San Jose Sharks

Goalie nods: It has to be Johnson for the Isles… right? (Update: Yep)

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All the latest from the crease…

Who goes for New York?

The Islanders won’t announce their starting goalie until 5 p.m. ET today, so we don’t know if it’s Chad Johnson or Jaroslav Halak in net for tonight’s affair against Carolina.

Update: It’s Johnson.

One would suspect Johnson gets the nod, given tonight is the second of a back-to-back; Halak played last night, and allowed six goals on 42 shots in an emotional loss to the Rangers.

That said, head coach Jack Capuano could possibly be persuaded to let Halak try and bounce back; the 29-year-old Slovak looked rattled and a bit shaky as the Blueshirts made a concerted effort to get into his kitchen.

Related: The Isles are surrendering too many goals

“I want to get shots,” captain Ryan McDonagh said, per Newsday. “We wanted to make it more difficult on Halak tonight than in other past games. He’s been a big difference in why we haven’t been able to beat them in the past.

“We talked about getting in front of the net and making it tough on him, make him fight through screens. We were a lot hungrier in front of him for sure.”

No word yet on who’ll start in goal for the ‘Canes.

Elsewhere…

Blue Jackets at Flyers: Curtis McElhinney vs. Ray Emery

Caps at Pens: Braden Holtby vs. Marc-Andre Fleury

Sabres at Devils: Cory Schneider for New Jersey, Michal Neuvirth likely for Buffalo.

Panthers at Leafs: Roberto Luongo vs. Jonathan Bernier

Stars at Blues: Brian Elliott for St. Louis, Kari Lehtonen likely for Dallas.

Sharks at Preds: Alex Stalock for San Jose, Pekka Rinne likely for Nashville.

McLellan: ‘Yes, we’re a playoff team’

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The San Jose Sharks are officially in danger of missing the playoffs.

And that’s a pretty big story, given they haven’t done that since 2003.

With just two wins in their last eight, it’s gotten to the point where coach Todd McLellan is being asked if his squad is really, truly postseason-worthy.

“Yes, we’re a playoff team,” McLellan insisted, per Curtis Pashelka of Bay Area News Group.

“We are a playoff team. I want our guys to believe that they’re a playoff team. We’ll be accountable based on being a playoff team. Players, coaches, everybody.”

No disrespect to McLellan, but those words don’t mean a whole heck of a lot. They are, after all, only words. And the Sharks have been saying all the right clichés dating back weeks now.

For whatever reason — and it’s not because the core of the roster changed significantly, that’s for sure — this team just isn’t as good it was a year ago.

In 2013-14, the Sharks were right up there with the Kings and Blackhawks in terms of puck possession, and they finished the regular season with a record of 51-22-9.

After 58 games of 2014-15, the Sharks are a mediocre possession team and, per Sports Club Stats, have seen their playoff chances fall to just 47.3 percent.

Perhaps it’s all just a psychological hangover from what happened in the playoffs. (We are, of course, talking about a franchise that one columnist described during the summer as “having a bit of nervous breakdown.”)

Then again, maybe it’s the five rookies that have played 20 or more games.

Or 35-year-old Patrick Marleau, with just 11 goals in 58 games.

Or 2013 Vezina Trophy finalist Antti Niemi, with a pedestrian .911 save percentage.

Regardless, it all adds up to what should be an interesting final two months of the regular season, and perhaps an even more interesting offseason.

The Sharks are in Nashville to play the Predators tonight.

Related: Sharks-Kings outdoor game at Levi’s Stadium sold out

Couture: Sharks keep making same mistakes

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The San Jose Sharks are currently ranked second in the Pacific Division, but their position is a lot shakier than it might originally appear.

With 66 points in 58 games played, their lead is tenuous over Vancouver (65 in 55 GP) and Calgary (65 in 56 GP) while Los Angeles’ surge looks foreboding as the Kings have 62 points in 55 games played.

In other words, San Jose can’t really afford lengthy stumbles (like going 2-4-2 in its past eight games), so Sunday’s 5-2 defeat to the Tampa Bay Lightning is quite troubling.

More than anything else, the Sharks seem worried about defensive lapses, as CSNBayArea.com reports.

“It’s so frustrating because the mistakes we’re making are things we work on, things that we do in practice, things that we watch on video,” Logan Couture said.

“I mean, no one’s going to be perfect in a hockey game, but when you’re constantly making the same mistakes every single night, you need to take a look in the mirror and wonder what you’re bringing, if you’re mentally prepared every night and you know what you’re supposed to do.”

Marc-Edouard Vlasic returning to the mix should help long-term, but that wasn’t really the case on Sunday, as he had a matching -2 rating with defensive partner Brent Burns.

Couture frames the issue a the Sharks being self-destructive, yet one cannot help but wonder if the Sharks simply lack the personnel to raise their level of defensive play. Whatever the explanation may be, San Jose cannot afford to fade down the stretch.

Cutting down on their own mistakes would certainly improve their odds of avoiding a lull.

Stamkos and Callahan lead the Bolts over the Sharks

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The Tampa Bay Lightning opened a five-game, eight-day road trip with a 5-2 win over the San Jose Sharks Sunday night.

Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan each had a goal and an assist while Valtteri Filppula added two helpers for the Lightning, who avoided a third straight loss.

“We wanted to start this road trip on the right foot, and we did,” said Stamkos per NHL.com. “We gave them a couple of good looks but [Ben Bishop] was there, and we capitalized on our chances. [That] was a big game for [Bishop] to get his mojo back. He was terrific tonight.”

Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat and Cedric Paquette had Tampa’s other goals. Bishop, who had been pulled in two of his last three starts, made 33 saves to improve to 28-10-3 on the season.

Logan Couture and Brent Burns had the goals for the Sharks.

Antti Niemi stopped 28 shots in the loss.

San Jose is now winless five straight at home this month. San Jose has just one win in their last five overall as well.

“This is frustrating,” Couture said. “The mistakes we make are things we work on, we practice on and watch video. When you constantly make the same mistakes every single night, you question whether you are prepared to play.

“These are things that should have been fixed in Week 2 of the season. We all go through training camp learning the system. You have to play it. I don’t care whether you’re a rookie or a veteran. Our attention to details is not where it should be. It’s the entire team. You lose when the team is not on the same page and that’s what we’re going through right now.”

Things don’t get easier for the Sharks who head to Nashville on Tuesday for a meeting with the Predators.

Tampa continues its road trip Monday against the L.A. Kings.

Out of a pickle: Sharks get Vlasic back

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The San Jose Sharks have a challenge in bottling up the Tampa Bay Lightning attack on Sunday, but they appear to be getting a defensive reinforcement.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic appears ready to return to the lineup, prompting the demotion of Dylan DeMelo, according to CSNBayArea.com’s Kevin Kurz.

Vlasic, 27, has missed four straight games with an upper-body injury. While his scoring totals are generally modest (17 points in 52 games this season), he’s enough of a defensive stalwart to earn an Olympic nod. Many would agree that he’s the Sharks’ best defensive defenseman.

This won’t necessarily make facing Tampa Bay a cakewalk, but they’ll at least be easier to manage.