Sharks

Tennyson securing his spot on Sharks blue line

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Tennyson securing his spot on Sharks blue line

NEWARK -– Headed into training camp, the most glaring roster vacancy for opening night was on the right side of third pair defenseman Brenden Dillon. The top four was set, and Dillon certainly wasn’t going anywhere after his offseason contract extension, but after that it was an open race.

Matt Tennyson was thought to have an inside edge on the spot, as he’s on a one-way NHL contract earning him $625,000 this season. Still, there was nothing given to the 25-year-old, who was facing competition from Mirco Mueller and Dylan DeMelo.

In the end, coach Pete DeBoer tabbed Tennyson as the guy. So far it’s worked out swimmingly, as the Sharks have allowed just one goal-against in three games. Although Tennyson is still looking for his first point while averaging 13:08 of ice time, he’s looked more comfortable than at any time in his professional career at the NHL level, which included 31 games spread out over three years.

[KURZ: Sharks goalie Stalock to make season debut shortly]

On Tuesday against the Capitals, he beautifully threaded the needle between two Capitals to spring Patrick Marleau alone on the goalie on a play that Marleau couldn’t quite convert midway through the first period.

“He’s played well,” DeBoer said. “He’s got a little bit of offense to him, he gets pucks to the net, he skates well, he’s a big strong guy. A lot of good stuff.”

Tennyson said: “Just trying to be consistent. That’s the biggest thing for me is keep it simple, keep it going forward to the forwards and play offense.”

It would seem that Tennyson has been a beneficiary of the Sharks’ coaching change, as former coach Todd McLellan never seemed to warm to the six-foot-two, 205-pounder. Under DeBoer, the Sharks’ defense corps is encouraged to get involved in the offensive zone much more than last year.

That suits Tennyson’s style.

“It really promotes us to pinch, create offense, and keep the offense alive,” Tennyson explained. “We’re a part of the forecheck just as much as the forwards. We have to get up and get on that forward if it’s a rim. I think having us be more a part of that offense for me, especially, is definitely more fun.”

It’s an important year for Tennyson, who is a pending restricted free agent. Considering his age and his previous struggles to become a full-time NHL player, there was reason to believe younger prospects aiming for his spot might push him out. Among them were DeMelo, three years younger at age 22, and Mueller, 19, who spent all of last season with the NHL club and was a late cut in this year’s camp.

For the time being, it doesn’t look like Tennyson will have to worry about going up and down between the NHL and AHL clubs anymore.

[KURZ: Couture injured at Sharks practice]

“No matter what I’m going to try and play my best. I don’t think necessarily having a one-way is going to change the way I approach anything, but it’s definitely a big [year] to solidify my spot here, and not have to do the up-and-down and worry about that stuff.”

DeBoer isn’t likely to make any roster changes unless they are necessary, as the Sharks have been arguably the best NHL team through the first week of the regular season.

Tennyson has been a part of it.

“When you get in that spot, it’s up to the guy that gets the job to get in and make sure he keeps it,” DeBoer said. “So far, he’s done that.”

Sharks Tomas Hertl assisting rookie duo both on and off the ice

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USATSI

Sharks Tomas Hertl assisting rookie duo both on and off the ice

SAN JOSE – Being new to a team and not speaking the native tongue would understandably be a challenge for Sharks’ newcomers Lukas Radil and Radim Simek.

Lucky for the Czech rookies, they have Tomas Hertl to help them get acclimated.

“I try to help them out as much as I can,” Hertl told NBC Sports California ahead of the Sharks Thursday night rumble with the Dallas Stars. “For (Simek) I’ll try to translate, so I’ll help him on the ice and off the ice. Anything he needs.”

[RELATED: Sharks vs. Stars lineup]

No. 48 knows what it’s like to be the new guy on the team and not speak a ton of English, as was the case his own rookie season. Now, in his sixth campaign with Team Teal, he’s offering to make other rookies' adjustments easier. “I was there too, so I know how they’re feeling right now,” he said sympathetically.

Hertl said he tries to have a pre-game talk with Simek, who the Sharks signed to a one-year contract back in spring of 2017. As it turns out, Hertl was there right from the beginning helping the defenseman get settled ahead of him playing for the AHL Barracuda.

“Even last year before he [started playing with the team], he was staying over at my house,” Hertl said. “I got his phone number and the whole thing.”

With the heavy road schedule the Sharks have had so far this season, Simek and Radil have spent more time getting acclimated away from the cozy confines of the South Bay. Hertl said he gives the rookie duo recommendations on where to eat and how the team functions. They’re both getting the hang of things without needing a ton of assistance, Hertl acknowledged, “but anytime they ask, I try to help them.”

That help looks to be helping out on the ice as well. Both skaters look to have successfully brought an extra dose of physicality to San Jose’s game and have registered their first NHL goals since being penciled into the starting lineup in the process. They’re also creating chemistry with their respective linemates – Radil on the Sharks’ fourth line with Barclay Goodrow and Melker Karlsson, and Simek paired up on defense with two-time Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns. Hertl said both skaters a “nice guys” and that he thinks they’re starting to fit in well with the collective group.

Although they’re both rookies, 28-year-old Radil and 26-year-old Simek are older than Hertl. When asked if he felt like a veteran despite his age, Hertl chuckled. “They’re both older than me, but I’ve played here for longer,” he said with a grin. “So, I know a little bit more how it works.”

Surely whatever aid Hertl offers helps Radil and Simek get on the same page as the rest of the team as the Sharks try to notch a couple more victories before Christmas. There are six games to be played before the holiday break, starting with a tough Thursday night rumble with the Dallas Stars.

“We have to play our game for 60 minutes,” Hertl concluded. “We need everybody (playing) tonight, like every game before [the Christmas break]. We need these two points right now.”

Sharks vs. Stars watch guide: Projected lines, defensive pairs

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USATSI

Sharks vs. Stars watch guide: Projected lines, defensive pairs

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks host the Dallas Stars for the third and final time this season, and the message is clear: They need to play a complete game if they want to get the win.

“Just a complete 60 minutes,” coach Peter DeBoer said Thursday morning. “When I look at the two (previous) games, I thought we played really well for large portions of both games but didn’t do it for long enough.”

Added DeBoer about the Stars: “They’re a quick-strike team. They’ve got some real high-end guys there who can make you pay quickly if you make some mistakes or take your foot off the gas. I think that was the story of those two games.”

Dallas won the first two contests of the series, each time by one goal. Team Teal jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in their most recent match on Dec. 7, but the Stars tied things up in the second stanza and added two quick goals in the third to give themselves the edge.

Another big key for Thursday’s game will be to put Dallas on its heels instead.

“If we play our detailed game and frustrate them a little bit, they’ll take a couple penalties,” Tomas Hertl said. “(We need to) just play all 60 minutes. And be ready for them, because they have a lot of skill on offense.”

On the practice front, Joe Thornton missed a second morning skate in a row for undisclosed reasons. DeBoer said No. 19 was feeling better Thursday, but that his status would be a game-time decision.

Sharks projected lines and pairs

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

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Radim Simek – Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon – Erik Karlsson

Martin Jones – projected starter
Aaron Dell

Stars projected lines and pairs

Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Alexander Radulov
Valeri Nichushkin – Radek Faksa – Tyler Pitlick
Devin Shore – Jason Spezza – Brett Ritchie
Mattias Janmark – Jason Dickinson – Blake Comeau

Miro Heiskanen – Roman Polak
Esa Lindell – Julius Honka
Joel Hanley – Taylor Fedun

Anton Khudobin – projected starter
Ben Bishop