GLENDALE, Ariz. — 23-man roster and taxi squad combined, the San Jose Sharks have six left-handed defensemen and just three right-handed. Bob Boughner, however, managed to field three lefty-righty pairings on Thursday night. How important is a lefty-righty pairing to the former defenseman?
Speaking of his blueliners, Bob Boughner admitted to overplaying Erik Karlsson in the season opener. Karlsson clocked over 32 minutes.
Also, get to know Nikolai Knyzhov and Nicolas Meloche more. Did you know Knyzhov played for the Jr. Coyotes?
Finally, in the SPORTLOGiQ Pre-Game Stat of the Day, how did the San Jose Sharks fare in power play entries in their first game in 10 months?
San Jose Sharks (1-0-0)
Noesen and Middleton draw in, Jones in net. pic.twitter.com/gZ7ouBC1KS
— Locked on John Leonard SZN (@LockedOnSharks) January 16, 2021
By the way! Here’s why you should “Like” San Jose Hockey Now on Facebook and listen to my FB Lives — you would’ve been clued in on the possibility of Sorensen-Marleau-Noesen.
Arizona Coyotes (0-0-1)
Hayton – Schmaltz – Garland
Caggiula – Dvorak – Kessel
Keller – Brassard – Pitlick
Crouse – Larsson – Fischer
Ekman-Larsson – Demers
Chychrun – Goligoski
Oesterle – Hjalmarsson
Where to Watch
Puck drop is 1 PM PT at Gila River Arena. Watch it on Fox Sports Arizona and NBC Sports Bay Area or NHL.tv.
“That’s too much, too early. We talked about that as a staff today. We’re going to have to trust some of the younger guys to play in some crucial situations.”
That’s what Boughner said yesterday about playing Karlsson 32:03. On the other side of the spectrum, Knyzhov skated just 10:53 and Meloche 5:53.
So it looks like the rookie pairing will have to be more than just really great stories.
Phoenix, it turns out, was much more than a training camp destination for Knyzhov. When he came to the US from Russia in 2013, it’s where he played his teenage years. He was even a member of the Jr. Coyotes in 2014-15. The San Jose Sharks signed him out of the KHL in July 2019.
“I actually come back here every summer, just to train and skate. Have a bunch of friends. A couple billet families and friends will be in the stands right now,” knyzhov said. “Hockey is a small world. Obviously, it’s fun to play here. Feels a little bit like home, I guess. Especially without the ability to play at home in San Jose. This feels like the closest to home for me.”
Meloche has also had an interesting road here. A 2015 second-round Avs pick, he’s had a bumpy road to the NHL.
“It was an up-and-down road to get here. I played a little bit in the [ECHL] in my first year pro, won a Kelly Cup there. It was just a battle to get here.”
It wasn’t an easy off-season for him either. In the midst of training, which Boughner said made him noticeably faster in training camp, he also tested positive for COVID-19:
“My agency put me with a skating coach in Montreal. It really helped me to be lighter on my feet. Just work on some edges and my pivot. That was one of my weaknesses.
“I had three weeks off because I had COVID. That was probably my only break.
“The same day that I tested positive, it was the same day that I signed with the Sharks. So it was a positive-negative day. But I’m just happy to be here.”
By the way, some readers asked me if Meloche being a righty helped him get in the line-up. Between Marc-Eduard Vlasic and Karlsson, Mario Ferraro and Brent Burns, that makes for three lefty-righty pairings. How married is Boughner to the philosophy of the lefty-righty pairing?
“In a perfect world, yes.
“But there’s going to be plenty of games this year where we’re going to have two lefties as our fifth and sixth defensemen.
“If you look at the make-up of our team and the taxi squad, the option of Meloche [is] there. But you got Knyzhov, Middleton, Pasichnuk, Fredrik Claesson when he comes in. They’re all lefties.”
That’s what’s happening today with Middleton and Knyzhov, with Knyzhov taking his off side.
SPORTLOGIQ PRE-GAME STAT OF THE NIGHT
The San Jose Sharks enjoyed just a 28.6 Power Play Controlled Entry Success % on Thursday, per SPORTLOGiQ.
Just for comparison, the Sharks 61.0 Power Play Controlled Entry Success % last year was 28th in the NHL, well behind top-ranked Toronto’s 72.3.
Boughner agreed: “It’s a work in progress.”
One interesting note: Rocky Thompson, who runs the power play, has been using the rarely-seen three-man drop pass.
This is the more typical two-man drop pass, favored by Steve Spott and the Sharks for many years.
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