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Sharks have “different options” to maintain elite power play

Existing depth and acquisitions mean the Sharks’ power play units could be flexible this season.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-San Jose Sharks at Los Angeles Kings Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

SAN JOSE — With every player fully practicing on Thursday and no game later that night, the Sharks were able to practice the power play with their full complement of players for the first time in training camp. It’s going to remain a focus in the coming days, according to head coach Pete DeBoer.

“We’ve got a really short window here with everybody all hands on deck and healthy, and we’re playing for real in less than a week,” DeBoer said. “We’ve got to make sure we get as much in as possible.”

Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and Joe Thornton skated with the top unit, as they did last season. Joonas Donskoi, Tomas Hertl, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Joel Ward, and free agent acquisitions Mikkel Boedker and David Schlemko played on the second.

San Jose’s power play was elite by just about every measure last season. It finished third in the league at 22.6%, seventh in shots for per 60 minutes (SF/60), second in scoring chances per 60 minutes (SC/60), and fourth in expected goals for (xGF).

The top unit was especially dominant. Burns, Couture, Marleau, Pavelski, and Thornton scored 43 of the Sharks’ 62 goals with the man advantage last season. The second unit improved over the course of last season and in the playoffs, according to DeBoer. As a result, the Sharks could be flexible with both units, DeBoer said.

“The first unit might be fluid, too. We’ve got different options,” DeBoer said. “We’re going to start where we left off last year with that first unit. But, I think maybe a couple years ago [the top unit] didn’t have guys pushing like we had [last season.”

Adding to that push are Boedker and Schlemko, whose skating, composure, and thinking make them good fits on the power play, DeBoer said. Schlemko, in particular, “just started to scratch the surface of what he’s capable of” last season in New Jersey, according to DeBoer.

In New Jersey, Schlemko played the most he’s ever played on the power play, and scored 3.89 primary points per 60 minutes, the highest of his career. It was good for 29th in the league, and was higher than any Sharks player.

Schlemko alternated running the point on the second unit with Vlasic. The coaching staff hasn’t discussed much with each unit beyond implementing basic strategies, Schlemko said. But, increased production from the second unit is a goal this season, he said.

“Those guys on the first unit are obviously world class players, and they’re expected to produce the same way they did last year, and the way they’ve been [producing] for many years,” Schlemko said. “We want to contribute [on the second unit] too, and hopefully we can do that this year.”