You heard it here first, folks: Erik Karlsson will make his preseason debut in teal tonight at the SAP Center as the San Jose Sharks come home to host the Calgary Flames, fresh off a similarly styled contest in beautiful Alberta. Okay, you probably heard it somewhere else first, like, yesterday, but it’s still very exciting!
Tuesday’s bizarro goal fest between these two teams may have ended in a 7-5 loss for our young Sharks, but they kept pace with a much more veteran-heavy Flames squad for most of the contest. They held a short-lived three goal lead, Barclay Goodrow continued running roughshod over the preseason, Rourke Chartier potted a goal to solidify his claim on the fourth line center spot and Ryan Merkley finally recorded an assist (after a series of slick puck handling moves at the Calgary blue line) to quantify his impressive camp showing.
After recalling 14 players from the AHL to make the perilous quest up to our nation’s hat, the Sharks sent many home from camp yesterday, reinforcing the notion that head coach Peter DeBoer has his lineup pretty much set. With the departures of preseason standouts Merkley, Sasha Chmelevski and Jeremy Roy, we can expect to see something pretty close to an opening night roster tonight and on Sunday in Vegas. DeBoer told the Mercury News’ Curtis Pashelka: “...we’re going to play our real lineup the last two games, or as close to it as we can get other than a decision or two,” and that lineup includes the Sharks’ newest member.
The Flames made more than a few cuts yesterday as well, but its effect on their roster as we saw in on Tuesday evening will be smaller, though large parts of it are unfamiliar from just last season. Calgary was busy in remaking their roster this off-season, letting go of head coach Glen Gulutzan for missing the playoffs, Dougie Hamilton for going to too many museums, Micheal Ferland for spelling Micheal like that and Matt Stajan for just being a Calgary Flame for too long, among others. In their stead, we’ll see very good goal scorer and former(?) cheap shot artist James Neal, fifth overall draft pick Noah Hanifin, sneaky good bottom six center Derek Ryan and perennial almost-there forward Elias Lindholm, again, among others.
Whether those changes are enough to put Calgary over the playoff threshold is a matter to be decided over the next six to seven months, but we should have seen enough on Tuesday to expect a better result tonight. A Sharks line up full of NHL regulars, including two winners of three Norris Trophies, should be able to give the Flames a better fight than the borderline AHL lineup did up North (and that fight was pretty good).
The preseason in general doesn’t give us very much to be excited about, but if you can’t get up for Karlsson’s first game in teal, then... um... they have churros there?
Puck drop is at 7:30 PT/10:30 ET and the game will be broadcast on SJSharks.com.