Sharks

Why Sharks are unfazed by early season changes to line combinations

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AP

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.”

Sharks credit perfect penalty kill in sealing big win over Hurricanes

Sharks credit perfect penalty kill in sealing big win over Hurricanes

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks' 5-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night was no easy feat.

In fact, the team was fairly unhappy with how they played in the first period at SAP Center, despite heading into the first intermission with a 3-1 lead. 

But the Sharks were happy with was how their special teams propelled them to their third straight win. Although a potent power play helped get them on the board early, the penalty kill made the biggest difference.

"Our penalty kill, we've taken a lot of pride in it for a long time," coach Peter DeBoer said. "It's been good for a few years here."

The Sharks ended the night with the NHL's third-best penalty kill with a 91.7 percent success rate. San Jose has not allowed a power-play goal in each of its last three wins.

Evander Kane's first-period hat trick gave the Sharks a boost, but they spent too much time in their own zone at even strength Wednesday. The Hurricanes, who were playing the second night of a back-to-back, gave San Jose netminder Martin Jones plenty of work to do. Carolina dominated the shot clock and had the game's better chances.

But when things got extra interesting in the second period and the Sharks got into penalty trouble, their kill came to the rescue. Barclay Goodrow, a mainstay on San Jose's penalty kill, credited the Sharks' short-handed success to their pace.

"We're moving our feet, we're pressuring the opposition," he summarized. "We're forcing them to make plays a little quicker than they would like to. I think that, and we're blocking shots. And we're getting clears when we want to, so it's going well."

The Hurricanes had a golden opportunity to climb out of their two-goal hole late in the second period. Goodrow and Patrick Marleau simultaneously sat in the penalty box for hooking minors, giving Carolina 46 seconds on the 5-on-3. 

But with help from Jones, the Sharks penalty kill kept the 'Canes off the scoreboard.

"Your goalie's always your best penalty killer," DeBoer said. "He was really solid. I thought that first period [the score] could've been 3-3. He's given us two really good games in a row."

[RELATED: Watch Kane score Sharks' first-ever first-period hat trick]

While every game carries its own momentum, the Sharks undoubtedly would like for the success of their penalty kill to carry over into their next game.

The Sharks close out their three-game homestand Saturday night against the Buffalo Sabres, who currently have the second-best power play in the league. As a result, San Jose knows its penalty kill will once again be a key point. 

"We're going to be playing a good Buffalo team," Sharks captain Logan Couture observed. "I think they lost tonight but they've been playing very, very well. Their power play is very hot. So it'll be a good test for us."

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-2 win over red-hot Hurricanes

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-2 win over red-hot Hurricanes

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks knew the Carolina Hurricanes would be a big test Wednesday night at SAP Center. If that test was being graded, you would be hard-pressed not to give them an A.

Fueled by Evander Kane's first-period hat trick and a potent power play, the Sharks played perhaps their best game to date and stymied the Hurricanes in a 5-2 win.

Here are three takeaways from San Jose's third straight win.

Evander Kane, obviously

When a player becomes the first in Sharks history to score a hat trick before the first period ended, not giving him his own takeaway would be a crime. 

Kane's first goal deserves some recognition because of how quickly he scooped up the loose puck at Tomas Hertl's feet to chip it past Hurricanes netminder James Reimer.

But his next two power-play goals were also impressive, and his third was downright Pavelskian.

The Sharks struggled to get traffic in front of the net during their winless start, but Kane and his teammates have been much better lately getting in the goalie's grill. On Wednesday night, that effort paid off. Big time.

Martin Jones keeps rolling

When Jones made a swift glove save on Teuvo Teravainen 1:07 into the game, you could tell he was about to have another strong outing.

The 'Canes spent most of the game in the Sharks' zone, and Carolina dominated the shot clock for the duration. But Jones was in the zone.

The Sharks won't be happy that Jones faced a lot of strong chances, even if San Jose collectively did a better job at minimizing the turnovers in this game. At least with both goaltenders playing well, the Sharks have a better chance of keeping those mistakes out of the back of their net.

[RELATED: Sharks' Labanc keeping focus on future after turnaround]

A special night for the power play and penalty kill

When the Sharks' special teams were in a rough state at the very start of the season, coach Peter DeBoer said he wasn't worried about it. He had a feeling it would figure itself out, and he was right.

In addition to Kane's two power-play goals, the Sharks penalty kill came up big in the second period when they killed off the Hurricanes' two-man advantage. Even though Carolina was visibly tired due to playing on the tail end of a back-to-back, the Eastern Conference leaders were still getting some good looks in front of Jones. The Sharks penalty kill, however, was on point. 

That bodes well for Saturday when the Sharks host the Buffalo Sabres, who currently have the NHL's second-best power play.