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Vlasic, Karlsson, Dillon in as Sharks look for first win against desert dogs

Melker Karlsson will play his first game in over two weeks.

San Jose Sharks v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

SAN JOSE — Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Melker Karlsson will play tonight against the Arizona Coyotes, San Jose Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer said. Brenden Dillon was a full participant in the morning skate, and will also draw back into the lineup.

Vlasic missed the thrid period of San Jose’s 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday, but practiced yesterday and participated in the morning skate. Dillon was a late scratch on Saturday due to illness. Karlsson has not played since he injured his left ankle against the Tampa Bay Lightning on November 12th.

Karlsson’s return will provide a boost to the Sharks’ penalty kill, according to DeBoer. He’s third among forwards in shorthanded ice time, and the Sharks have only killed 73.7% of their penalties in Karlsson’s absence, and none in the last two games. That rate would be last in the NHL if carried out over the duration of the season so far.

“[He helps] our P.K. for sure,” DeBoer said. “He’s a big part of our penalty kill, which has stumbled a little bit the last few games. [He brings] energy, he’s easy to play. He helps in a lot of different areas.”

The Sharks have done everything but score in two losses to the Coyotes this season. In two games against last-in-the-Pacific Arizona, San Jose outshot the desert dogs 86-56, and held a distinct edge in puck possession at even strength (62% 5v5 CF%).

“We’ve outshot them over the last two games by quite a large margin, but haven’t gotten the results.” DeBoer said. “We have to find a way to turn the effort and shots into a win.”

The Sharks have to find a way to score “tough goals” and create traffic in front of Coyotes’ goaltender Mike Smith, DeBoer said. Smith stopped 43 of 45 shots in San Jose’s last matchup against Arizona, a 3-2 overtime loss in Glendale.

In that game, Arizona carried a two-goal lead headed into the third period. San Jose scored two third period goals to send the game to overtime, but lost the game in the extra frame.

“We threw a lot at them. I think we want to play in front against this team,” DeBoer said. “I think the last couple times, they’ve found a way to get out early on us and then they can sit back and defend. We put a lot of pressure on them, but I’d like to try and get out in front in a game against them and play that way.”

Dylan DeMelo and Matt Nieto were the last skaters off of the ice at the Sharks’ optional morning skate, and will be scratched tonight. Tommy Wingels did not skate because the coaching staff gave him the day off and will not play tonight, DeBoer said this morning.

Martin Jones was the first goaltender off of the ice this morning, and will start tonight, DeBoer said. The Sharks do not know who will start tomorrow in Los Angeles and will decide in the morning, DeBoer said.

Jones started all 10 regular season and playoff matchups against the Kings last season, but Dell has played one half of a back-to-back in both instances this season.