleau thanks Sharks fans for warm welcome back to San Jose

Patrick Marleau is home. For the first time since returning to the Sharks, Marleau skated in front of the home fans at SAP Center on Sunday night. 

As you might guess, it was an emotional scene for both Marleau and the Sharks faithful. The 40-year-old couldn't help but let out a few tears when fans erupted at the sight of him on the jumbotron in the first period of a 3-1 win over the Flames

On Monday, Marleau took to Twitter through his wife Christina's account to thank Sharks fans for such a warm welcome back to The Tank.

[RELATED: Patrick Marleau left lasting mark on Maple Leafs]

The Sharks, who dropped their first four games this season, have now won two straight since signing Marleau to a one-year contract on Oct. 8. He already has three points -- two goals and an assist -- in the two victories.

Marleau spent the first 19 seasons of his 22-year NHL career with the Sharks before he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs prior to the 2017-18 season. He's San Jose's all-time leader in games played (1,495), goals (510) and points (1,085).

Dylan Gambrell's improved play aiding Sharks' quest for four-line game

Dylan Gambrell's improved play aiding Sharks' quest for four-line game

SAN JOSE - One of the biggest criticisms of the Sharks at this early point in the season has been that its younger players hadn't stepped up yet.

That changed on Sunday evening in San Jose's 3-1 win over the Calgary Flames. 

Sure, San Jose's young stars Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl, and Kevin Labanc all found the net in the victory. But when Hertl and captain Logan Couture addressed the media postgame, independent of each other, both pointed to newcomer Dylan Gambrell's emergence over the last few games as a key factor in the Sharks' recent success.

Gambrell's positive production as fourth-line center is giving San Jose more offensive depth. While the Sharks' forward attack is still a work in progress, the 23-year-old forward is evolving into the pivotal player the team needs.

"He's been given an opportunity and these last two games he's really shown what he's been capable of," Couture said. "When we have that line playing well and the other three rolling over, we're a tough team to beat."

Head coach Peter DeBoer agreed with the assessment of his captain.

"For him, that's all about competing," DeBoer said of Gambrell. "Sticking his nose in there and competing. His skill and speed will take over and he's starting to do that here regularly."

There was a spotlight on Gambrell heading into training camp after he signed a two-year contract following a season in which he bounced between the AHL and NHL. But the University of Denver product didn't readily establish his game when he was plugged into the top six through the preseason and, like the majority of the Sharks, struggled out of the gate in the first few games of the regular season. 

After penciling back onto the fourth line, Gambrell's game visibly changed. 

"I think he saw that he was close to being sent back. That's the reality of it," DeBoer admitted. "He wasn't as effective (in training camp) as he is now. And maybe that's on us. Maybe we asked him to do too much. We played him on the wing on the top two lines and maybe it was too much for him."

Back at the center position on that fourth line, however, the speedy forward has been on an upward trend. He's been more effective in the faceoff circle and more aggressive on the puck, which gives San Jose depth down the middle that they, frankly, have been missing since last season.

"He had a little tough start but now he's playing a really hard game and this is what we need," Hertl said. "Good on faceoffs, strong on the puck."

Continuing that higher level of compete can make the Sharks' quest to establish a four-line game a bit smoother. As San Jose has encountered through the first six games of the season, the Western Conference is stacked with teams that can get production out of any line they roll out onto the ice. While the Sharks' offense is still in the process of getting healthy -- Marcus Sorensen is still sidelined -- the team needs to get its four-line game in place if they're going to completing recover from their rough start to the season.

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"In this league, you need four lines," Hertl summarized. "It's not about just one line. Every night you need four lines plus your goalie."

If Gambrell can continue this upward trend, the Sharks have a better chance of achieving that goal.