The San Jose Sharks are close to locking down a spot in the playoffs, so now the most important thing is to get healthy.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic was on the ice yesterday morning, practicing with the team. That means he’s expected to play tonight, which is great news considering how Vlasic left Saturday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks. Vlasic took a slapshot to the throat partway through the second period and didn’t return. Sharks fans are breathing a sigh of relief that it was not worse.
Melker Karlsson was also injured in the Saturday’s game, but was also skating with the team yesterday. He is expected to slot into the lineup tonight.
The bad news is Joonas Donskoi will likely be a game time decision. He’s considered day-to-day after he injured his shoulder during the March 14 game against the Edmonton Oilers and he did not practice with the team yesterday.
We know that rookie defenseman Joakim Ryan will not play tonight. He’s out for at least a week with what’s being called an upper body injury. And of course, the Sharks are still missing Joe Thornton and Joel Ward.
Meantime, the New Jersey Devils are relatively healthy. They’re on the final leg of their California roadie and looking to come out of it with a winning record. The Devils lost to Anaheim 4-2 on Sunday, but shutout the Los Angeles Kings 3-0 on Saturday. New Jersey is holding on to the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference, so for them, every point is essential. The Sharks have to be ready to play a desperate team.
The last time these two teams played was all the way back in October when the Sharks won 3-0. Martin Jones made 28 saves to earn the shutout. We’ll see if Jones gets another shot at the Devils tonight.
Who’s in and who’s out for the Sharks?
With all the injuries it’s a bit of a mystery who will play tonight for Team Teal. On defense, Ryan is out. The Sharks called Tim Heed up from the Barracuda yesterday. I imagine Heed will get the start over Paul Martin. Martin slotted in for Ryan during Saturday’s game, but then sat out for about half of the third period.
As for the forwards, I’m playing armchair coach and saying there’s no reason to push Karlsson or Donskoi until they are 100%. I want them ready for the playoffs. If Donskoi and Karlsson are both out, that puts Jannik Hansen and Marcus Sorensen in.
I’m also slotting in Aaron Dell in goal. DeBoer likes playing his backup against Eastern Conference teams, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Jones gets the night off and Dell is in net.
Can the youngsters continue to step up?
At the beginning of the season, the young Sharks were told they would be needed to score in order to make up for the loss of Patrick Marleau. So far, they’ve delivered. Timo Meier has 19 goals this season, including one on Saturday (the other was later credited to Brenden Dillon), while Chris Tierney has 17.
The Sharks will have to lean on Tierney and Meier tonight to get the job done. San Jose is at its best when all four lines are rolling, or at the very least three lines. The Sharks will need to come at the Devils in waves if they want to walk away with two points.
Can the Sharks keep Taylor Hall in check?
Taylor Hall has registered just one goal and two assists over the last five games. I can’t imagine that lasts much longer. Hall is having an amazing year — we’re talking Hart Trophy worthy — and it’s only a matter of time before he starts putting points on the board again. The Sharks will need to keep him cold if they want to win.
Normally, a job like that is left to Vlasic and Justin Braun, but I wonder if Vlasic is anywhere close to 100%. He’s a hockey player, so he’s going to gut it out, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few missteps during tonight’s game.
Bold Prediction: Taylor Hall lights the lamp. So does Tomas Hertl. Dell out duels Cory Schneider and the Sharks win a playoff style game.
That’s my prediction, what’s yours? Drop your predictions below and we’ll see you at game time.