Sharks

Three takeaways: Fourth line leads the way for Sharks in Arizona

Three takeaways: Fourth line leads the way for Sharks in Arizona

For the first time in five tries this season the Sharks managed to secure a regulation win over the last place Coyotes, 4-1 at Gila River Arena on Saturday. They keep their four-point lead over Edmonton, and are assured of going into the bye week in sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division.

Here are our three takeaways from the win…

1 – Burns turns the tide…again

For the second time in a week, Brent Burns changed the momentum of a game with his deadly wrist shot. The Sharks were on their heels early – Arizona had a 16-9 shot advantage in the first period, perhaps jolted be a pregame ceremony – but Burns’ shot through traffic staked the Sharks a 1-0 lead and they were on their way.

“We kind of weathered their storm early,” Joe Pavelski told reporters. “There was a lot of energy in the building.”

It was similar to a game in New Jersey last Sunday, when Burns had a pair of second period goals, erasing a 1-0 deficit and putting his team on the track to victory.

According to Elias, Burns – who added a third period power play goal, too – is the first defenseman to score 18 goals on the road since Paul Coffey’s 22 in 1983-84. His 26 goals equal his total from last season, tying his franchise record.

“He’s having an MVP season,” Pete DeBoer told reporters. “He’s been that good for us all year and it’s every night. I don’t know what else to say. In my mind right now he’s the best player in the league, and we’re happy to have him on our team.”

Burns remains in third in the league in scoring with 63 points, four points behind Edmonton’s Connor McDavid.

2 – Dell gets the job done…again

Getting his second start in a week, Aaron Dell made a new season high (and, thus, career high) with 36 saves. His best stop was early in the second period on Radim Vrbata, when he managed to snag a pin-balling puck from crossing the line, keeping the Sharks ahead 2-0. Had that one trickled over, the Coyotes might have been able to seize the momentum.

“I think I had it the whole time,” Dell told reporters. “I kind of saw it for a second and then when I turned back I was able to find it and scoop it underneath me.”

DeBoer said: “He’s been good every time we’ve put him in there.”

Dell, whose goals-against average is down to 1.95, outplayed Sharks nemesis Mike Smith, who had stopped 121 of 127 San Jose shots in three games this season.

“We got to Smitty in the first period, which was great,” Pavelski said. “We kind of know what he’s done to us the past few games, stopping a lot of pucks. … That was a big key for us.”

3 – Fourth line magic

Through two periods, the Sharks’ top two lines had generated a total of three shots on goal – one each from Joe Thornton, Kevin Labanc and Patrick Marleau.

Fortunately for the big guys, the fourth line was there to pick up the slack. Melker Karlsson posted three points (1g, 2a), Micheal Haley had one goal and one assist, and the fourth line generated all three of San Jose’s goals through 40 minutes.

One goal from the fourth line is a bonus. Three is virtually unheard of. 

“They showed up and played the right way,” DeBoer said. “Right from the drop of the puck they put pucks behind the other teams defense, they had good support, they created a lot of chances, and got rewarded for it. I think Dell and them were the difference in the game early through the first half, until we got going a little bit.”

Joonas Donskoi lends helping hand to Sharks rookie Antti Suomela

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USATSI

Joonas Donskoi lends helping hand to Sharks rookie Antti Suomela

SAN JOSE -- When Sharks winger Joonas Donskoi first tried to make the team in 2015, he didn’t know it would be so hard to get a cell phone. 

“I was trying to get a phone plan, and they said I had no history in the [United States], so I had to pay a deposit for pretty much anything I do,” Donskoi recalled Tuesday at the Sharks practice facility. 

To that point, the forward had only played professionally in his home country of Finland. But after spending parts of six years playing for Karpat in SM-liiga, Donskoi signed with San Jose in May 2015, with the hopes of cracking the NHL. He made the team out of camp, and hasn’t spent a minute in the minors, despite initially struggling learning a new language and acclimating to a new country.

Still, Donskoi said, having a familiar face would’ve helped. 

“Oh for sure. I had my biggest problems maybe off the ice, and my language was not that perfect,” Donskoi said. “A lot of things were new for me, and it was really hard at the beginning.” 

Now, Donskoi has an opportunity to pass on what he learned. Fellow Finnish forward Antti Suomela is trying to make the same transition Donskoi made three years ago, and make the Sharks’ opening night roster in his first NHL training camp. 

