For the first time in what feels like months, Pete DeBoer can (nearly) pick his lines from a full roster. Jannik Hansen will make his debut as a San Jose Shark against the Washington Capitals on Thursday night and, perhaps as importantly, it appears everyone else will be back and healthy for the occasion.
The only exception to this may be David Schlemko, who remains day-to-day with a lower body injury. The defender didn’t play in either game during the Sharks back-to-back road trip in the central time zone, though there’s a chance he’ll suit back up against the Caps. That being said, San Jose can at least take its pick from its full bevy of forwards.
Joonas Donskoi made his triumphant return to the Sharks lineup on Monday night and looked fine for a player who still needs to get his legs back under him. He made mistakes and looked a little slow (EYE TEST) but his return to the San Jose lineup is a welcome one. The Sharks have the luxury to use him as a depth player, particularly if DeBoer slots Hansen up top with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski.
Donskoi will likely stick on the third line where he found success with Tomas Hertl and Joel Ward against the Jets. That pushes Melker Karlsson back down to the fourth line with Chris Tierney and Micheal Haley, ending Marcus Sorensen’s brief time with the Sharks. As I’ve noted previously, Sorensen getting less ice time than Haley doesn’t bode well for his future on the roster.
With this in mind, here’s how I expect the Sharks to line up against the Capitals on Thursday:
Hansen - Thornton - Pavelski
Marleau - Couture - Boedker
Donskoi - Hertl - Ward
Haley - Tierney - Karlsson
Martin - Burns
Vlasic - Braun
Dillon - DeMelo/Schlemko
If I had my pick, I would scratch Haley and put Kevin Labanc on the fourth line with Tierney and Karlsson unless the rookie forward is actually injured. That’s a rumor going around, tied to his long goalless drought, and while I’ll grant that Labanc being held off the scoresheet is a problem it’s no more a problem than Haley having one goal in 44 games.
The Capitals seem likely to make a deep run in the playoffs this year (drink) and the Sharks will be tested to a degree they haven’t been since they last played Pittsburgh. DeBoer has an opportunity to send out a nearly 100 percent healthy roster on Thursday night. Now let’s see what he does with it.