Melker Karlsson

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24: Jim Benning of the Vancouver Canucks attends round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Canucks GM Benning says mumps outbreak won’t impact trade deadline plans

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Let’s set the scene for what the Vancouver Canucks were facing Saturday:

— On Friday, it was announced the team was dealing with an outbreak of the mumps. Rookie defenseman Troy Stecher was the first confirmed case and four others — Chris Tanev, Nikita Tryamkin, Markus Granlund and Mike Chaput — were all showing symptoms.

— Currently out of a playoff spot, the Canucks were facing the Pacific Division-leading Sharks.

— The Canucks were playing their first game out of the bye week and many other teams have struggled in the first game back from their mandated week off.

— The trade deadline is looming and the Canucks are expected to be sellers next week.

Pressure is growing in Vancouver ahead of the trade deadline, especially after last year’s debacle. The Canucks had a 1.3 per cent chance of making the playoffs before Saturday’s 4-1 loss to San Jose. The playoff dream is over. It has been for a long time. But the Canucks do have veteran players — the names Alex Burrows, Jannik Hansen and Ryan Miller have been brought up — other teams in contention might be willing to trade for, which would help Vancouver add draft picks or perhaps even some quality prospects.

In an interview with TSN 1040 on Friday, GM Jim Benning admitted he’s asked players with no-trade clauses to submit a list of teams they would accept a trade to ahead of the deadline.

From the Vancouver Sun:

Winger Alex Burrows, a 12-year-Canuck who like Miller is due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, will draw trade interest but can veto a move with his NTC.

Not so Miller and Hansen, who can limit Benning’s trade field but cannot fully prevent a deal.

Miller, 36, submitted a list of five teams he can be traded to, while Hansen was required to identify eight potential trade destinations.

Now, how will this recent mumps outbreak impact Benning’s plans leading up to Wednesday?

“I don’t know if it will have any effect on that or not,” Benning said in his radio interview.

“This happened to other teams a few years ago and once the players go through the five-day incubation period, they’re fine. And so they can keep playing. I don’t think it will have any effect on that.”

Despite their playoff hopes hanging by a thread and a lineup with three AHL call-ups in Alex Grenier, Joseph LaBate and Evan McEneny, the Canucks somehow kept this close until midway through the third period.

LaBate planted Melker Karlsson with a hit and was eventually challenged to a fight in the third period. Karlsson left the game but did return for the third period.

At times, they actually outplayed the visitors through two periods but couldn’t find the lead and eventually the Sharks took over in the third period. Patrick Marleau gave them the lead late in the second period and Mikkel Boedker essentially put it out of reach.

For the Canucks, there was another case of illness Saturday.

Defenseman Luca Sbisa left the game and didn’t return with what the club said was a stomach flu, although given the situation in Vancouver, it will be worth monitoring to see if that diagnosis changes.

Sharks have reason to wait on Thornton, Marleau extensions

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 11:  Patrick Marleau #12 of the San Jose Sharks is congratulated by teammate Joe Thornton #19 after he scored in the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers on February 11, 2017 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.The Philadelphia Flyers defeated the San Jose Sharks 2-1 in overtime.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Two of San Jose’s most important and longest-tenured players, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, are set to become unrestricted free agents this summer.

Given the Sharks are in the midst of their Stanley Cup window — with Thornton and Marleau playing significant roles — it seems odd neither has put pen to paper on an extension yet.

But the Mercury News has a theory on why:

Here’s where it gets interesting. Next season, the NHL is adding a new team, the Vegas Golden Knights. That franchise will participate in an expansion draft. It will happen in June, a few days before the annual entry draft.  Each existing NHL team can protect either seven or eight forwards from being selected by the Golden Knights. However, pending unrestricted free agents will not be eligible for the expansion draft.

In other words, it behooves Wilson and the Sharks not to sign Marleau and Thornton until after the expansion draft. That way, the two players would not count toward the seven or eight forwards on the Sharks’ protected list (the exact number depends on choices the Sharks make at other positions.)

San Jose’s in a fairly unique position for the expansion draft. It is one of four teams not required to protect anybody — Calgary, St. Louis and Washington are the others — and, with the addition of the aforementioned Thornton-Marleau scenario, GM Doug Wilson would have serious flexibility when it comes to exposing players.

Not that he’s willing to divulge any information.

“My position is that I have no comment on that,” Wilson told the Mercury News. “People can anticipate and speculate about what our approach might be.”

ESPN touched on this potential scenario last month, noting that Wilson has some big decisions to make regardless if he chooses the seven forwards-three-defensemen-one goalie protected list, or the eight-skaters-and-a-goalie setup:

If you go 7-3-1, it means you protect just three defensemen — Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and probably Justin Braun — which then leaves Paul Martin, Brenden Dillon, Mirco Mueller and David Schlemko among those exposed.

What if the Sharks decide to go the 8-1 protection format route in order to protect four defensemen? That means only four forwards could be protected: Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl and then take your pick from either Mikkel Boedker, Joel Ward, Melker Karlsson or Chris Tierney. (Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc are exempt.)