Suomela, a center, signed a one-year, entry-level deal with San Jose on June 6. He led SM-liiga in scoring last season with 60 points (21 goals, 39 assists), and won a European Champions Hockey League title with JYP. 

The 24-year-old likely would have competed for the team’s fourth-line center spot, but center Chris Tierney’s inclusion in the Erik Karlsson trade created an opening down the middle of the team’s third line as well. That’s where Suomela has spent much of camp, skating with Kevin Labanc on one wing, and Donskoi on the other in most practices, as well as two preseason games. 

Donskoi didn’t meet Suomela before he signed with San Jose, but spoke with him when he was thinking about joining the Sharks. Since Suomela’s been in camp, Donskoi’s tried to help his adjustment on the ice and off of it. The rookie is still learning the language, but Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said Donskoi’s helped bridge any gaps.

“It’s nice that Joonas is there to kind of interpret for him when he doesn’t understand what’s going on,” DeBoer said, “but to also help him on the ice. I think when you have a familiar guy that plays the same way you do, it makes the transition easier.” 

Suomela’s played in all three of San Jose’s preseason games, but did not travel with the team Tuesday for their game in Calgary against the Flames. He scored three points in his second game, but did not have a shot on goal in his third on Saturday. 

The rookie found nice chemistry with Labanc and Donskoi in the first two games, as the Sharks attempted two-thirds of the five-on-five shots -- and nearly 78 percent of the scoring chances -- with the trio on the ice, according to Natural Stat Trick. Without Labanc and Donskoi on Saturday, San Jose was out-attempted 9-6 and out-chanced 3-1. 

“I think he’s done a good job,” DeBoer said. “I thought his first game, he was feeling things out. I thought the second game was fantastic. I thought the third game was okay. He’ll get another game here, and it’s gonna be an important one.”

Thursday figures to be the closest approximation to the Sharks’ opening night lineup. DeBoer said the plan is for Karlsson to play against the Flames that night at SAP Center for his first  game of the preseason, barring some last-minute looks at other players competing for spots. Where Suomela is penciled in, and his performance thereafter, should provide insight into his bid to stay in the NHL after camp. 

In the meantime, Donskoi will continue to help his countryman acclimate to life in San Jose. So far, he's made sure to keep his linemate in his sights outside of practice, too.

“I’ve just been going with him everywhere he goes,” Donskoi said with a laugh. “His English is probably not the best yet, so I’m just trying to help him as much as I can.” 

Everywhere, one imagines, will surely include a trip to buy a cell phone.

Erik Karlsson unveils Sharks' black third jersey with an on-ice skate

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San Jose Sharks

Erik Karlsson unveils Sharks' black third jersey with an on-ice skate

Erik Karlsson did not play for the Sharks in Saturday's preseason game against the Vegas Golden Knights, but he still managed to suit up. 

Karlsson took the ice in front of the fans at SAP Center as a Shark for the first time, all while wearing San Jose's newest uniform. He officially unveiled a black alternate jersey that the Sharks will wear in 13 home games this season. 

Teal is the only prominent accent color aside from some orange in the shark's eye. It looks like Martin Jones' new mask design offered a bit of a thematic preview of the Sharks' new look.  

The "Stealth" jersey also features a black-and-teal version of San Jose's original secondary logo, a cool nod to the franchise's history. Sharks co-president John Tortora told NBC Sports California's Brodie Brazil in February that the logo would "start showing back up again."

In all, it's the third black jersey in the club's history, and the team's first alternate uniform since Adidas took over as the NHL's jersey manufacturer last season. 

The Sharks will wear the jersey in every Thursday night and Friday night home game -- as well as one Saturday. The full schedule for the uniform is as follows:

  • Thursday, Oct. 18 vs. Buffalo
  • Thursday, Nov. 1 vs. Columbus
  • Saturday, Nov. 3 vs. Philadelphia
  • Thursday, Nov. 15 vs. Toronto
  • Friday, Nov. 23 vs. Vancouver
  • Thursday, Dec. 13 vs. Dallas
  • Thursday, Dec. 20 vs. Winnipeg
  • Thursday, Dec. 27 vs. Anaheim
  • Thursday, Feb. 14 vs. Washington
  • Friday, March 1 vs. Colorado
  • Thursday, March 7 vs. Montreal
  • Thursday, March 14 vs. Florida
  • Thursday, March 28 vs. Chicago