Mike Halford

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DeBoer: Sharks ‘getting a lesson’ in having target on their backs

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The Sharks are noticing something after making the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history:

They’re on everybody’s radar.

You can’t blame the defending Western Conference champs for being unfamiliar with this position — heck, this is new for everybody in San Jose — but according to head coach Peter DeBoer, the Sharks better get used to it, and quick, if they want to snap out of their uneven start (6-5-0).

From CSN Bay Area, following Thursday’s 3-2 home loss to Calgary:

Makes you wonder if DeBoer’s “target on our back” message has gotten through to everyone yet. Indications are that it hasn’t.

“If they don’t [understand the message], we’re getting a lesson in that pretty much nightly here,” DeBoer said. “The desperation level of the teams we’re playing is very high, and ours is high for stages of the game, but not for 60 minutes.

“This is a league where if you don’t play desperate for 60 minutes you’re really limiting your opportunities to win, and I think that’s where we’re at right now.”

One of the biggest issues in San Jose right now?

Offense.

Traditionally one of the league’s most prolific scoring teams, the Sharks sit 21st in goals per game, and there are a few key suspects in that regard. Big free agent signing Mikkel Boedker has found the back of the net just twice, the same amount Joel Ward and Tommy Wingels have combined.

But with that said, it’s not like the Sharks are playing poorly.

They’re top-10 in GAA and on the penalty kill, and the power play is clicking at a respectable 22 percent. They’ve also ripped off a three-game winning streak already.

The problem, it seems, comes from the opposition.

The Sharks are an elite team, and spent an awful lot of time in the spotlight last season. That usually translates into being a measuring stick for the other team or, if nothing else, a game they can get up for. It’s what DeBoer keeps harping on, and one wonders if he’s referring to his time in New Jersey, when the Devils followed up their surprise Stanley Cup Final appearance by missing the playoffs altogether the following season.

In that light, the next few weeks will be interesting.

The Sharks will take their show on the road beginning Nov. 8 for a huge six-game trip through Washington, Florida, Tampa Bay, Carolina, St. Louis and Arizona.

Gilbert suspended three games for driving Ritchie ‘violently’ into boards

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The NHL has come down on Kings defenseman Tom Gilbert, suspending him three games for a check from behind on Anaheim’s Nick Ritchie.

“Approaching Ritchie from behind, Gilbert finishes with a solid hit through Ritchie’s numbers and left shoulder, driving him violently into the boards and causing an injury,” the Department of Player Safety explained.

The DoPS noted that Ritchie put himself in a vulnerable position, but did so well in advance of the Gilbert hit.

The incident, which occurred in the second period of Anaheim’s 4-0 win on Tuesday, knocked Ritchie out of action and kept him sidelined for last night’s game as well, a 5-1 loss to Pittsburgh.

The Kings will now be without Gilbert for tonight’s game against the Pens, Saturday’s game against the Flames and Tuesday’s tilt in Toronto — their first of a five-game road swing.

Gilbert will be eligible to return on Thursday, Nov. 10 in Montreal.

With him gone, the Kings have recalled Kevin Gravel from AHL Ontario. Gravel will immediately jump into the lineup — L.A. was already down a defenseman with Brayden McNabb hurt — and likely skate alongside Alec Martinez.

Jake Muzzin will assume his usual role alongside Drew Doughty, while Derek Forbort and Matt Greene will make up the third pairing.

Of note, Gilbert — who does have a supplemental discipline history, having been fined for a high hit on Matt Stajan back in 2010 — will forfeit $23,333.34 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

Goalie nods: Talbot to face Rangers for first time since trade

AP

Since getting dealt to Edmonton at the 2015 draft, Cam Talbot and the Oilers have faced the Rangers twice.

Talbot, however, was merely a spectator.

The now-departed Anders Nilsson got both games against the Blueshirts last year, meaning Talbot will finally get to face his former team tonight when the Oilers visit MSG.

Talbot struggled early in Edmonton, but really came on near the end of the year and has been terrific this season. He enters Thursday’s action sporting a 7-2-1 record with a .214 GAA and .932 save percentage, and was named the NHL’s first star of the week back on Oct. 24.

He’s established himself as a bonafide No. 1 in Edmonton, but first displayed that potential while serving as Henrik Lundqvist‘s backup in New York.

It’s a time Lundqvist remembers well.

“I think how hard you want to work when you come to the rink every day, that’s step one, and he had that,” Lundqvist said, per Yahoo. “Always a great attitude coming to the rink and wants to pay the price. But if you combine the hard work, the talent and paying attention to details, I think that’s going to pay off. That’s something I saw working with him, and he’s a competitive guy, too.”

Speaking of Lundqvist, he’s in for the Rangers tonight.

Related: AV shares key to Rangers’ winning ways

Elsewhere…

Jaroslav Halak goes for the Isles, after coming on in relief of Thomas Greiss during a ghastly 6-1 loss to the Lightning on Tuesday. Steve Mason is likely for the Flyers.

