San Jose Sharks

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.

Goalie nods: Flyers lean on Emery, Neuvirth gets a shot

News and notes from around the crease …

No shame about Ray

The Philadelphia Flyers couldn’t have felt great about their slim playoff hopes when Steve Mason went down with his knee injury. For better or worse, it’s on Ray Emery, and Sunday is the kind of game he has to win.

Since taking over for Mason in February, Emery’s gone 1-0-2. The 30-year-old’s overall numbers aren’t much to brag about (9-9-3 with a .890 save percentage), but this stretch will probably make a big impact on how the league views the pugnacious puck-stopper going forward.

On the Buffalo side, Michal Neuvirth gets a chance to stretch his legs in the Sabres’ net with Jhonas Enroth shipped off to Dallas.

The situations are quite different, yet both netminders have plenty to prove today.

Elsewhere …

Blues at Panthers: Brian Elliott vs. Roberto Luongo

Lightning at Sharks: Expected starters are Ben Bishop against Antti Niemi

Capitals at Ducks: Expected starters are Justin Peters vs. John Gibson

Sharks might get Vlasic back Sunday

Marc-Edouard Vlasic took part in Saturday’s practice and might be able to return on Sunday, per the San Jose Mercury News.

“Yesterday I made the decision to practice with the team today,” said Vlasic. “Today myself and the Sharks organization will make a decision what happens tomorrow.”

What has caused the 27-year-old defenseman to miss four straight games in the first place has been a mystery. Officially he’s out with an upper-body injury, but Vlasic initially said he had a cold. So it raised eyebrows when he was put on the injured reserve list shortly after he made that statement.

There was some speculation that he had a concussion, but Sharks coach Todd McLellan has denied it. The blueliner seemed to be wearing a neck protector during the skate.

His absence has come at a time when the Sharks have also been trying to get by without defenseman Justin Braun (hand). McLellan thinks Braun might be back in time for the Sharks’ outdoor game against Los Angeles on Feb. 21.