Alexander True

Doug Wilson hopes Sharks' youngsters can help team finish on high note

Doug Wilson hopes Sharks' youngsters can help team finish on high note

The Sharks lost their first four games to the 2019-20 season, and it hasn't gotten much better since. San Jose is all but guaranteed to miss the playoffs for only the second time since Doug Wilson took over as general manager 16 seasons ago. Just as it has been for the players, the disappointing year has been tough on Wilson, too.

"It's been a challenge," Wilson told NBC Sports California's Jamie Baker ahead of the Sharks' game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night. "But that happens in life. If you're going to have the success and the moments that you enjoy, then you've got to deal with these things. I'll be honest with you, you learn a lot about people through times like this. Emotions get into play, but what you've got to do is make sure you have clarity to make the right decisions going forward. So, that's the balance you're trying to find during these challenging times."

Wilson and San Jose got more clarity with the passing of the NHL's trade deadline on Monday, as the team sent veteran forwards Patrick Marleau and Barclay Goodrow to the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, respectively, in exchange for draft picks. The Sharks also received two draft picks from the Washington Capitals in the Brenden Dillon trade last week.

[RELATED: Wilson pleased with Sharks' haul, but work is just starting]

While the draft picks certainly will help as Wilson tries to build the roster back to a contending state this offseason, the departures of Marleau, Goodrow and Dillon have left large voids in the Sharks' lineup, and there are still 20 games left to play. With San Jose's playoff hopes already dashed, they have every reason to fill those voids with prospects from within the system that might or might not be part of the franchise's future moving forward.

It will be a different kind of finish to the regular season than the Sharks are accustomed to, but Wilson is looking forward to seeing what several of those younger players can do with their resulting opportunities.

"There's a lot of them," Wilson said of the prospects. "You take a look at Mario Ferraro -- I think right from Day 1 has been really good -- he's actually stepping up to the next level. You've got a kid, Lean Bergmann, that's been brought in. [Alex True] has come in and [Joel] Kellman's come in, and you're going to see a bunch of guys for the next 20 games or so. And out of this challenging time comes great opportunity. And I think the quality veterans that we have are continuing to instill us playing the right way, which means the young kids can come in and get into good habits. So, we're focused in on that, and there's a little juice and energy when you see these young guys come in."

There hasn't been much positive energy surrounding the Sharks this season. But maybe, just maybe, the youngsters can help San Jose finish the 2019-20 season on a relatively high note.

Alex True proving to be Sharks' silver lining in season of dark clouds

Alex True proving to be Sharks' silver lining in season of dark clouds

The Sharks team that took the ice against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night is not the one San Jose entered the season with. Heck, it's not even the one it entered the month with.

Captain Logan Couture has been out since early January with a fractured ankle. Tomas Hertl was the next marquee player to fall, tearing ligaments in his knee and ending his season on Jan. 29. All-world defenseman Erik Karlsson lasted two additional weeks before his season ended with a broken thumb. Evander Kane isn't injured -- that we know of -- but he hasn't played any more recently than Karlsson, as Thursday's 2-1 loss marked the third and final game of his recent suspension.

And what has all that left the Sharks with? A giant, gaping hole at the top of their lineup.

"I think those are the games where you sort of see that lack of offense, that lack of skill that's out of our lineup really play effect," San Jose interim coach Bob Boughner said following the one-goal defeat at Prudential Center. "You can get by some nights with it, and if you get a power-play goal or you get a couple bounces, you get some puck luck, but on nights like this, you don't have a Karlsson, you don't have a [Couture], you don't have Hertl, you don't have Kane -- those are the guys that chip in those one or two extra pucks a night."

Against the Devils, the Sharks did not score a power-play goal, nor would you describe them as being particularly lucky with the way the puck bounced. Without those additional boosts, it's clearly going to be tough for San Jose to get by in its extremely diminished state, even against a similarly struggling team like New Jersey. Team Teal simply doesn't have anywhere near the margin for error that it is accustomed to.

