SAN JOSE – Still trying to establish some consistency at home with six losses in their first nine games, the Sharks (13-9-0) will be hosting a team on Saturday that gave them fits at SAP Center last season.
The Flames won all three games here by a combined score of 10-4, including an overtime victory. Although they are one of the more disappointing NHL teams this season just a few months after advancing to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Calgary (8-13-2) could prove to be a dangerous opponent.
“I think they’re the same team as last year. I think everyone around the league saw how good they can be,” Tommy Wingels said. “We can’t take them lightly. It’s something we’ve talked about, we’ve got to have a good start and can’t let them get into the game.”
Pete DeBoer said: “I think they’re definitely better than their record indicates. … They seem to be starting to put it together. We’ve got to make sure that we’re ready to go.”
One of the main reasons the Flames find themselves in 11th place in the Western Conference has been their special teams play. They own the worst penalty kill in the league and the 29th ranked power play.
Don’t expect DeBoer to stress that to his troops, though.
“Obviously winning the special teams battle is something that’s important, but that’s not an emphasis for us. Fifty of the sixty minutes is usually played five-on-five, and that’s where our emphasis is,” DeBoer said.
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The Sharks lineup will remain the same, meaning the inexperienced third defense pair of Mirco Mueller and Matt Tennyson is intact. Tennyson and forwards Wingels and Tomas Hertl hardly played in the second half of Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to the Blackhawks.
DeBoer rattled off a list of what he wants to see with some of his players that are seemingly struggling with their confidence.
“I never measure those guys on production and goals and assists. It’s on the simple things that they can control. Are you outworking the other guy across from you? Are you winning your battles? Are you playing in the other team’s end? Are you creating chances, whether they go in or not? Are you playing defensively responsible on the right side of the puck?
“Those are measurables that I think are easy to control, whether you have confidence or you don’t. Everything else falls into place after you get those things in the right spot.”
As the elder statesmen on the blue line, Paul Martin was asked if he talks to some of the young blueliners when they’re struggling.
“Sometimes. Usually it’s more encouragement when they’re doing the right things and making the right plays, and letting them know that they’re doing a good job.
“Everyone is going to make mistakes, including the old guys. It’s just making sure that they don’t get down on themselves, and continue to try and make those right plays when they’re there.”
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Wingels will never be faulted for effort - after all, he still leads the Sharks with 65 hits - but with just 1 goal and 6 points on the season, he heads the list of the most disappointing Sharks players through the first 22 games.
What does he have to do to get it going?
“Just simplify,” he said. “Take pucks to the net myself, get around the net. You talk about trying to be more of a rugged, hard-working player that plays with skill, and not the other way around. For me, it’s getting back to that. It’s certainly things that I can control. I’ll have to start doing it tonight.”
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The Sharks placed defenseman Justin Braun on injured reserve on Saturday morning with an infected left elbow from a cut. Although there’s still no timeframe for his return, DeBoer mentioned that the Sharks caught his ailment early.
“Those are scary injuries. When you get an infection in a cut like that, it’s got the potential to run wild and get into some pretty ugly situations,” DeBoer said.
“I feel fortunate that we got this early, and I think we all feel comfortable that it’s in a good place. But, it’s a tough injury to deal with and you have to make sure you take care of it.”
DeBoer compared Braun’s situation to Columbus’ Brandon Dubinsky, who recently missed more than two weeks with an infected elbow after a cut.