The Sharks are as baby-faced as it gets after the NHL trade deadline.
Brenden Dillon, Barclay Goodrow and Patrick Marleau no longer are walking through San Jose's locker-room door after being traded to the Eastern Conference. A cadre of rookies is, however, with six dressing against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night at SAP Center.
The youth movement is on with the Sharks entering Thursday's contest 14 points back of the Western Conference's final wild-card spot, and the onus is on San Jose's veterans to lead by example, according to winger Evander Kane.
"I think that's exactly what you gotta do," Kane told NBC Sports California's Bret Hedican before Thursday's game. "You've just gotta go in there and work hard, do what you do best and just kind of encourage them to play their game. They're all here for a reason, [so] go out there and prove it. Go out there and show it."
The Sharks want Kane to set the example. He was benched during the entirety of the third period of Saturday's loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, starting the next game on a line with depth forwards Alexander True (a rookie) and Stefan Noesen.
Kane didn't score Sunday or against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, but he did lead the Sharks with nine shots on goal during that time and played more than any other forward (20:43) in the loss to the Flyers. It was exactly what Sharks interim coach Bob Boughner wanted to see.
“I thought he was good,” Boughner told reporters in Uniondale, New York on Sunday of Kane's performance against the Islanders (via The Athletic). “He had a lot of puck possession, he played the right way. I’d say I was hoping that, but I knew that he’s a guy that has a lot of pride and wants to play hard for his team. I think that’s good that he came back with that kind of showing.”
Kane, 28, is in the second year of a seven-year contract extension he signed with the Sharks in 2018 when he passed on testing the market as an unrestricted free agent. Neither he nor San Jose would've envisioned that second season would end without a playoff appearance, but Kane and the Sharks are committed to each other for the long haul.
He and his fellow veterans will be counted on as teachers for the rest of the season, and the Sharks will need their young players to be quick studies in order to return to the playoffs next spring.