The risk in letting Thornton and Marleau get to free agency, of course, is that someone makes an offer neither can refuse. But it could be a risk worth taking. It’s fair to assume any potential offer would have to be massive in scope, given Thorton’s and Marleau’s ties to the Bay Area — the latter has spent his entire 20-year career with the Sharks, while the former has been there for over a decade.

Right now, there’s not much information about what type of extensions San Jose is offering. ESPN reported Thornton is eyeing another three-year deal — his last was a three-year, $20.25 million contract — and things are almost entirely silent on the Marleau front.

Sharks recall Sorensen, another of Wilson’s European finds

San Jose Sharks Name Peter Deboer Head Coach
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If Melker Karlsson and Joonas Donskoi have shown anything, it’s that San Jose GM Doug Wilson knows how to find NHL talent in Europe.

Now, we’ll see if that applies to Marcus Sorensen.

Sorensen, the speedy 24-year-old forward signed out of the Swedish League last summer, has been recalled by San Jose and could make his NHL debut tomorrow when the Sharks take on the Sabres.

Sorensen’s recall comes after he scored 13 goals and 27 points in 39 games for the AHL Barracuda, in what is his first professional season in North America.

Previously, the former Ottawa draftee (fourth round, 2010) had spent the better part of his career with SHL outfit Djurgardens IF.

As mentioned above, Wilson and the Sharks are hopeful Sorensen can follow in the footsteps of Karlsson and Donskoi. The former was signed out of Sweden in 2014 — age the age of 23 — and the undrafted forward spent a short time in the AHL before transitioning to the Sharks that same year.

Karlsson has since become a lineup fixture for the Sharks, and has six goals and 13 points through 46 games this year.

Donskoi, a former Florida draftee, signed with San Jose in 2015 after capturing Finnish League MVP honors. Like Karlsson, he was 23 at the time of singing and, like Karlsson, wasted little time making an impact in San Jose. Donskoi jumped straight to the NHL and had a solid rookie campaign, with 11 goals and 36 points in 72 games.

It’s Allen versus Pavelec in a very interesting goaltending matchup

NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 10:  Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues stops a shot in the third period against the New Jersey Devils on November 10, 2015 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.The St. Louis Blues defeated the New Jersey Devils 2-0.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Tonight in St. Louis, Jake Allen will make his first start for the Blues in almost two weeks. He’s only seen three shots in between; those came Thursday after Carter Hutton was pulled in a 5-1 loss to Minnesota.

Allen, whose save percentage has fallen all the way to .897 on the season, hasn’t won a game since the Winter Classic on Jan. 2. He was even left at home for a road trip in order to get reset mentally, in the wake of three starts that all ended with him on the bench.

“I’m ready to go,” Allen said yesterday, per the Post-Dispatch. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s felt like a decade, to be honest. I think the break did well for a lot of us and we have a really condensed schedule coming up and a lot of big hockey to play.”

The Blues’ opponent tonight has had its own goaltending issues. Ondrej Pavelec will start for the Winnipeg Jets, even though Connor Hellebuyck helped send the team into the All-Star break on a winning note with a 38-save performance Thursday in Chicago.

Pavelec is 2-2-0 with an .894 save percentage since being recalled from the AHL. He allowed four goals on just 26 shots in Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to the Sharks at MTS Centre.

“(Pavelec) has really good numbers against St. Louis,” Maurice told reporters, per the Winnipeg Sun. “The San Jose game, I didn’t think he had much of a chance on the two backdoor (goals, from Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau) and the penalty shot (from Melker Karlsson). I like where his game is at.”

The Jets are starting a three-game road trip tonight. They also play Thursday in Dallas and Saturday in Colorado. Three points back of the second wild-card spot, and holding no games in hand, Winnipeg really needs to start stringing some wins together. A win over the Blues, currently in the first wild-card spot, would be a great start to the stretch drive.

The Blackhawks got another solid performance from Scott Darling to extend winning streak

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 15: Scott Darling #33 of the Chicago Blackhawks makes the third period save against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on December 15, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Blackhawks defeated the Islanders 5-4.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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In recent times without Corey Crawford, the Chicago Blackhawks have leaned heavily on Scott Darling.

It appears Crawford is nearing a return to the lineup after missing the last few weeks following an appendectomy. That’s good news for the Blackhawks. But with Crawford out, Darling has been solid, if not impressive in that time and he proved that again Sunday.

Starting for the second time in as many days, after playing the night before against the St. Louis Blues? No problem, apparently.

Darling made 33 saves and the Blackhawks ended San Jose’s winning streak at four games with a 4-1 victory. That’s five wins in a row for Chicago.

“We talked about it. It was a good discussion,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said of playing Darling in back-to-backs. “At the end of it, he came back with another win so we didn’t want to change the pattern.”

Once again, the Blackhawks rallied after falling behind.

Once again, it was another big third period that helped them to victory.

Duncan Keith finally scored his first of the season, tying the game in the second period. Chicago then scored three times in the third period, with goals from Ryan Hartman, Vinnie Hinostroza and Patrick Kane.

Game over.

Not only did the Sharks lose the game, but forward Melker Karlsson left in the third period and didn’t return after colliding with a Chicago player near the corner.