Mike Halford

With Hertl out again, Sharks wary of loading up top line


SAN JOSE — First thing first: Thomas Hertl (lower body) is out for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, his second consecutive missed game.

Now, for the ramifications.

What will San Jose do in his absence? Does Melker Karlsson resume starting duties alongside Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski? Or, will head coach Peter DeBoer stick Logan Couture there, like he did in crunch time of Game 3?

“It helped us the other night, sure,” DeBoer said of loading up his No. 1 unit. “It would be similar to them moving Crosby, Malkin and Kessel together. You have three great players playing together.

“But in order to do that, that hurts you in other parts of the lineup. You have to be comfortable you can survive doing that with the other parts.”

Couture had 8:36 TOI with Thornton in Game 3, and 9:17 with Pavelski. The result? Terrific possession metrics — 75 CF percentage with Thornton, 67 percent with Pavelski — and some of the most sustained pressure San Jose’s had on Pittsburgh in this series.

Thornton finished with a pair of assists, his first points of the series, and all three finished with more than 25 minutes of total ice time. As such, it has to be tempting for DeBoer to go back to the trio for tonight’s Game 4 — but he was cautious about it on Monday morning, sounding wary of the potential domino effect.

“We got away with it the other night. We shortened the bench,” DeBoer said. “We had some guys, I thought, give us some real supreme efforts underneath that group.

“But I don’t know if that’s something that we can go to all the time.”

As such, in-game adjustments will be something to watch tonight. The Sharks had a highly optional skate — only the Black Aces participated, along with James Reimer — so there were no clues as to how DeBoer would run his lines.

Whatever the case, DeBoer has no worries about Thornton and Pavelski struggling to find chemistry with whatever linemate they get.

They’re not going to look at you like, ‘what are we doing here?’ They’re comfortable,” DeBoer explained. “They feel that replacement, there’s not going to be a significant drop-off.

Canada names Ducharme world junior head coach

MONTREAL, QC - DECEMBER 26:  Anthony Duclair #10 of Team Canada celebrates his goal with teammates Shea Theodore #6 and Darnell Nurse #25 during the 2015 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship game against Team Slovakia at the Bell Centre on December 26, 2014 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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Hockey Canada has found the man responsible for getting its junior team back into the medals.

Dominique Ducharme, an assistant to Dave Lowry on the team that finished sixth at this year’s tourney, will be behind the Canadian bench for the 2017 WJC tournament in Montreal and Toronto, per the Canadian Press.

Ducharme, 43, has spent his entire coaching career in the Quebec League, first as an assistant in Montreal, followed a head coaching gig in Halifax — where he worked with the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin and Nikolaj Ehlers.

This spring, Ducharme took the bench boss gig in Drummondville.

A former teammate of Tim Thomas and Martin St. Louis at the University of Vermont, Ducharme played a handful of games in the AHL and ECHL before transitioning to coaching.

Ducharme’s biggest accomplishment as a bench boss was capturing the Memorial Cup with Halifax three years ago.

Metallica is playing the anthem tonight in San Jose

SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 21: (L-R) Larry Trujillo, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich of Metallica receive San Jose Sharks jerseys on Metallica Night At The San Jose Sharks Game on January 21, 2015 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for BB Gun)
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SAN JOSE — The Sharks put on quite the show prior to Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.

And now they’re upping the ante for Game 4.

Per the club and NHL PR, Metallica lead singer James Hetfield and guitarist Kirk Hammett will perform The Star-Spangled Banner at SAP Center tonight, when the Sharks look to even their series against Pittsburgh at two games apiece.

Metallica has long been associated with the Sharks. Hetfield’s been a longtime fan of the club and, last year, the Sharks held a “Metallica Night” for a game against their bitter rivals, the Kings.


From the band’s website:

“We have been long supporters of the Sharks going back to the mid-90’s when the team moved permanently to San Jose… over the years we’ve made many treks down to the Shark Tank. So it’s actually pretty fitting that we finally connect with the team for a night of metal and hockey and we want you to come along and partake of the festivities with us.

