Sharks

What rookie Antti Suomela's AHL stint means for Sharks' forwards

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USATSI

What rookie Antti Suomela's AHL stint means for Sharks' forwards

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks didn’t hold a practice Tuesday. But there still was news out of the South Bay, as Finnish rookie center Antti Suomela was reassigned to the AHL Barracuda for the first time this season.

The 24-year-old tallied eight points (three goals, five assists) in 27 NHL games since making the Sharks' roster out of training camp. It's unclear as of right now how much time Suomela -- who spent time centering the third and fourth lines -- will spend in the AHL. But the reassignment will, no doubt, give the Finn an opportunity to log game time.

Sharks fans likely noticed the absence of that No. 40 sweater recently, since Suomela was scratched two games in a row after Czech winger Lukas Radil was recalled from the AHL club.

Radil, who brings three years of KHL experience to his NHL campaign, scored his first NHL goal Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes. He also set up defenseman Radim Simek’s first NHL goal Monday against the New Jersey Devils.

Given Radil’s current success playing with Barclay Goodrow and Melker Karlsson on the Sharks' fourth line, it wouldn’t make sense to take the line apart. So, instead of having Suomela practice with the Sharks and then having him post up in the press box on game night, it makes more sense for him to get some games in with the Barracuda. That way, he can stay fresh and get a bit of a boost from playing with the AHL club.

Suomela impressed in his first couple of NHL games as the third-line center, finding success with Evander Kane and fellow countryman Joonas Donskoi on his wings. He scored his last goal on Nov. 13 against the Nashville Predators -- one day after being a healthy scratch, no less -- and tallied his last assist four days later against the St. Louis Blues. He had not scored a point in his last seven games prior to his reassignment.

As with the length of Suomela’s reassignment, it’s also not entirely known how the Sharks’ fourth line will shake out. While Radil has found success through a couple of games playing with Goodrow and Karlsson, it’s also possible San Jose could recall another one of its rookie centers to play on that line. Forward Francis Perron, whom San Jose acquired in the Erik Karlsson trade, currently leads the Barracuda with 22 points, and he hasn't seen any NHL time yet.

There also has been speculation the Sharks could be in search of a fourth-liner ahead of the NHL trade deadline. While Joe Thornton’s move to third-line pivot has helped spread San Jose’s depth throughout the lineup, having another weapon in the bottom six would behoove the Sharks if they want to make a deep playoff run. If that’s the case, we likely won’t see members of this season’s rookie contingent recalled unless there’s an injury to one of the Sharks’ staple forwards.

In the meantime, Suomela will join the Barracuda as they travel to Southern California this upcoming weekend for games against the San Diego Gulls and the Ontario Reign. The Cuda currently leads the Pacific Division of the American Hockey League with 33 points, and a 15-3-1-2 record so far on their 2018-19 campaign.

Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau react to ex-teammates on Sharks' staff

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AP

Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau react to ex-teammates on Sharks' staff

SAN JOSE -- No, the days of the player-coach hybrid aren't making a comeback. Although, if you're Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau, it might feel that way.

With the introduction of Bob Boughner as San Jose's interim head coach, the organization brought in staff that includes former Sharks Mike Ricci and Evgeni Nabokov -- two players who were on the roster back when the now 40-year-olds hadn't reached their veteran status yet.

"It will be interesting to see them on the bench," Marleau said. "But they're very professional and they'll do a great job."

Marleau played with both Ricci and Nabokov in the early 2000s, while Thornton only logged time with Nabokov after coming to San Jose from the Boston Bruins in 2005. While it has been some time since either newly-appointed assistant coach has rocked a teal sweater, Ricci and Nabokov have stayed with the organization in different capacities over the last few years. Having that closeness and a high level of familiarity is something that can benefit the team as they go through a midseason coaching change.

"I know what they've been through and I know a lot about them, so it's easy to communicate with them," Marleau said.

Thornton agreed with his teammate's assessment.

"They've been here for a long time now," Thornton said. "To have them on the bench now is going to be fun."

