Noah Gregor

Sharks set up to make move in standings after strong play in November

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AP

Sharks set up to make move in standings after strong play in November

After holding on to beat the Coyotes 4-2 on Saturday, Sharks center Dylan Gambrell told NBC Sports California play-by-play broadcaster Randy Hahn that he "really thinks our game has turned around." 

Gambrell wasn't just talking about the impressive come-from-behind victory he and his teammates staged in Arizona on Saturday. He was talking about the month of November as a whole, in which the Sharks have rebounded from being one of the worst teams in the Western Conference to being a force to be reckoned with. 

Now, it's a matter of keeping that positive progression going.

Think about it. San Jose finished out the month of October with a 4-8-1 record -- which included a four-game losing streak to start the season -- and then promptly lost a home back-to-back against the Jets and the Canucks. At that point, there were so many questions as to what was ailing the Sharks, and whether they would be able to get things turned around in time be competitive in their division, let alone fight for a playoff spot.

But after those back-to-back losses at the start of November, San Jose seemed to find their groove both up front as well as on the back end. They went 11-2-0 after that, tying the franchise record for the most wins in the month of November.

To top it all off, Saturday's win over the Coyotes marked the first time all season that the Sharks, who skated into the first intermission down 2-1, won a game when trailing after the first 20 minutes.

It's safe to say that, last Wednesday's loss to the Jets notwithstanding, the Sharks look like a completely rejuvenated team. Now, it's a matter of keeping that forward motion going. 

San Jose still has some work to do in regards to their depth scoring, although that could be coming around if the last few games of November are any indication. The Sharks got scoring contributions from bottom-six staple Melker Karlsson on Wednesday against Winnipeg and from fourth-liners Noah Gregor and Dylan Gambrell over the holiday weekend.

Whether the current bottom six stays intact as is remains to be seen, especially with regards to call-ups from the AHL and the trades still being on the table. At least, at the moment, the Sharks are trending in the right direction.

The other big factor if San Jose is going to continue the success they started in November is going to be how well they keep the puck out of the back of their net. As we've seen, the Sharks are their most successful when keeping goals-against to a minimum, as opposed to trying to outscore their problems.

Their success in this department will require their blue line to keep backing up their goaltender, as we saw in one fell swoop on Saturday in Arizona. When San Jose's defense came out loose and had trouble managing the puck in their own end, the opposition put them in an early 2-0 hole. When they tightened up on the back end and let their strong defensive play feed into their offense, they were able to rally from behind and overcome that deficit.

Now, the schedule doesn't get any easier for the Sharks. While they have climbed into third place in the Pacific division standings, their rivals are right on their heels. Plus, San Jose has a road trip at the start of December where they visit the Florida teams and the Sharks don't always fare so well through that swing. 

They can, however, be happy with how they have turned things around in the month of November. And with the win over the Coyotes to close out the month, they have a foundation to build more success.

How Sharks' Dylan Gambrell, Noah Gregor have seized regular roles

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AP/USATSI

How Sharks' Dylan Gambrell, Noah Gregor have seized regular roles

SAN JOSE -- Sharks coach Peter DeBoer told reporters last month that he'd like some of the team's freshest faces to earn playing time so he didn't have to keep rotating players in and out of his lineup. His exact wish was for "for somebody to grab these jobs and us [to] go with the same lineup."

Ten games later, a couple of young players have held their place. DeBoer said that there's still work to be done -- like with most things involving the Sharks so far this season -- but Dylan Gambrell and Noah Gregor have taken big strides.

"Out of the group of guys that we've rolled through there, I think Dylan Gambrell has done the best job at figuring out how to be an effective everyday guy and I think Noah (Gregor) has been the second-closest guy to doing that," DeBoer said Saturday morning as San Jose geared up to host the Nashville Predators.

The coach's earlier comments came on the same day Gregor was recalled from the Barracuda. The rookie hasn't tallied his first NHL point yet, but he has played in eight of 10 games since coming up from the AHL. The 21-year-old forward has shown off his speed, DeBoer wants to see more from Gregor in his own zone.

"His speed jumps out at you, his skill jumps out at you," DeBoer said of Gregor. "He's learning how to compete at the NHL level and he's realizing it's hard to create space at this level in order to create offense. You have to be good all over the ice because if you're not creating a goal a night you can't be giving up a goal a night. Those are all the things young guys go through."

DeBoer pinpointing Gambrell as a young player who has seized a role is no surprise. Gambrell, when healthy, has been one of the few regulars on the Sharks' fourth line, although he is another player DeBoer has said he wants to see a tighter defensive effort from.

Not surprisingly, the Sharks are looking for all of their young guns to play more of a two-way game as the season progresses. The biggest key, according to DeBoer? Knowing when to pick your spots.

"You don't want to take away their creativity," DeBoer explained. "But there are times and places for that, and that's the tough thing (about) playing at this level. Unless you're a front-line guy, you've got figure out room and time to make an offensive play and when you don't. The score of the game and the time of the game. I think our young players defensively are still figuring that stuff out and we've got a ways to go."

[RELATED: Sharks' lack of killer instinct almost cost them vs. Wild]

Gambrell and Gregor will be challenged Saturday against the Predators. Nashville already plays a heavy defensive game, but likely will emphasize it even more after surrendering nine goals to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday. While all of the Sharks will be tested, the young fourth-liners face the hardest task.

"When you look around the league at the teams that we've had (in the past), we want to get to the place where we have four reliable lines that we can stick out," DeBoer said. "If they get stuck out tonight against (Ryan) Johansen you're not trying to figure out a way to get them off the ice. That they can survive those situations."

Sharks prospect Noah Gregor has family connection to organization

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AP

Sharks prospect Noah Gregor has family connection to organization

SAN JOSE -- To Sharks fans, Noah Gregor might just look like another new player in a teal sweater.

But the 21-year-old rookie forward has a much closer connection to the organization than most would realize.

Sharks director of media relations Ben Guerrero revealed on Twitter on Saturday that Noah's father, Colin, once played for San Jose Barracuda coach Roy Sommer. 

Gregor did, too, at least before his Saturday call-up to the NHL. The 21-year-old has scored three points (goal, two assists) in three AHL games this season.

The Beaumont, Alberta native expects his parents to be in attendance in San Jose on Saturday evening when he is set to make his NHL debut against the Eastern Conference-leading Buffalo Sabres. 

"They're probably on a flight right now," Gregor said Saturday morning.

Gregor's family involvement in hockey doesn't stop there. His uncle is TSN 1260 (Edmonton) radio host Jason Gregor, who excitedly posted about Noah's impending NHL debut on Twitter.

Gregor's strong start to his AHL career came following a close call at training camp. Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said Saturday morning that Gregor could've made the big club out of camp, but "handled it the right way" when he got reassigned before the start of the season. 

"We try to do this on merit," DeBoer said of Gregor and the Sharks' rookies who have made their NHL debuts this season. "He was a guy who was close to staying at the beginning."

[RELATED: Marleau reflects on Sharks return in ride to SAP Center]

Although he's listed as a center, Gregor is expected to file onto the Sharks' fourth line Saturday night, skating on Dylan Gambrell's wing opposite Melker Karlsson. Gregor hasn't played very much with every player, but he seemed confident he could step into this role, even if some first-game jitters follow. 

"I'm sure there will be some nerves before the game starts," Gregor admitted. "But I'm sure once I get that first shift out of the way, I'll be fine."