“We’ll be on hand for the first strains of ‘Seek & Destroy,’ kick off the game with the puck drop, and partake in some of the intermission fun and games that Sharks fans know and love.

In addition to all the stuff above, Hetfield took part in this year’s new playoff tradition.

Each home game, a local Bay Area celebrity holds the door open for the Sharks as they make their way onto the ice. Hetfield did it for Game 6 of the Western Conference Final, following in the footsteps of Condoleezza Rice, Ronnie Lott, Kristi Yamaguchi, Steve Wozniak and E-40.

I know! E-40. Awesome.

For Saturday’s Game 3, longtime NFL running back Marshawn Lynch had door duties.

Report: Leafs might lose AHL d-man of the year Brennan to KHL

VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 14:  T.J. Brennan #25 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates with the puck in NHL action against the Vancouver Canucks on March 14, 2015 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
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The best defenseman in the American Hockey League could be hopping the pond.

Over the weekend, the Toronto Sun reported that Leafs blueliner T.J. Brennan — who’s spent the majority of the last two years with the Marlies — had received a “lucrative” offer from the KHL, which could orchestrate his exit.

Brennan, 27, has appeared in 53 career NHL contests with the Leafs, Panthers and Buffalo — 13 of those coming in Toronto.

He failed to make a big impression with the parent club but, during his time with the Marlies, Brennan has emerged as arguably the AHL’s top defenseman. He’s twice won the Eddie Shore award, given annually to the league’s best blueliner, and has scored at virtually a point-per-game clip.

The 31st overall pick at the 2007 draft, Brennan has struggled to find his niche in the NHL because of knocks against his defensive game.

It’s worth noting he played this season on a one-year, $675,000 deal, and will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Related: Will anyone give T.J. Brennan a shot?


San Jose’s role guys showed they’re pretty good, too

SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 04:  Joel Ward #42 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates with his teammates after scoring a goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in Game Three of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 4, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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SAN JOSE — You wouldn’t have blamed the Sharks’ depth guys for getting a bit jealous. Not after the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final, in which Pittsburgh’s role players stole the show.

Conor Sheary scored a huge goal. So did Nick Bonino. Same with Bryan Rust.

They were doing what the Sharks’ role guys weren’t, but that changed on Saturday night.

Three depth guys — Justin Braun, Joel Ward and Joonas Donskoi — accounted for all the scoring, pacing the Sharks to a crucial 3-2 OT win, cutting Pittsburgh’s series lead to two games to one.

“It’s been huge — it’s the reason we’re here,”Joe Thornton said of San Jose’s role players. “Just different guys scoring big goals. Wardy with that second one was a huge goal, and then Donnie to score in overtime.

“It’s game in, game out, different guys stepping up to the plate. That’s the reason we’re here.”

Thornton’s right.

Prior to the final, San Jose’s depth guys had been regular contributors. Donskoi, tonight’s OT hero, had 10 points through 20 games. Ward had seven goals prior to tonight and, of the seven, three had either tied the game or given the Sharks the lead.

Fitting, then, what tonight’s goal did:

“Wardo just seems to find the big goal when we need it,” Braun said. “Pretty impressive, his track record coming over from Washington and now doing it for us.

“It’s huge.”

Other role players chipped in on Saturday as well. Chris Tierney got the lone assist on Donskoi’s winner, his first point of series. Tommy Wingels and Nick Spaling provided a big physical presence, combining for 14 hits (Pittsburgh had 17 as a team).

But of all the depth guys that stepped up on Saturday, Donskoi was the hero. The 24-year-old rookie has been a terrific pickup, snagged out of the Finnish League by GM Doug Wilson, and after enjoying a good regular season — 11 goals and 36 points in 76 games — he’s been even better in the playoffs.

“He’s the real deal, a real good player for us,” Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said of Donskoi. “We wouldn’t be here without him.”

Related: Young Sharks forwards have ‘answered a lot of questions regarding our depth’: DeBoer