September 26, 2015 By Paul Gackle

Ward Makes Strong Impression In Home Debut With Sharks

SAN JOSE — Joel Ward didn’t waste any time to make an impression on his new home crowd.

Ward found the back of the net in the opening period of his first home game at the SAP Center on Saturday, parking himself in front of the crease and deflecting a Paul Martin point shot past Anaheim Ducks netminder Anton Khudobin.

It was the type of goal the Sharks had envisioned Ward scoring when they signed him to a three-year $3.275 million contract in July.

“I think most of my goals in the past have been [scored] around that area, so there’s no secret there,” Ward said, following the Sharks 2-1 preseason loss to the Ducks. “I’m just trying to go to the net and get pucks and rebounds.”

Strong net play has been a point of emphasis for head coach Peter DeBoer in his first training camp with the Sharks. Team Teal struggled to establish a net-front presence last season and they also failed to move opponents away from the blue paint in their own zone.

“We’ve got to get more people willing to go there. I think we will,” DeBoer said. “I think that that’s just going to become a habit. It’s going to be something we’re going to concentrate on weekly.”

With Ward on the roster, getting a body in the eyes of opposing goalies shouldn’t be a problem.

“He’s getting better every day,” DeBoer said, referring to Ward. “Veteran guys, they come into camp in a little different mindset than the young guys who are going 1,000 miles an hour. What I’ve seen out of Wardo is I’ve felt that every game that he’s played, and every day he’s practiced, he’s looked better and better.”

Ward’s physicality should also be a compliment to linemates Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau if DeBoer keeps the combination in tact. Last season, Couture and Marleau skated with Matt Nieto, giving the line tremendous speed, but it lacked that extra punch.

With Ward onboard, the line should be well-balanced with skill, speed and power.

“For me, it’s just to earn their trust and respect to make plays out there,” Ward said, when asked about the line’s chemistry thus far. “Once that happens, once I get better [playing] with them, more positive results.”

The Sharks fourth preseason game also marked goalie Martin Jones’ home debut at the Shark Tank. After pitching a shutout in Vancouver on Tuesday, Jones extended his shutout streak to 103:05 before surrendering a goal to Chris Wagner early in the third period.

Corey Perry scored the game-winning goal later in the frame, redirecting a point shot by Shea Theodore.

Despite the loss, DeBoer said he saw a lot of “good stuff” from his squad on Saturday.

“I loved our first two periods, thought we deserved to be up more than 1-0 after two and that was probably the difference in the game,” he said. “You let a good team hang around like that and you get burned.”

With just 10 days remaining before opening-night, the Sharks are still carrying 37 players on their training camp roster. With a day off on Sunday, cuts could be looming as DeBoer looks to trim some fat before the last week of camp.

“From a coaching perspective, I’d like to get down to a manageable number next week,” DeBoer said after the Sharks morning practice on Saturday. “What day next week? Well, that’s still up in the air.”

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