SAN JOSE — Sharks forward Joel Ward has never spent a lot of time on a line without a dedicated center. In the Sharks’ last two games, Ward has lined up on the fourth line alongside Melker Karlsson and Micheal Haley.
All three players have spent little time in the position this season, as Tommy Wingels has filled in as the fourth line center in the majority of games since Tomas Hertl’s injury last month. As a result, the trio shares responsibilities and assignments, according to Ward.
“I think it’s just a matter of being detailed, and knowing your assignments before you head out there,” Ward said.
With little experience between the three of them centering their own line this season, communication is especially important, according to Ward. Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer is confident icing the trio as a line because of their hockey sense, he said.
“[They’re] all interchangeable,” DeBoer said. “They help each other. [Haley] lines up as a center, but doesn’t always play center. One of those guys will fill in for him down low in [defensive] zone coverage. They’ve found a way to be effective, and not be a liability.”
The trio’s spent a little over 15 minutes together in the last two games. They scored the Sharks’ second goal last night on a Karlsson redirect from the slot, but struggled for the second consecutive game in terms of possession.
Last night, the trio posted a 33.33% CF in a game which the Sharks struggled as a whole. Against Edmonton on Friday, the trio posted a 45.45% CF and a -9.38 CF% relative to the team, the worst marks in either category.
But, DeBoer is happy with the way the trio has played so far. Tommy Wingels and Matt Nieto wore gray jerseys as the Sharks’ extra forwards at today’s practice, meaning the center-less fourth line will stay together for the time being.
“It’s a critical piece for us,” DeBoer said.
DeBoer mixes up power play units
In the third period of last night’s win in Anaheim, Pete DeBoer broke up his top power play unit. Kevin Labanc skated in Patrick Marleau’s place on the top unit last night, and Joel Ward skated in Marleau’s place today.
Marleau, Labanc, and Mikkel Boedker skated up front on the second unit, while Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Dylan DeMelo manned the blueline as they did last night in Anaheim. The Sharks also took a look at a third unit, with their third line of Chris Tierney, Joonas Donskoi, and Timo Meier skating up front and David Schlemko skating with Vlasic on the back-end.
“We’re looking at different options,” DeBoer said. “We’re kind of at that point. We need to explore everything. Like every decision you make, you try and let it run its course and give it as much time as you can, but obviously it’s not where we want it to be right now.”
The Sharks finished last night’s game 0-for-4 on the power play, and only managed to muster four shots on goal. Since returning from their extended road trip, San Jose is just 1-for-13 in the last three games, and sit 20th in power play percentage in the NHL this season.