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Jones to stay in goal for Game 5 against Golden Knights

San Jose facing elimination in first-round Western series

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

SAN JOSE -- Martin Jones was the first player on the ice when the San Jose Sharks practiced Wednesday. He stretched, spoke to goaltending coach Johan Hedberg, and did the only thing to do in a situation like this: work.

Coach Peter DeBoer said Jones will start against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of the Western Conference First Round at SAP Center on Thursday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS, NBCSCA, ATTSN-RM).

The Sharks face elimination behind in the best-of-7 series 3-1.


[RELATED: Complete Sharks vs. Golden Knights highlights]


Jones has to improve after allowing 11 goals on 54 shots for a .796 save percentage and being pulled twice in the past three games, and the Sharks have to play more like they did in Game 1, when goaltending wasn't a storyline in a 5-2 win.

"There's no real secret," Jones said. "I mean, make sure I had a good practice today, which I thought I did. Just make sure I'm doing all the right things off the ice and preparing the right way for tomorrow. Yeah, I mean, what's done is done. It really … It doesn't matter at this point. We're down 3-1. We've just got to win a game tomorrow."

Jones has to find at least some of the form he had, well, before he played the Golden Knights in the second round last year.

Entering that series, he was a goalie who had won the Stanley Cup as a backup with the Los Angeles Kings in 2014 and had gone to the Final as a starter with the Sharks in 2016. His NHL career save percentage in the regular season was .916. In the playoffs? It was .931.

Video: Golden Knights continue their high-scoring hot streak

But he had an .895 save percentage in a six-game loss to Vegas last year. Then he had an .896 save percentage in the regular season, last among 20 goalies who played at least 47 games. And now he has an .838 save percentage against Vegas in this series. He ranks last among 17 goalies who have played at least 60 minutes in the playoffs.

He has allowed a goal in the opening 71 seconds in each of the past three games -- and in each of the past five periods he has played -- and has been pulled six times in 17 games against Vegas.

Teammates come to his defense. When a writer suggested Jones was struggling, defenseman Brent Burns said: "I don't know if I agree with you on that." Asked why he disagreed, Burns said. "He's been a rock for us for a long time. He's always there for us. We've got to be there for each other." The emphasis should be on the last sentence.

Defenseman Brenden Dillon skates with Jones in the summer in Vancouver, lives three doors down from him in the same building in San Jose and often carpools to the rink with him.

"I feel like I know [Jones] pretty well as a guy," Dillon said. "I think his biggest attribute would probably be his calm demeanor. That's just kind of how he is whether we win 10-0 or we lose 10-0. Good or bad, he's kind of got the same cool head about it. I think usually you can kind of lean on that. In the past, he's been a pretty consistent guy who, big game or whatever might be, he's been able to rise to the occasion."

Dillon said he had noticed no change in demeanor but maybe some in practice.

"If we're going to be a successful team, we've all got to raise our level and be playing our best hockey," Dillon said. "So I think for him, he's trying to get out there, he's trying to get better. In the past, maybe he's gone about it a different way with a different routine, but maybe if things aren't working, try to tweak little things."

Hedberg placed a pile of pucks in the slot before practice Wednesday. Forward Marcus Sorensen slowly shot puck after puck into Jones' glove, so Jones could warm up and work on looking the puck into his hand. Then Sorensen slowly shot puck after puck off Jones' blocker. Then he slowly skated in on the rush and shot pucks from the tops of the circles.

Video: Golden Knights shut out Sharks to extend series lead

Hedberg placed a padded tripod on the right hash marks and then the left hash marks. Players shot pucks through the tripod.

"It's been a lot of shots through legs and things like that," Jones said. "Just trying to see some different things in practice, things that maybe you don't normally see in a regular team practice. Just trying to get some different looks."

Just trying to turn it around.

"I think he knows he can be better," DeBoer said. "At the same time, we're not in this spot because of him. It's a team. You win as a team and lose as a team. I think the challenge here for everybody is, 'Are you part of the solution or are you part of the problem?' I think you've got to be on the right side of that. I think the only way to get your game where you're helping instead of hurting us is to work through it."

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