Marc-Edouard Vlasic played only two shifts of the second period and missed the entirety of the third period with an undisclosed injury that left him day-to-day according to Pete DeBoer. That comes on the heels of David Schlemko’s own day-to-day injury that hasn’t seen the defender return to the lineup.
Schlemko may return for the Sharks’ game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, which means more playing time for Dylan DeMelo. If Schlemko doesn’t return, things get more interesting. Mirco Mueller is up with the Sharks right now, and should he stay up may get his first NHL shot since a season ago.
Despite Schlemko’s importance to the Sharks, losing a bottom pairing defender for a few games doesn’t compare to losing Vlasic. That sort of shakeup can’t be mitigated by sliding Mueller into the lineup, no matter the improvements the Barracuda coaching staff claims he’s made.
Mueller has played more than 200 minutes with both Brenden Dillon and Brent Burns, while DeMelo has spent time with Dillon and Justin Braun. It seems logical to slide DeMelo up to the “top pairing” with Braun (Burns and Martin will surely get the most minutes) and put Mueller with Dillon on the bottom pairing.
The good news for the Sharks is they boast so much defensive talent that they can withstand these sorts of blows better than most teams ... but it still won’t be pretty. Getting Schlemko back into the lineup will help mitigate the damage done by losing Vlasic (in which case moving DeMelo to the top pairing still makes the most sense to me), so hopefully he’s good to go on Tuesday.
Perhaps most impressive is the Sharks (barely) controlled possession without Vlasic for the better part of the game last night. San Jose just edged Carolina in even-strength, score-adjusted unblocked shot attempts (an area the Sharks are always quite good at) despite losing their best defender.
Elsewhere on the injury front, Karlsson has played reasonably well since returning which has been a nice boost to the Sharks’ offense. With Tommy Wingels back at 100 percent, San Jose is missing Tomas Hertl in addition to Vlasic and Schlemko — three guys you don’t want out of the lineup. With any luck, two of the three will be back very soon.