Sharks

Why Peter DeBoer, Sharks have open mind to skating just 11 forwards

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AP

Why Peter DeBoer, Sharks have open mind to skating just 11 forwards

SAN JOSE -- After nearly two months of not being able to ice a consistent fourth-line combination, Sharks coach Peter DeBoer did away with the concept altogether in Thursday's win over the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Sharks dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen Thursday, and the decision worked so well that DeBoer said he might do the same thing again Saturday night against the New York Islanders. 

The question now, of course, is how long that formula can last.

"Until we get a fourth line that we feel good about, that can go over the boards and can tilt the ice and win some battles and create some momentum for us, we'll continue to look at that," DeBoer said Saturday morning.

DeBoer scratched fourth-liner Lukas Radil on Thursday, rotating Evander Kane on and off the fourth line with Dylan Gambrell and Melker Karlsson. Additionally, defenseman Tim Heed -- who upped his game when he returned to the lineup while Mario Ferraro was injured -- skated 10:36 as the Sharks' seventh defenseman. DeBoer admitted he was happy with the results.

"It's the most comfortable I've been, especially on the road against a good team, being able to put four lines out on the ice and not have to worry as much," he confessed.

Of course, this plan has its drawbacks. Karlsson and defenseman Radim Simek left Thursday with unspecified injuries, leaving the Sharks even thinner. 

"It's not perfect," DeBoer admitted. "As you can see, you get an injury or a penalty or things like that, you're all of a sudden pretty short up front and guys are overplaying."

This isn't the first time this season that the Sharks' coaching staff has been hyper-aware of overplaying their top skaters. It wasn't that long ago that Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson were logging around 25 minutes per game while Simek recovered from knee surgery. At the time, DeBoer admitted that he didn't want to have to play anyone on the team that much early in the season and have them burn out.

The same goes for the current formula. Rolling out 11 forwards helped the Sharks beat Vegas on Thursday, but it can tire players out if used too long. That's especially true with the busy schedule the Sharks have to close out the month of November.

"I don't think it's tricky one night or two nights, but we're going into a stretch of five games in seven nights," DeBoer said. "The extra ice [time] -- guys like it but there's no doubt it catches up to you. There aren't many 22-to-23-minute forwards in this league that can play a heavy, hard game and the right way and do those types of things. But if that gives us a better chance to win, that's what we're going to do."

[RELATED: Thornton discusses importance of fitness in HEADSTRONG]

DeBoer didn't confirm whether the Sharks would use the same lineup formula on Saturday against the red-hot Isles, especially since a couple of injured players were labeled game-time decisions. But, he left the door open to the possibility.

Until the Sharks finally have a fourth-line combination that works, it's probably their best option. Although it's also not a completely sustainable one, as DeBoer said. 

Sharks continue to suffer from lack of scoring, abundance of penalties

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USATSI

Sharks continue to suffer from lack of scoring, abundance of penalties

Evander Kane called it "interesting." Head coach Peter DeBoer called it "messy." No matter what word you choose, everyone can agree that the Sharks' 3-1 loss to the Predators on Tuesday got downright ugly.

San Jose had what was probably its best defensive game of the month in Nashville, being stingy and not giving the opposing Preds a lot of room to work. But with a scoreless tie after two periods, tempers began to fly, and what followed was a tsunami of penalties that ultimately determined the Sharks' fate.

The Sharks felt like they were in this one. But a plethora of penalties late in the second period and early in the third changed that. A whopping 39 penalty minutes later, San Jose had dropped the fourth and final game of its road trip. 

"We're still taking too many penalties," DeBoer told reporters after the loss. "I thought we pressed really hard in the second, didn't give them anything. I thought we deserved to be up going into the third and we didn't get rewarded for the work in the second. And they're at home, I thought they pushed hard. Pushed us back early in the third, got us on our heels a little bit. Really, when you get into a game like that, whoever scores first is probably going to win."

