SAN JOSE – The Sharks' presumptive backup goalie will see his first preseason action on Friday night at SAP Center, as Aaron Dell will likely play the duration of a game against the Arizona Coyotes.
Rather than ink a veteran backup to Martin Jones in the offseason, the Sharks are giving the 27-year-old Dell a chance to earn his first full-time job in the NHL. He earned that chance with a strong season in the AHL last year, when he posted a 17-16-6 record, 2.42 GAA and .922 SP for the Barracuda, and stuck around as the emergency third stringer in the playoffs.
"Like the message to everyone in the organization, you come in, you have a good year in the American League, you're going to get an honest look the next year. I think he's done that," Pete DeBoer said.
"He was very good last year in the American League and was around our team during the playoffs as a third guy, worked hard, and he's getting an opportunity to get a really good look here. He's got to make the most of it."
Dell entered last year's training camp as the fourth on the depth chart behind Jones, Alex Stalock and Troy Grosenick. He saw just the second half of the club's preseason opener, allowing one three-on-three overtime goal on 13 shots in relief of Grosenick in Victoria, British Columbia against the Canucks.
He described his playing style as, "a little more aggressive. I'm not the biggest guy so I have to get out and take away the angle. One of my biggest assets is my speed. I play pretty fast and aggressive."
He credited goalie coaches Evgeni Nabokov and Johan Hedberg for his steady ascent up the depth chart.
"It's been great to have those guys here," Dell said. "Those guys were both great players when they played, too. You've got to be able to learn something from those guys."
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Patrick Marleau, Joel Ward, Tomas Hertl, Melker Karlsson, Paul Martin and Justin Braun are all expected to play in their first preseason game. The lines and defense pairs in the morning skate were as follows:
Nikolay Goldobin – Patrick Marleau – Joel Ward
Marcus Sorensen – Tomas Hertl – Kevin Labanc
Barclay Goodrow – Melker Karlsson – Tommy Wingels
Alex Gallant – Ryan Carpenter – Adam Helewka
Paul Martin – Justin Braun
Dylan DeMelo – Mirco Mueller
Patrick McNally – Tim Heed
Hertl skating on his right nee for the first time in game action since getting hurt late in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.
"It's definitely a test on his knee. He missed the World Cup because of it, and obviously missed the finals last year and has rehabbed hard all summer," DeBoer said. "It's a good step for him towards getting back here healthy."
Hertl said: "I think now the muscle is back, and ready to go."
Hertl has been a center since camp opened, but it's still unclear where he'll start the season. He could be in the middle of the third line, or he could return to the left wing of the Joe Thornton line.
'We have a lot of options, a lot of guys that we can put in different spots," DeBoer said. "Everything is up in the air right now."
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Mueller will be playing his second straight preseason game after a strong opener on Tuesday in the Sharks' 3-2 overtime win. In 18:53 of ice time, he was a plus-one with one shot on goal and one blocked shot.
"I thought Mirco had an excellent game the first game," DeBoer said. "Like all young guys, though, you've got to follow that up.
"It's a ruthless league. You can't play one good game [then] one poor game. If you're a young guy trying to jump inhere you've got to string together four of five, eight out of 10 good ones in order to kind of establish yourself. The young guys who have cracked our lineup have been able to do that."