The only goal the Sharks did score Thursday wasn't lucky, and it came from a group of players who likely wouldn't have even been on the ice if not for the laundry list of absences. Defenseman Tim Heed, playing in his second game since Karlsson went down, got San Jose on the board with a shot through traffic from the point. Jacob Middleton, playing in his first game since Brenden Dillon was traded to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday, earned the primary assist. Alex True, appearing in his seventh career NHL game (all since Hertl got hurt), had the secondary helper, continuing a stretch in which the 22-year-old rookie has taken advantage of the opportunity afforded him. It was his fourth point -- all assists -- since making his debut.

"He has come in and been very detailed," Boughner said of True. "He has provided us with that big center that we need on those depth lines, and he has chipped in offensively. He has got a few points here of late, and it's because he's in, he has got that reach, he has got that stick on puck. He's trying to be physical, so I think that helps us. We're getting depth scoring from those guys. Unfortunately, no offense coming from the top of the lineup."

[RELATED: Hannan explains what Dillon, Sharks are going through]

The lack of scoring from the top of the lineup -- or what's left of it, at least -- is obviously a major concern. But at the very least, some of the players whose paths to the NHL were previously blocked are proving they deserve to be part of San Jose's future.

And, given the current state of the team, that's one of the best things that can happen for the Sharks throughout the rest of a season where dark clouds have been far more prominent than silver linings.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in annoying 2-1 road loss to Devils

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USATSI

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in annoying 2-1 road loss to Devils

BOX SCORE

The New Jersey Devils entered Thursday's game against the Sharks at Prudential Center as one of only three teams in the league with fewer points than San Jose. That no longer is the case after New Jersey came from behind and held off the Sharks for a 2-1 win.

The Sharks got on the board first and maintained that lead through the first half of the contest, but Jesper Bratt scored on a breakaway late in the second period to pull the Devils even and P.K. Subban's power-play goal in the third proved to be the game-winner. San Jose had an advantage in shots, scoring chances and high-danger chances, but New Jersey netminder Mackenzie Blackwood came up big when it mattered most.

Here are three takeaways from a loss that ends San Jose's road winning streak at four games.

Seizing the opportunity

Things started very well for the Sharks. They had good jump in the first period and were able to take the lead thanks to some unexpected contributors.

Just over seven minutes into the game, Alex True won a faceoff in the offensive zone and passed it back to Jake Middleton, who promptly slid it across the blue line to defensive partner Tim Heed. Heed then threw an innocent-enough shot at the net, but thanks to plenty of traffic in front, it slid past Blackwood for the first goal of the night.

True made his NHL debut a couple of weeks ago. Thursday was Middleton's eighth career NHL game, and Heed has gone back and forth between the Sharks and the Barracuda in the AHL in his career. Having the three of them combine for a goal was a promising sign, and the exact kind of silver lining San Jose should be focusing on throughout the remainder of a season that is not headed for the playoffs.

Bottom-dwellers

The fact that a fourth-line goal was arguably the Sharks' top highlight of the game should tell you everything you need to know about the level of competition involved. The Devils have been as active as any team as the league nears the trade deadline, and a combination of injuries to critical players and the recent trade of Brenden Dillon has similarly sapped San Jose's talent level.

The end result was a contest between two rosters that, frankly, should be at the bottom of the standings -- and are.

It would be tough for any team to overcome the injuries to Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl and Erik Karlsson -- the latter two of which were season-ending -- but the Sharks can't exactly use the same youth-movement excuse as New Jersey. Entering Thursday, the Devils' entire roster had appeared in a total of 5,648 NHL games. For comparison, San Jose's Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic had combined for 5,463.

[RELATED: True proving he deserves to be part of Sharks' future]

Promising, but frustrating

You can't pin Thursday's loss on Martin Jones, but nonetheless, his inability to finish off what was a stellar start in net through 1 1/2 periods is somewhat frustrating.

He was left out to dry on Bratt's goal, and Subban's tally was the result of some truly terrible timing to reposition. It also would have helped if someone had cleared the screen directly blocking his vision. Prior to those faults, Jones had played great and came up with several big saves to keep his team in front. His stick save on the goal line in the second period was arguably his best of the season.

With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, the Sharks surely will be looking into ways to address their goaltending problem. The odds are against Jones playing elsewhere anytime soon, but it sure would have been nice if he had something better to show for what might be his final showcase opportunity before Monday's deadline.