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Sharks vs. Lightning preview: Vlasic a possibility to return against Bolts

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Injured defenseman practiced with teammates on Saturday.

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

After practicing with his teammates yesterday for the first time since being placed on injured reserve, top Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic is a possibility to return to the lineup this evening as San Jose hosts Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning for the only time this season. If Vlasic is able to draw in, it'll be perfect timing as the Sharks face a team that ranks first in the NHL by a considerable margin in 5-on-5 goal-scoring rate.

Equipped with three lines of scoring (not to mention uber-prospect Jonathan Drouin on their fourth line) and a mobile defense headlined by Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman, the Bolts are one of the best teams in the league. Which hopefully means the Sharks will follow their season-long trend and bring their A-game.

Tale Of The Tape
Tampa Bay Lightning

@

San Jose Sharks
34-17-6, 74 points
Record 29-20-8, 66 points
2nd in Atlantic Rank 2nd in Pacific
54.1%
Score-Adj. Fenwick 50.6%
100.7
PDO 99.3
17.4
PP% 21.2
83.0 PK% 80.6

5PM PST | SAP Center | San Jose, California
TV: CSNCA-HD | Radio: SJSharks.com, 98.5 KFOX
Know Your Enemy: Raw Charge

Projected Sharks Lineup

Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Melker Karlsson
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Matt Nieto
James Sheppard - Chris Tierney - Tommy Wingels
Tomas Hertl - Andrew Desjardins - Barclay Goodrow

Scott Hannan - Brent Burns
Mirco Mueller - Brenden Dillon
Matt Irwin - Matt Tennyson

Antti Niemi
Alex Stalock

Projected Lightning Lineup

Alex Killorn - Steven Stamkos - Ryan Callahan
Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov
Cedric Paquette - Valtteri Filppula - Brett Connolly
Brenden Morrow - Brian Boyle - Jonathan Drouin

Victor Hedman - Andrej Sustr
Mark Barberio - Anton Stralman
Jason Garrison - Luke Witkowski

Ben Bishop
Andrei Vasilevskiy

Last Meeting

Joe Thornton scored off a Brian Boyle turnover and Tyler Kennedy capitalized on a breakaway for his first goal of the season as the Sharks defeated the Lightning in Tampa back in November.

Storylines

  • Anyone under the impression that small players can't succeed in the NHL should take a look at the Bolts' lethal "second" line of Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov. All three are in the top 60 in NHL scoring (Johnson and Kucherov are in the top 25) despite none of them being over six feet tall or over 182 pounds.
  • Of course the most dangerous player on the Lightning remains Stamkos, who leads the NHL in goal scoring since the start of the 2009-10 regular season. Patrick Marleau is 6th over that span and Joe Pavelski is 8th.
  • Ben Bishop vs. Antti Niemi looks like the matchup in net as two recent Vezina finalists mired in fairly mediocre seasons will face each other.