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Competition Too Close to Call for Sharks Blue Line

(Originally published at Sports Radio Service)

The preseason is well under way, and the NHL season looms large for the San Jose Sharks. Their training camp roster is still large enough to easily ice two squads, so it is reasonable to expect that there will be more roster cuts this week. The Sharks have a lot of decisions to make before opening night, DeBoer explained:

Some tough decisions, some really tough decisions. It’s tough getting from 34 to 26 or -7 or whatever number we’re going to go to, and it’s going to be even tougher to go down to 22 or 23. That’s a good thing though, it’s a good problem.

Dylan DeMelo stood out as one of the young players getting a lot of ice time in preseason games. There is a little room on the Sharks blue line, and a number of players competing for it. Asked to comment on that competition, DeMelo said: “I can’t speak for the other guys but I think I’m playing pretty well and I think I’m showing kind of what’s advertised in my game.”

After the game, Sharks coach Peter DeBoer was asked if Dylan DeMelo was likely to make the opening night roster. DeBoer declined to say yes or no:

I’m not prepared to hand this job to anybody yet. Everybody’s competing, everyone’s playing well right now. It’s too close to call to be giving anybody the job right now. We’re going to take all the time we have on our side.

DeBoer did concede that DeMelo is “right in the mix,” with other defensemen. As with other players seeing a lot of preseason ice time, DeMelo is no lock for a spot on the NHL roster.

Another player who is getting a long look in these games is Joonas Donskoi. Saturday, he played on a line with Tomas Hertl and Matt Nieto. Donskoi is probably closer to a spot than DeMelo is, but the fact that he is playing only means he’s getting look, not getting the job.

 

The Sharks lost Saturday’s preseason game to the Anaheim Ducks. The final score was 2-1, with goals scored by Joel Ward for San Jose, Corey Perry and Chris Wagner for Anaheim. The game was a fine preseason sample of games between San Jose and Anaheim: riddled with penalties, there was even a game misconduct handed out.

Martin Jones was starting his second of the preseason, and his first at SAP as a Shark. He was glad to have a chance to play at SAP during the preseason:

I’ve had a couple games here, playing in LA, so I know what the building’s about. Yeah, it was nice to get the first one out of the way at home. Obviously, not the result we want, but we’re working through it. It’s still preseason and we’ll work it out.

The Ducks took two penalties in the first eleven minutes of the game, one to Shea Theodore at 1:22 and one to Corey Perry at 11:07. The Sharks did not score on either one of those power plays, but seconds after the Perry penalty expired, the Sharks did score. The goal was scored by Joel Ward, with assists going to Paul Martin and Brent Burns.

The goal was a good example of Ward’s playing style, and the style that DeBoer is encouraging the Sharks to employ. Asked about the goal after the game, Ward said:

It’s no secret, I’m trying to get in front of the net. I think most of my goals in the past have been around that area. So there’s no secret I’m just trying to go to the net, trying to get pucks and rebounds.

Moments after the Sharks goal, Frazer McLaren was called for boarding. He was given a game misconduct and received a five minute major. Ryan Carpenter served the penalty for him. The hit sent Anaheim defenseman, Korbinian Holzer, to the dressing room. Holzer was kept out for the rest of the game for precautionary reasons, the Ducks announced later.

The Sharks killed off the five minutes and even managed a short-handed chance near the end.

It took the Sharks several minutes before they took a shot on goal in the second period. Through the period, the Sharks had six shots.

The Ducks tied the game just over three minutes into the third period. The goal was scored by Chris Wagner, unassisted. He skated into the zone mostly unfettered and took a shot from the half boards that seemed to catch Jones off guard.

Just past the ten minute mark of the third, Perry went to the box for the second time in the game, this time for high sticking.

Before the penalty elapsed, Joonas Donskoi went to the box for a high stick. The Ducks made the Sharks pay for that, taking the lead with a goal with 7:36 left. The power play goal was scored by Corey Perry. Assists went to Shea Theodore and Simon Despres.

The Ducks went right from the celebration to the penalty kill, with Shea Theodore back in the box for interference. This put the Sharks on their fourth power play.

That came to naught, and the game wound down. With under two minutes left, the Sharks pulled their goaltender for the extra attacker. Logan Couture, Brent Burns, Tomas Hertl, Patrick Marleau and Paul Martin made up the six players for the last minutes. Hertl made a nice pass after pulling the puck from a scrum along the boards, but Couture’s shot went just wide. After a time out, the same six returned to the ice but they could not even the score.

The Sharks will play another preseason game at SAP on Tuesday, September 29. Their opponent will be the Vancouver Canucks. Start time will be 7:30 pm.

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