Sharks

Watch Sharks' Evander Kane score goal in first game after suspension

Watch Sharks' Evander Kane score goal in first game after suspension

Evander Kane notched a pair of firsts in his return to the Sharks' lineup.

Kane scored his first goal of the season -- and San Jose's first power-play marker of 2019-20 -- in the second period Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.

The winger parked in front of Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne and tipped in Logan Couture's shot from the face-off circle to cut Nashville's lead to 2-1.

The Sharks’ offense and power play struggled without Kane, who was suspended for the first three games of the season for "abuse of officials" in San Jose's preseason finale. In his absence, the Sharks scored just three goals -- none on the power play -- and fell to 0-3-0 after lopsided losses to the Pacific Division rival Vegas Golden Knights and Anaheim Ducks.

[RELATED: Bringing back Marleau won't fix all of Sharks' problems]

Kane scored 30 goals for the second time in his NHL career, and was one of four Sharks to reach the milestone last season. San Jose already was without one such player after Joe Pavelski signed with the Dallas Stars in free agency, so Kane's return should boost the Sharks as they look to rebound from their worst start since 1993.

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.

[RELATED: Sharks fans give Marleau standing ovation]

"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.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in San Jose's 3-1 win over Flames

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in San Jose's 3-1 win over Flames

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- Good play doesn't always carry over from one game to another. But after finishing strong and getting their first win of the season Thursday night, the Sharks hoped to build on that performance three days later when the Calgary Flames came to town.

Team Teal did just that, jumping out to an early lead and never giving it up, as they extinguished the Flames 3-1, tallying their second straight win of the season.

Here are three takeaways from Sunday's game at SAP Center.

Captain clutch

When Logan Couture's teammates described him during the preseason as a captain who would "lead by example," they really weren't kidding. No. 39 was one of the best players on the ice Sunday night -- not because he scored big goals but because he set them up and let his speed set the tone for the rest of the team.

San Jose's offense got two big jolts in the first 40 minutes, and both times it was from a goal that Couture set up. The second was most impressive, as he snagged the puck from Calgary forward Mikael Backland on a Sharks penalty kill and maneuvered up the ice to set up Tomas Hertl for San Jose's first short-handed goal of the season.

Jones stood tall

When San Jose's defense got a little loosey-goosey in the second period, goalie Martin Jones kept the Sharks in the game. Not only did Jones keep the Flames off the board during the first seven minutes of the opening period, but he also stopped a few breakaway attempts that could've erased San Jose's lead.

Needless, to say, Jones had his best outing of the season by far. With San Jose's defense still ironing out some kinks and cleaning up its 60-minute game, it was exactly the kind of confident performance this team needed.

The power of playing with the lead

It's pretty incredible how much momentum a team can get just from taking an early lead. Once Timo Meier found the back of the net and gave the Sharks their first first-period lead of the season, they had all the momentum in their favor for the rest of the frame.

The Sharks just need to make sure they don't let their defense regularly take its foot off the gas, as it did during Sunday's game. They might have had the benefit of getting a good performance out of Jones and playing against a tired Flames team, but that kind of play won't cut it against tougher teams. 

[RELATED: Sharks fans give Marleau standing ovation]

Getting into turnover trouble could doom them this coming week when the Eastern Conference-leading Carolina Hurricanes come to town.