Both Ricci and Nabokov have spent the last several seasons working on the development side of the Sharks' organization and have worked closely with players on the AHL Barracuda -- a team that has been coached by Roy Sommer up until he, too, was recently named assistant coach under Boughner. In his introductory press conference on Thursday, Boughner outlined how he believes his new coaching staff might function.

"We met last night as a staff and this morning and we still need to work through some things," Boughner admitted. "But Mike Ricci and Roy are going to be on the bench with me. Roy's going to move to the defensive side and run some power play. Ricci was a great penalty killer his whole career and I think we're going to be able to enjoy some of his expertise. I'll be running the forwards and obviously Nabby will (oversee) the goalies. There are still some job responsibilities we'll have to sort out in the next few days. But for now, I think those guys are excited. It was a big day for them as well."

[RELATED: How DeBoer's firing shocked Sharks players]

As far as reuniting Ricci and Nabokov with their former teammates, Boughner thinks working closely with Thornton and Marleau will benefit the entire roster as the Sharks try to, yet again, turn their season around after a tough stretch of losses.

"I think you can see, even in the morning, there's that report there," Boughner said of watching the reunion during morning skate. "There's deep respect. There's a lot of familiarity with those guys and I think that's going to help. Ricci and Roy have seen these young guys all the way up. I think there's great chemistry that we're going to have there."

Sharks fail to correct bad habits in first game after coaching change

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USATSI

Sharks fail to correct bad habits in first game after coaching change

SAN JOSE -- Thursday could have been a fresh start for the Sharks. As shocking and emotional as it was to go through a midseason coaching change, they were presented with the opportunity to turn things around.

Unfortunately, Thursday's game against the Rangers featured a lot of the same problems. Missed opportunities, loose late-game play and yet another notch in the loss column.

Sure, getting accustomed to a new coach's ways can take some time. But that doesn't give the Sharks a pass when it comes to playing a full 60-minute hockey game.

"It's tough, it's difficult, but there's no excuse," captain Logan Couture said after the 6-3 loss. "Lots of teams have [gone through a coaching change]. A lot of teams in this league have done it and they've gone on winning streaks. The team that did it last year won the Cup. So, we've got to find a way. Tonight wasn't good enough once again."

San Jose did, in fact, have a great chance to get back into the win column in Bob Boughner's first game behind the bench. Even with New York continuing to grind away, the Sharks were able to take a 3-2 lead at the 4:12 mark of the third period thanks to a big goal from Brenden Dillon.

But then the defense took its foot off of the gas and Martin Jones couldn't stop Mike Zibanejad or Artemi Panarin from pushing the Rangers over the hump. In a matter of minutes, the Sharks went from defending a lead to being in a hole they didn't have time to dig out of.

"When you have a lead in the third with 15 minutes left, you have to defend a little bit harder and not turn the puck over like we did," Couture continued. "Play harder in our own end, which we did not. Defend our slot harder tonight, and I don't think we did."

Dillon agreed. "Frustrating when you have a lead like that. Especially at home, we have to be able to close it out. If we give up the tying goal, and then a couple more, it's just frustrating."

Letting up late isn't the only thing that is plaguing the Sharks right now. San Jose has struggled to play a full 60-minute game for the bulk of the season thus far. Thursday's loss showed yet again that San Jose isn't playing full games on a nightly basis -- regardless of who is behind the bench.

"I think we did some good things tonight, but obviously it still wasn't a full 60," interim head coach Bob Boughner observed. "I think in the third period we ran out of gas there a little bit."

[RELATED: Boughner confident in staff, wants Sharks to play inspired]

Martin Jones, who surrendered three goals in the third period, agreed. "Have to play a full 60 minutes, you have to," he said, acknowledging that having an adjustment period with a new coaching staff isn't an excuse. "They had more jump in the third period than us. We've got to find a way in a tied hockey game to come out with a little bit more energy. I don't know how many shots or scoring chances we had in the third, but we need to apply more pressure in a close hockey game like that."

Whether it's applying more pressure or tightening up, the Sharks clearly still have a laundry list of things they need to clean up. Now with the dust settling in regards to the coaching change, San Jose has no other option but to dig deep and keep working.

"There's a lot of work to be done," Boughner reminded everyone. "We'll have a good practice day tomorrow. Sort some things out."