SAN JOSE – It’s still much too early in the preseason to pencil in Chris Tierney, Nikolay Goldobin and Barclay Goodrow into the Sharks’ opening night lineup.
But they sure are making things interesting, and some experienced veterans on the Sharks’ roster have cause to be concerned.
No three young forwards have stood out more than that aforementioned trio, which skated as a line in the Sharks’ 3-1 preseason win over Anaheim. Goodrow potted a pair of goals, including one on a brilliant saucer pass on his tape from Goldobin, as they combined for five points in San Jose’s win at SAP Center on Saturday night.
“We’re four games into exhibition season and we’re getting to the point where we expect that from them. It’s not a surprise anymore,” Todd McLellan said. “All three of them played well, all three of them did things to get noticed, both offensively and defensively.
“That part of the game is just as important as scoring and making nice plays. It’s the commitment to not being scored on and the details in our own end.”
Goodrow leads the Sharks with three preseason goals, and along with converting the two-on-one with Goldobin he lifted in a shot from the slot on a backhanded feed from Tierney on a five-on-three.
The 21-year-old Goodrow, who was offered a chance to play in the AHL last year by the Red Wings after attending their training camp but opted to go back to juniors, spoke about the chemistry on his line. They were first put together on Tuesday in one of the split-squad games in Stockton.
“It’s nice when you’re playing with a player like Goldobin. He seems to find me wherever I am, and same with Tierney,” Goodrow said. “I just have to shoot whenever I get the chance, and right now they’re going in for me.”
If the Sharks stay true to their word that this year’s training camp is a clean slate no matter the number on the back of the jersey, there’s reason to believe any of the three players could stick with the big club.
McLellan’s comments suggest the club hasn’t wavered from that philosophy.
“The young players played very well again, and they’re certainly making a push,” he said.
Still, it’s important to note that the Sharks haven’t faced very stiff competition, especially in the last two games. Anaheim, and Arizona on Friday, left most of their best players back home for the games in San Jose.
McLellan is hopeful that the Los Angeles Kings bring a more NHL experienced roster to the Shark Tank on Tuesday, as that would provide a better barometer for measuring the NHL readiness of the three prospects, none of which has ever played an NHL game.
“That is where it can be dangerous right now. … Hopefully when LA comes, the [Anze] Kopitar's and [Jeff] Carter's are coming and we get tested. If not, then we have to make decisions based on what we’re seeing,” said the coach.
More cuts are expected before that game, but it's doubtful that any of those three will be headed down to the farm (or back to juniors, in Goldobin's case) just yet.
The internal competition is still going strong.
“We’re hungry. We’re here to make the team,” Tierney said. “No one wants to get sent down here. We want to stay up here as long as we can. It’s a battle for jobs, and that’s something we’re going for.”