Frederik Andersen takes on Robin Lehner as the Leafs visit Buffalo.

— The Jets will continue the Connor HellebuyckMichael Hutchinson flip-flop tonight, as Hutchinson starts against the Caps (Hellebuyck got them on Tuesday night). As per usual, Braden Holtby‘s in for the Caps.

Mike Condon will make his first start for Ottawa, against the visiting Canucks. Condon was acquired from Pittsburgh for a fifth-round pick yesterday, and is the temporary No. 1 with Andrew Hammond hurt and Craig Anderson taking a personal leave to be with his wife. Jacob Markstrom goes for Vancouver.

Tuukka Rask will start for the B’s in Tampa Bay. The Lightning will give Ben Bishop the night off, and go with Andrei Vasilevskiy.

— Former Vancouver teammates meet in Florida, as Roberto Luongo and the Panthers host Cory Schneider and the Devils.

— After getting yanked in a 5-0 loss to the Rangers on Tuesday, Jake Allen is back in goal for the Blues. He’ll be up against Antti Niemi, who hasn’t been great for Dallas this year (though neither has Kari Lehtonen.)

— Colorado goes with Semyon Varlamov in Chicago. The ‘Hawks counter with Corey Crawford.

Pekka Rinne will look to build on his 28-save victory over Colorado on Tuesday, with a start in Arizona. The Coyotes are going with Louis Domingue.

— After Matt Murray was victorious in his season debut last night, the Pens will turn to Marc-Andre Fleury in L.A. No word yet on a Kings starter.

Chad Johnson gives Brian Elliott the night off as the Flames visit San Jose. The Sharks will go with Martin Jones.

Ruff calls out Stars goalies for their ‘concerning numbers’

AP
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Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but there are netminding issues in Dallas.

I know. I know.

In dissecting the Stars’ flat 3-4-2 start to the year, the focus turned — as it often does in Dallas — to the crease, where both Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen have lacked consistency.

More, from the Morning-News:

Both goalies have had their moments of greatness, but after nine games the Stars rank 24th in goals against average at 3.22 and 24th in save percentage at .893. That’s a huge reason for a 3-4-2 start.

“Those are concerning numbers,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “There’s a lot of tough chances in the game, and you have to get big saves. Those two guys know they need to be better.”

By now, it’s almost unnecessary to provide the backstory of Dallas’ goalie conundrum (short version: expensive, not very good, annoys Ruff.)

So let’s focus on something else — like, say, GM Jim Nill potentially calling uncle on his two-goalie experiment, and going in a different direction.

Though he’s got just over $10 million tied up in Niemi and Lehtonen, Nill still has space under the cap to add another goalie (and perhaps figure out the financials this summer.) Jaroslav Halak has been floated as a potential candidate, given he’s now on the trading block. The Ben Bishop rumors have been around for a while.

Previously, talk of blowing up the two-goalie system was cut short because, well, Dallas was doing pretty well. For all the critiques, Lehtonen and Niemi did backstop the Stars to a 50-win campaign last year, and the franchise’s first playoff series win in eight years.

But things are different now.

Injuries have ravaged the Stars, especially at forward, and the once high-flying offense has suffered as a result — it currently sits 26th in the NHL in goals per game. That’s a problem, because often times the solution to suspect netminding in Dallas was to simply out-score it — like last year, when the No. 1 ranked offense averaged 3.23 goals per game.

While the current situation might seem primed for a fix, chances are things will stay the same. It’s still early in the season, Dallas will get healthy eventually, and that should put things back on track.

But if it doesn’t…

No hearing for Schenn, who ‘one thousand percent didn’t try’ to hit Smith

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Brayden Schenn insisted he didn’t intentionally run into Detroit d-man Brendan Smith during Philly’s 4-3 OT win on Wednesday night.

The NHL thought the same.

Per Sportsnet, Schenn will avoid supplemental discipline for the hit, which occurred late in the second period and went unpenalized.

More on the incident, from CSN Philly:

“Honestly, I’ve watched it in the intermission,” Schenn said. “I 1,000 percent did not try and hit him. I was trying to get out of his way and avoid contact.

“I know it probably doesn’t look like that. I saw him swing at the puck and I’m watching the puck and to be honest, I was trying to get out of his way and I hit him in the head by accident.”

Schenn said he spoke to both referees and they felt he did not intend to hit Smith.

“I even went up to Smith at the start of the period to make sure he was all right,” Schenn said. “I’m not trying to go out there and [hit] anyone in the head. When you see on the replay that I hit him in the head, I knew I did it 100 percent on accident and I apologized at the start of the third period to make sure he was OK.”

Smith exited briefly, but did return and finished with 16:30 TOI.

There was some thought Schenn might be getting a phone call, as he does have a history with the player safety department. Schenn missed the first three games this season to a suspension that carried over from last year’s playoffs, when he got dinged for charging T.J. Oshie.