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Season Preview

Season Preview: San Jose Sharks

With most of roster intact, Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski seek return to Cup Final

by Eric Gilmore / NHL.com Correspondent
At a glance

2015-16 record: 46-30-6, 98 points, 3rd in Pacific Division, 6th in Western Conference

2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Defeated Los Angeles Kings in five games in Western Conference First Round; defeated Nashville Predators in seven games in second round; defeated St. Louis Blues in six games in conference final; lost to Pittsburgh Penguins in six games in Stanley Cup Final

Additions : F: Mikkel Boedker, Nikolay Goldobin, Kevin Labanc, Timo Meier, Marcus Sorensen; D: David Schlemko

Subtractions : F: Nick Spaling, Dainius Zubrus; D: Roman Polak; G: James Reimer

 

Projected opening night lineup

Forwards

Tomas Hertl -- Joe Thornton -- Joe Pavelski

Mikkel Boedker -- Logan Couture -- Joonas Donskoi

Patrick Marleau -- Chris Tierney -- Joel Ward

Matt Nieto -- Melker Karlsson -- Tommy Wingels

Barclay Goodrow

Defensemen

Paul Martin -- Brent Burns

Marc-Edouard Vlasic -- Justin Braun

Brenden Dillon -- David Schlemko

Dylan DeMelo

Goalies

Martin Jones

Aaron Dell

Troy Grosenick

One year after missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the San Jose Sharks rebounded last season under new coach Peter DeBoer and reached the Final for the first time. But they lost in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Almost the entire roster returns, hungry to make another run at the Cup and hoping to take the final step.

The Sharks lost to a faster team in the Final, and they made two moves during the offseason to improve their speed. On July 1, the first day of free agency, the Sharks signed forward Mikkel Boedker and defenseman David Schlemko.

Boedker was selected No. 8 in the 2008 NHL Draft by the Arizona Coyotes but has never had more than 19 goals in a season. Arizona traded him to the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 29, and he finished last season with 17 goals, 34 assists, and tied his NHL career high with 51 points.

Boedker, one of the League's fastest skaters, is expected to play left wing on a line with center Logan Couture and right wing Joonas Donskoi. The Sharks believe playing with skilled centers Couture and Joe Thornton will help Boedker reach his potential.

Schlemko, 29, spent most of his NHL career with Arizona, but signed with the New Jersey Devils last season as a free agent and had NHL career highs in goals (six), assists (13), points (19), shots on goal (104), game-winning goals (three), power-play points (12) and games played (67).

Schlemko will skate on the third defense pair with Brenden Dillon, replacing Roman Polak, who signed as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Schlemko isn't nearly as physical as Polak but is faster and more skilled at handling the puck and joining the rush.

Brent Burns, a Norris Trophy finalist last season (27 goals, 75 points), and Marc-Edouard Vlasic return to anchor a deep and talented defense. Burns will again be paired with veteran Paul Martin, and Vlasic will remain with speedy Justin Braun in San Jose's shutdown pair.

Video: SJS@PIT, Gm5: Burns opens the scoring early

San Jose was fourth in the NHL in goals scored with 237 and had 10 players who reached double digits. Burns is the lone defenseman on that list, along with forwards Joe Pavelski (38), Patrick Marleau (25), Tomas Hertl (21), Joel Ward (21), Thornton (19), Boedker (17), Couture (15), Donskoi (11) and Melker Karlsson (10).

The Sharks gave up 207 goals last season, tied for 10th-fewest in the NHL. They could be even tougher to score on this season with Martin Jones back in net after his first full NHL season as a No. 1 goalie and an impressive performance in the playoffs (2.16 goals-against average, .923 save percentage, three shutouts).

One of the biggest questions is at backup goaltender after unrestricted free agent James Reimer signed with the Florida Panthers. The Sharks acquired Reimer from the Maple Leafs prior to the NHL Trade Deadline, and he went 6-2-0 with a 1.62 goals-against average and .938 save percentage.

Aaron Dell, who has never played an NHL game, likely will open the season as Jones' backup. Dell was 17-16-6 with a 2.42 GAA and .922 save percentage last season for the San Jose Barracuda of the American Hockey League.

Forward Timo Meier, the No. 9 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, was expected to make a strong push for a spot in the opening-night lineup, but he'll be out until late October with mononucleosis. Meier and forwards Nikolay Goldobin, Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen could be options at some point this season, along with tough guy Micheal Haley.

 
Why they should make the Stanley Cup Playoffs

The Sharks return almost the entire lineup that reached the Final last season. They are deep and talented at both ends of the ice and have a rising star in goal. San Jose has made the playoffs in 11 of the past 12 seasons.

Video: SJS@VAN: Jones denies Baertschi with the glove

 

Why they could miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Injuries after a long postseason run and short offseason could derail the Sharks. Seven players participated in the World Cup of Hockey 2016, and five reached the final: Thornton, Pavelski, Couture, Vlasic and Boedker. The Sharks struggled last season when Couture was out of the lineup with injuries, going 14-15-1.

 

Breakout candidate

Couture. He was the leading scorer in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 30 points, including 10 goals. He set Sharks playoff records for points and assists. Couture missed 30 games last season with a broken leg and injured thigh. If he stays healthy and continues the roll he was on in the playoffs, he'll likely have a career year.

Video: PIT@SJS: Couture tallies after a turnover

 

On the hot seat

Tommy Wingels. He's played 300 games for the Sharks, but the right wing appeared to fall out of favor last season when he had seven goals, 11 assists, 18 points and a minus-10 rating. If the Sharks want to make room for a young forward in the lineup, Wingels could be in trouble.

 

Trophy candidates

Jones (Vezina); Burns (Norris); Thornton (Selke); Pavelski (Hart)

 

Quotable

"Obviously with the way last season ended we should feel good about the journey and have a little bit of a bad taste in our mouth about losing in the Final and come back re-energized and ready to make that journey again. Again, the tough part is you don't get to start where you ended last year. You have to start right at the bottom of the mountain again and start climbing. That's what we're concentrating on." -- coach Peter DeBoer

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