DougWilson

Wilson: Sharks don’t believe in rebuilding, want to ‘reset on the fly’

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With a number of key players ready to hit free agency at the end of next season — Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture — San Jose GM Doug Wilson could go a number of directions with his club’s future.

One direction he won’t go, though, is the way of a rebuild.

“We’re not a team that’s going to miss the playoffs for five or seven years and go into a rebuild,” Wilson told CSN Bay Area. “We don’t believe in that.

“We want to reset on the fly, and it only works when you have players that understand what it is we’re trying to accomplish, and participate in it.”

To that end, Wilson has already begun contract extension talks with Couture, a pending RFA likely to get a hefty raise on his two-year, $5.75 million deal that expires next July.

The decision to lock up Couture now is a no-brainer.

The 24-year-old emerged as arguably the club’s top player in 2013, a guy head coach Todd McLellan said was “driving the bus” down the stretch and through the playoffs.

(According to reports from CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz and CBC’s Elliotte Friedman, sounds as though San Jose could extend Pavelski this summer as well.)

This does beg a question, though: What becomes of the guys that used to drive the bus?

Thornton and Marleau will be 35 and 34, respectively, when their deals expire at the end of 2013-14 (both have full no-movement clauses, according to Capgeek.)

Boyle will be 38, with a modified NTC where he can select eight teams he won’t accept a trade to.

If Wilson’s goal is to ‘reset on the fly,’ dealing any of these three could be in play.

Center depth is hard to come by in the NHL, and the Sharks have it in spades with Couture, Thornton, Marleau and 2012 first-rounder Tomas Hertl, who’s expected to challenge for a roster spot next season.

Boyle’s no stranger to trade rumors, as his name made the rounds at this year’s deadline.

Finally, there’s Wilson’s history.

He’s remade the Sharks on several occasions already by making “hockey trades” — Michalek/Cheechoo-for-Heatley, Setoguchi/Coyle-for-Burns, Heatley-for-Havlat — rather than trying to stockpile picks.

This year he did more of the same, moving out Ryane Clowe, Michal Handzus and Douglas Murray at the deadline while bringing in Scott Hannan and Raffi Torres.

In the end, though, Wilson says his decisions moving forward are tied to two things — financial flexibility, and players who “get” what the Sharks are doing.

“We have a lot of flexibility going forward. We have lots of flexibility in two years, which ties into some of the players [Pavelski, Couture] that you’re asking about us signing this summer,” he explained.

“We’ve been fortunate to have players that understand what we’re trying to accomplish.”

‘It looks like a disaster’ — Senators could be facing more injury problems

BOSTON, MA - MAY 27:  Head coach Guy Boucher of the Tampa Bay Lightning speaks to the media after their 0 to 1 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on May 27, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Not only did the Ottawa Senators lose on Sunday, but three different forwards left the game because of injury.

And that was after they had already lost forward Bobby Ryan indefinitely because of a hand injury. In a 3-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, the Senators had Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone and Tommy Wingels leave with injuries.

Hoffman suffered a lower-body injury in the first period, while Stone was caught with a hit to the head from defenseman Jacob Trouba. That infraction might result in Trouba getting further supplementary discipline from the NHL.

“Tough day with the loss of Bobby and then we lost another bunch of guys. At some point I felt, there was nobody on the bench,” said Senators coach Guy Boucher, who appeared furious with the officials’ decision to give Trouba only a minor penalty for an illegal check to the head.

“I can give you an update – it doesn’t look good. We have to wait until tomorrow to be clear and precise about all these guys.

“Right now, we could be losing quite a few guys … It looks like a disaster. We’ll see tomorrow and maybe the disaster is not as bad as we think but you’ve got to be ready for anything.”

What especially hurts for the Senators is that Hoffman, Stone and Ryan are three very capable offensive players, and if all three are out long-term, that’s a good chunk of scoring suddenly gone from their lineup. Stone leads the team with 22 goals, while Hoffman is tied for second in that category with Kyle Turris at 19 goals.

The Senators had a chance to take over top spot in the Atlantic Division. With a win, Ottawa would’ve tied Montreal with 70 points, but taken first in the division because of fewer games played.

Blackhawks snap Sabres winning streak

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The Eastern Conference playoff race is tightening up, especially when it comes to the wild card.

The Buffalo Sabres, thanks to a three-game winning streak and six wins in their last 10 games prior to Sunday, have suddenly jumped right into the thick of that race. But with a chance to win four in a row and tie, at least temporarily, the Bruins at 64 points, the Sabres ran into the Chicago Blackhawks.

And that proved problematic.

After Evander Kane scored the equalizer with 5.6 seconds left in the first period, Chicago took over through the second half of the game, scoring four unanswered goals for a 5-1 victory to move within seven points of the Minnesota Wild in the Central Division.

Patrick Kane put a stamp on this one. Given an absurd amount of time in front, Kane was able to put on a stickhandling clinic before beating Robin Lehner on the backhand.

It further hurt Buffalo’s cause that it was unable to capitalize on a lengthy five-on-three in the first period.

“I thought our opportunity was that 5-on-3, to get not just one goal, maybe two. We gave them too much,” said coach Dan Bylsma, per the Sabres.

The Sabres now enter their bye week. They play the last-place Colorado Avalanche next Saturday. The time off might provide a rest in the middle of a grinding season, but teams have struggled immediately out of the break and the Sabres can ill afford a set back in the playoff race.

Video: On Hockey Day in America, Auston Matthews did this . . .

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 11:  Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Air Canada Centre on November 11, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Flyers 6-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Born in Scottsdale, AZ., Auston Matthews has taken the NHL by storm in his rookie season as an elite talent headlining an impressive freshman class.

Taken first overall last June, Matthews made history with four goals in his debut, surely a dizzying experience for Maple Leafs fans accustomed to heartbreak and frustration. And he really hasn’t slowed down since.

On Sunday against the Carolina Hurricanes — and on Hockey Day in America — the 19-year-old Matthews once again put on a show, scoring his 28th goal of the season. That gave Toronto a two-goal lead.

As he’s often done in his brief time in the NHL, this goal was of the spectacular variety, as he broke in off the left wing and, as he was getting hauled down to the ice, slid the puck five-hole on Cam Ward.

Related: Auston Matthews is having a rookie season for the ages

Video: After a slow start, Evander Kane is on a roll for the Sabres

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For about a month now, Evander Kane has enjoyed a particularly productive stretch for the Buffalo Sabres.

Kane scored with 5.6 seconds remaining in the first period of Sunday’s game versus the Chicago Blackhawks, converting on a nifty pass from Jack Eichel and going top shelf on Scott Darling.

He now has goals in three straight games, and 15 points in 14 games as the Sabres have fought their way back into the playoff race in the Eastern Conference.

Of course, this latest run comes just before the trade deadline, and Kane’s name has consistently been in speculation about a possible move — in addition to off-ice issues. While GM Tim Murray has said earlier this month that he’s not actively shopping Kane, he also didn’t absolutely rule out trading the 25-year-old left winger, now into his second season in Buffalo.

(Murray: “Is there a crazy deal that somebody could throw at me that would force me to do it? I guess there is.”)

Most impressive about Kane’s numbers — remember he missed time earlier this season with a rib injury and then had a slow start, which drew the ire of the coach — is that he’s done the vast majority of his scoring, 20 of 21 goals, at five-on-five.