San Jose actually went on the penalty kill just 47 seconds into the game when Barclay Goodrow went to the box for slashing. But the real wave of penalties came late in the second period after Goodrow and Calle Jarnkrok received matching minors. Tempers were unhinged from that point on -- heck even the officials were fired up, as the microphone caught one using explicit language while reprimanding Nashville's Roman Josi. 

[RELATED: Sharks' Simek to miss two weeks for minor knee procedure]

The biggest tussle, however, took place in the final seconds of the second period when Dan Hamhuis cross-checked Kane and then Auston Watson jumped in as the third man in. Though Kane was defending himself, the officials tagged him with 19 penalty minutes, essentially taking him out of the remainder of the contest. 

"I don't understand the 19 minutes and how that was made up," Kane remarked when asked about the scuffle. "There was a lot of that all night going back and forth."

"Tough for him to sit for that long," DeBoer said in Kane's defense. "Hamhuis started the whole thing and then Watson comes in and grabs him and we end up with the short end of it. But it's a messy situation, I'm not going to second guess the call."

Regardless of how many penalties the Sharks racked up, they still needed to find a way to score more goals. They only found the back of the net once Tuesday, and only scored once in each of their previous two games. Despite doing some good work in the offensive zone, San Jose isn't going to reap the rewards without scoring goals to make up for its mistakes.

"You've got to find a way to win and we've got to find a way to score," DeBoer summarized. "I think that's the story of the trip."

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in contentious 3-1 loss to Predators

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USATSI

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in contentious 3-1 loss to Predators

BOX SCORE

It wasn't full of offensive firepower, but what Tuesday's game between the Sharks and Predators lacked in goals, it made up for with flying fists.

Unfortunately, despite the fiery matchup and an entertaining “hot mic” moment, San Jose still couldn’t find a way to turn its fortunes around. The Sharks concluded their battle at Bridgestone Arena with a 3-1 loss, ending their road trip without a single win.

Here are three takeaways from Tuesday's game:

A plethora of penalties

With the game scoreless through the first two periods, the two sides became visibly agitated with one another. But rather than take out their frustrations out on the scoreboard, they took it out on each other. By the end of second stanza, the Sharks led the charge with 31 penalty minutes to Nashville’s 29.

While the Preds were the ones with multiple players simultaneously in the sin bin, it was Sharks winger Evander Kane who racked up a staggering 19 penalty minutes resulting from a tussle with Nashville's Auston Watson. Being without the power forward for almost the entire third period visibly took its toll on San Jose, which continued its dance in and out of the box into the third frame.

The PK was overworked 

San Jose's league-leading penalty kill wasn't its normal self last weekend, but it looked strong and sturdy Tuesday night in Nashville. It was a good thing, too, considering how many times the Sharks found themselves shorthanded, particularly early on.

Unfortunately, the abundance of penalties eventually wore San Jose’s PK down and Nashville was able to find the back of the net on a power play with less than 10 minutes left to play. It's been said before, but clearly it needs to be said again: The Sharks need to clean their game up and give the penalty kill a break so they don’t burn out.

[RELATED: Sharks' Simek to miss two weeks for minor knee procedure]

A better goalie matchup 

One of San Jose's biggest problems over the course of the road trip was that Martin Jones was outplayed by the netminder on the other end of the ice. That was not the case Tuesday night in Nashville, as Jones and Juuse Saros traded off making big saves up until Nick Bonino put the Predators up 1-0 in the third frame.

Jones had a particularly nice sprawling save on a four-minute penalty kill in the first period, which could have put the Sharks in a 1-0 hole pretty quickly. Perhaps the standard is too low for a team of San Jose's talent level, but after the rough weekend the Sharks had, they deserve credit for getting out of the first period with a scoreless tie. Avoiding an early deficit clearly gave San Jose a boost of energy, which persisted throughout the game. Well, at least until all of the fights started.