Sharks open up path of most resistance with loss to Ducks

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Losing to the Anaheim Ducks isn’t a season-killing disappointment for the San Jose Sharks. It doesn’t completely change their excellent chance to make it into the West’s top eight.

Still, when you look at the Sharks remaining schedule, this 5-3 loss was supposed to be San Jose’s easiest remaining contest. Every other match is against a team that’s either headed for the playoffs or desperately fighting the Sharks for one of the final spots.

Just look at the frightening stretch run for San Jose:

Tuesday: at Los Angeles
Thursday: vs. Boston
Saturday: vs. Phoenix
March 26: vs. Colorado
March 28: at Anaheim
March 29: at Phoenix
March 31: vs. Dallas
April 3: at Dallas
April 5: at Los Angeles
April 7: vs. Los Angeles

OK, so maybe one more game against the Ducks would theoretically give them a break, but they lost to Anaheim at home. What would make a road game against the Ducks any easier?

After that Ducks contest, the Sharks face five consecutive contests against Pacific division teams that will be battling them desperately for a playoff spot and/or the division title.

This regulation defeat technically bumps San Jose to 10th place, as you can see from this updated view:

7. Phoenix: 83 points, 30 regulation/OT wins and nine games left
8. Colorado: 83 points, 30 regulation/OT wins and eight games left

9. Los Angeles: 82 points, 30 regulation/OT wins and 10 games left
10. San Jose: 82 points, 29 regulation/OT wins and 10 games left
11. Calgary: 81 points, 31 regulation/OT wins and nine games left

Sharks fans should be excused for imaging what things would be like if this contest went differently. Even an OT/shootout loss would leave them tentatively in seventh place, yet this regulation loss dumps them to 10th.

The odds pour salt on the wounds

Sports Club Stats’ updated situation really kicks some more dirt into the faces of Sharks fans. Here are their odds for who will finish with the last few spots (and who will just miss):

Dallas (slight edge for Pacific): 65.8 percent chance to make playoffs
7. Los Angeles (60.6 percent)
8. Phoenix (60.2 percent)

9. San Jose (55.8 percent – down 14.7 percent)
10. Colorado (31.1 percent)
11. Calgary (28 percent)

Saving grace for San Jose

The one saving grace is the plus of that tough schedule: the Sharks control much of their “destiny” with a resounding three contests against the Kings and two matches against both the Stars and Coyotes. If they win the majority of those squabbles – particularly in regulation – then this loss will be looked as exchanging an alarm clock for waking up with a slap in the face.

Still, only the most stoic Sharks fan will claim that this didn’t hurt.

Avalanche reportedly settle with Nieto, avoiding arbitration

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Matt Nieto won’t need his arbitration hearing on Monday.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Nieto has agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract with the Colorado Avalanche.

Nieto split last season between San Jose and Colorado, which claimed him off waivers in January.

In 43 games for the Avalanche, the 24-year-old forward scored seven goals with four assists.

Nieto was the only Colorado player on this summer’s arbitration list. However, the Avs still have a restricted free agent in Nikita Zadorov, who could be off to the KHL next season.

3 KHL players suspended after testing positive for banned substances

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The International Ice Hockey Federation has announced that three KHL players have been suspended after testing positive for banned substances.

Here’s an excerpt from the KHL’s website:

The IIHF has informed the KHL that three players – forward Danis Zaripov (then with Metallurg Magnitogorsk), defenseman Andrei Konev (Admiral Vladivostok) and defenseman Derek Smith (Medvescak Zagreb) – have tested positive for banned substances.

Derek Smith tested positive for a category S6.а stimulant.

Andrei Konev tested positive for a category S6.b stimulant.

Danis Zaripov tested positive for a category S6.b stimulant plus category S5 diuretics and masking agents.

Zapirov, who was part of Team Russia at the 2010 Olympic Games, has been banned from suiting up in “competitive hockey” until May 22, 2019. Konev will be unable to play until Nov. 19, 2017, while Smith, who is Canadian, will be suspended until Sep. 2, 2018.

Smith, 32, played in 94 NHL games with the Ottawa Senators and Calgary Flames between 2009-10 and 2013-14.

Report: John MacLean could join Tocchet’s coaching staff in Arizona

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The Arizona Coyotes have a new head coach, but Rick Tocchet still has to fill out the rest of his staff.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the ‘Yotes might be looking to add John MacLean to their coaching staff.

MacLean, 52, spent six years as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils (2002-2009) before becoming the head coach of their AHL affiliate. After one year of coaching in the minors, MacLean was promoted to head coach of the Devils. His tenure didn’t last very long, as he was fired after just 33 games (they were 9-22-2 under his watch).

He spent the following three seasons as an assistant in Carolina, but he was let go after the 2014 season.

MacLean hasn’t been back behind an NHL bench since being let go by the ‘Canes. Instead, he’s served as a hockey analyst on various television networks.

Related:

Tocchet wants Coyotes’ young players to be ‘creative’ and ‘calculated’

Tocchet brings lessons from past mistakes (and successes) to Coyotes

Sabres re-sign Robin Lehner to one-year, $4 million deal

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The Buffalo Sabres avoided salary arbitration with goalie Robin Lehner, as they inked him to a one-year, $4 million contract on Tuesday morning.

Lehner and the Sabres were scheduled to have their hearing on July 27, but that obviously won’t be necessary anymore.

The 26-year-old played a career-high 59 games in 2016-17. He finished the year with a 23-26-8 record, a 2.68 goals-against-average and a .920 save percentage.

There’s no doubt that he’s a talented netminder, but he’s had his share of struggles when it comes to staying healthy and being consistent. Of course, the team in front of him hasn’t been very good either.

Both of Buffalo’s goalies (Lehner and Chad Johnson) will have something to prove this season because they’re both on one-year contracts. When their deals expire next summer, Lehner will be a restricted free agent again, while Johnson will be free to test the market on July 1st.

The Sabres now have just over $10.9 million in cap space with RFAs Zemgus Girgensons, Nathan Beaulieu and Evan Rodrigues still needing new contracts.

A huge extension for Jack Eichel is also on the horizon, but his new salary won’t count on the cap until 2018-19.