Tomas Hertl

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DeBoer praises ‘courageous’ Thornton for playing with torn ACL, MCL (Updated)

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In a fairly stunning admission on Monday, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer told reporters that Joe Thornton played in four of San Jose’s six playoff games versus Edmonton with a significant knee injury.

Thornton, who was hurt against Vancouver late in the regular season, suffered tears to both his left MCL and ACL.

“I’ve never seen a guy play with a torn MCL and ACL,” DeBoer said, per the club’s Twitter account. “It’s a courageous effort as I’ve ever seen.”

Thornton, 37, missed the first two games of the series to rest his knee, before suiting up for the final four. He averaged 18:50 TOI per night and finished with a pair of assists, numbers that are pretty remarkable given the severity of his ailment.

Jumbo wasn’t the only unhealthy Shark during the first-round playoff ouster. Logan Couture‘s face/mouth injury was well-documented and, today, DeBoer also revealed that Tomas Hertl was playing with a broken foot, and Patrick Marleau with a broken thumb.

Looking ahead, Thornton’s knee injury might cloud what’s an already murky future. He’s a pending UFA, and there have been no clear signals from the organization on how they’ll address his potential return. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported in January the Thornton camp was looking for a three-year deal.

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that Sharks GM Doug Wilson has time on his side. It’s understood the club probably wouldn’t act on an extension for Thornton until after the June expansion draft, which could give the Sharks enough time to better gauge his health.

Update:

Per NBC Sports California, Wilson confirmed Thornton is undergoing surgery today to repair the ligaments.

 

 

Donskoi returns as Sharks go with ‘most experienced lineup’ in Game 6

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Facing elimination on Saturday night the San Jose Sharks are making one change to their lineup heading into Game 6 of their first-round series against the Edmonton Oilers.

After being a healthy scratch for their Game 5 overtime loss, Joonas Donskoi will be back in the lineup on Saturday night in place of forward Timo Meier.

He is slated to skate on a line alongside Melker Karlsson and Tomas Hertl.

Here is what Sharks coach Pete DeBoer had to say about the decision to put Donskoi back in the lineup before the game: “We went with our most experienced lineup here tonight in an elimination game. He’s been here before, he’s delivered for us before. He’s typically always bounced back after being sat down or demoted. I expect a big game out of him.”

In 61 games during the regular season Donskoi scored six goals and recorded 11 assists. In the four games he has played in this series he has one assist. Donskoi was a solid producer for the Sharks a year ago on their way to the Stanley Cup Final, picking up 12 points (six goals, six assists), including an overtime game-winner in Game 3 of the Final.

Meier, the Sharks’ first-round pick in 2015 (No. 9 overall) had six points in 34 regular season games with the Sharks. He has zero points and 11 shots on goal in five playoff games.

Jannik Hansen practices on Sharks’ top line

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Jannik Hansen is starting right at the top.

At today’s Sharks practice, the speedy winger, acquired last week in a trade with the Canucks, was skating on San Jose’s top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski.

Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, and Mikkel Boedker comprised the second line. Then came the trio of Joonas Donskoi, Tomas Hertl, and Melker Karlsson. And finally, on the fourth line, it was Marcus Sorensen, Chris Tierney, and Joel Ward.

That Hansen is starting on the top line should come as no surprise. The 30-year-old spent time in Vancouver with the Sedin twins on the Canucks’ top line. And if it’s not a fit with Thornton and Pavelski in San Jose, Hansen has the versatility to play further down the lineup.

Hansen is expected to make his San Jose debut tomorrow against the visiting Washington Capitals.

The Sharks also assigned forward Kevin Labanc to the AHL today.

Related: Hansen adds more speed to Sharks, who were already faster

Hansen adds more speed to Sharks, who were already faster

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The San Jose Sharks couldn’t handle the Pittsburgh Penguins’ speed.

And so, after losing the Stanley Cup Final in six games, the Sharks decided they had to get faster.

First came the signing of winger Mikkel Boedker, whose “tremendous speed is his best attribute,” said GM Doug Wilson on July 1.

The Sharks also signed defenseman David Schlemko, who brought “puck-movement speed” to the third pairing, in the words of head coach Pete DeBoer. 

Then, when the season started, there was a quasi-youth movement, as players like Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier received opportunities with the big club.

And finally, last night, the Sharks acquired right winger Jannik Hansen in a trade that sent Nikolay Goldobin to Vancouver.

“Jannik is a versatile, gritty player who plays with speed and is talented on both sides of the puck,” said Wilson. “We think he is a perfect fit for the style of our team, which has earned the right for us to make this move and add to our NHL roster as we push towards the playoffs.”

Wilson probably undersold Hansen’s speed a touch. Even at 30 years old, Hansen is still very fast.

Where DeBoer puts his newest player remains to be seen. On the third line with Tomas Hertl is one possibility. That could bump Joel Ward down to the fourth line, which may be a better spot for the 36-year-old who’s struggled offensively this season.

The thing about Hansen is that he’s versatile enough to play up and down the lineup. In Vancouver, he started out as a checker. Eventually, he was skating with the Sedins on the top scoring line.

The Sharks’ next game is tomorrow at home against, of all teams, the Vancouver Canucks.

Related: The Penguins played great defense their own way

Sharks have reason to wait on Thornton, Marleau extensions

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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.