Why Sharks are unfazed by early season changes to line combinations


Why Sharks are unfazed by early season changes to line combinations

SAN JOSE – Needless to say, the Sharks’ line depth has been tested very early on in the season. With injuries and mid-game pushes to generate more offense, spectators have already seen a decent mix and match of the lineup despite the season only being a little over a month old. 

San Jose’s forward assault is going to be tested yet again if Tomas Hertl misses time after being hit in the head during last Saturday’s tilt. But according to the players, being shuffled around isn’t a problem. 

“Each forward on our team has changed lines so often throughout the season, this year and last year,” Logan Couture pointed out. “I think there’s a comfort level with most of the forwards, so I think that helps us.”

Having that comfort level can help San Jose in the long run, particularly when the combos get a makeover midway through a game. Sharks coach Peter DeBoer rearranged the forward lines a few times last game, notably most moving Joe Thornton to third line center and putting Joonas Donskoi on the top line with Joe Pavelski and Evander Kane. While this may be a new line combination on this season, Donskoi explained that playing with both skaters in the past sets them up to build chemistry at a quicker rate.

“We played together last year too,” Donskoi said. “I think last game, the shifts we had together we were starting to find that chemistry again.”

Although the team appears comfortable moving around, DeBoer likely doesn’t want to have to reshuffle the deck very much against Tuesday evening’s opponent. The Minnesota Wild are riding a two-game winning streak after going 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. Not to mention this is a team that can pressure their opponents into a corner and dictate the pace of the game.

“This is probably one of, if not the, best team we’ve played this year so far,” Couture said. “They have a lot of skill up front. Their d-men move the puck and move their feet. So, it’s a real challenge for us.”

Donskoi agreed there was a challenge ahead, but knows if the Sharks can play to Minnesota’s level – line shuffle or not – they’ll be in good shape.

“It’s a great challenge for us,” Donskoi said. “We really just need to roll four lines, all defense, and have a good game from our goalie to beat (these kinds of) teams. But it’s a great challenge.”

NHL awards: Sharks' Joe Thornton misses out on first Masterton Trophy


NHL awards: Sharks' Joe Thornton misses out on first Masterton Trophy

Before Joe Thornton makes his return to the Sharks official by putting pen to paper, the veteran center missed out an adding another trophy to his collection.

The 39-year-old did not pick up the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy at Wednesday's 2019 NHL Awards as "the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey," with the award going to New York Islanders goaltender Robin Lehner.

The 2018-19 season marked Thornton's second consecutive campaign recovering from a torn ACL and MCL. He tore the ligaments in his right knee on Jan. 23, 2018, just over nine months after doing the same in his left knee. 

Despite that, Thornton scored 51 points (16 goals, 35 assists) in 73 regular-season games during his 21st NHL season and became a fixture on the Sharks' third line. It was his 17th season with at least 50 points, tying him for 10th in NHL history with the most such seasons. 

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Lehner, 27, won 25 games with the Islanders and was second among NHL goalies (minimum of 10 games played) in save percentage (.930) and third in goals against average (2.13) in the best season of his career.

Before the season, Lehner wrote an article for The Athletic and revealed he had suicidal thoughts while battling drug and alcohol addiction. He wrote that he "was diagnosed bipolar 1 with manic phases" while underoing treatment in Arizona, and revealed his struggles in order to "help make a difference and help others the way I have been helped." 

Columbus Blue Jackets winger Nick Foligno was the other finalist. Foligno, 31, scored 35 points (17 goals, 18 assists) in 73 games, missing time in November and March as two of his three children had separate health scares. He told's Dan Rosen in a story this week that his nomination was "humbling and I appreciate it, but it's something that feels weird to me because I get to play a game for a living, and I've got a pretty good life considering all this stuff."

NHL awards: Sharks' Brent Burns finishes second in Norris Trophy voting


NHL awards: Sharks' Brent Burns finishes second in Norris Trophy voting

Brent Burns made the medal stand, but he did not pick up his second career Norris Trophy on Wednesday.

Instead, Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano won his first at the 2019 NHL Awards in Las Vegas.

Burns, 34, scored 83 points (16 goals, 67 assists) in 82 games, setting a Sharks franchise record for points by a defenseman. He became the first blueliner to score at least 82 points in a season since Karlsson did so with the Ottawa Senators in 2015-16, and only the 48th in NHL history.

This marked the third time in the last four seasons that Burns was a finalist for the award, and he dressed for the occasion.

Burns finished second in the Professional Hockey Writers Association's balloting.

Giordano, 35, scored a career-high 74 points (17 goals, 57 assists) and led the Western Conference-leading Flames in ice time en route to being a first-time Norris finalist. 

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman was the other nominee. Hedman, 28, scored 54 points (12 goals, 42 assists) in 70 games, leading the loaded Lightning to a runaway President's Trophy win in a record-setting regular season.