SAN JOSE — Joel Ward did not participate in the Sharks’ morning skate, and will not play in either of their final two preseason games, according to head coach Pete DeBoer. He is dealing with a lower-body injury, and being held out as a precaution, DeBoer said.
Other than Ward’s absence, the Sharks’ lineup will look much like it will on Wednesday in their season opener against the Los Angeles Kings, including Martin Jones starting in net, according to DeBoer.
“You want to get your game to a point where you can compete [at] the start of the season, because L.A. is going to come in here and they’re going to be playing for real,” DeBoer said. “The nice thing about having a veteran group like we have is they know how to prepare themselves, and they know the level it’s going to go to next Wednesday, and I’m sure we’ll be ready.”
Marc-Edouard Vlasic joked that the goal in the next two games is to not get injured, before adding that he’ll get a chance to play with regular defense partner Justin Braun, after playing alongside Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber for team Canada at this summer’s World Cup of Hockey.
“It’ll happen pretty quickly,” Vlasic said about getting used to playing with Braun again. “I’ve played two practices with him, and [will have played] a game over the weekend. We’ll be alright.”
While the Sharks’ veterans will use tonight’s game a dress rehearsal before the season begins, the young players remaining on the roster will have another opportunity to make their case for the opening night roster.
Barclay Goodrow, Nikolay Goldobin, and Kevin Labanc, along with AHL veteran Micheal Haley, are pushing for a spot up front. Meanwhile, defensemen Dylan DeMelo and Mirco Mueller remain with the team. They may not crack the top six, but one will probably be called up as the Sharks’ seventh defensemen, given their second game of the season is the beginning of a five-game road trip.
“We’re getting right down to it,” DeBoer said. “I think I’m looking as a coach for some more detail in their game as opposed to just energy. We need to be able to trust them, that they understand the systems and know how to play within our system to a certain point.”
If those players do not make the team right out of camp, AHL performance and feedback from San Jose Barracuda head coach Roy Sommer will play into their decision to call a player up, according to DeBoer. But, training camp performance can keep them on the Sharks coaching staff’s radar, DeBoer said.
“It helps them immensely in that they’re in the back of our mind,” DeBoer said. “We know what they’re capable of, and when we’re looking for a player, and when Doug asks us, we have our own list of guys that have impressed us.”
Marc-Edouard Vlasic doesn’t have the same stakes riding on the remaining preseason games as the players on the bubble. He said he doesn’t need the final tune-up, and can’t wait for the regular season to start.
“I’m ready to go. I’ve played enough hockey lately,” Vlasic joked.