How did Dainius Zubrus play in his return for the Sharks?
The fourth liner didn't look rusty in the Sharks game five win.
Dainius Zubrus' inclusion in the San Jose lineup is not among major factors for the Sharks' game five win, but the fourth liner looked comfortable after not playing for almost a month. Zubrus played 11 minutes, tied with Melker Karlsson for the fewest in the game, and finished with a +1 corsi differential at even strength.
Zubrus likely sees his hits as his biggest contribution as Zubrus finished with six, second only to Joe Pavelski's seven. Smarter people than me have talked about the limited uses of the hits stat, so I'll leave it at this: Zubrus' hits don't matter and, quite frankly, are more likely a bug than a feature. Not only do hits happen when you're not holding the puck, you're a whole lot more likely to take a penalty when you're chasing hits than when you're, you know, trying to play hockey.
This isn't meant to deride Zubrus, who played perfectly fine in his first game back in action. To me, it speaks to what the culture of the NHL encourages when a guy has been sitting in the press box for a long time. It's 2016 — we don't want the fourth line to be aggravators anymore. In an NHL that more and more frequently requires rolling four lines, the Sharks don't need guys like Zubrus chasing hits to make a difference.
That's primarily because Zubrus is actually quite good at driving possession. That pick up has been great for the Sharks, particularly as it chased Mike Brown from the lineup more nights than not. Head coach Peter DeBoer really likes Nick Spaling on the penalty kill, an area the Sharks have struggled in, so it makes sense that Tommy Wingels ended up as the odd-man out. In fairness to Wingels, he's been better than Chris Tierney in the playoffs thus far...but...whatever.
Spaling has the second-lowest scoring chances against per 60 minutes while on the penalty kill among Sharks with at least 25 minutes on the PK. Only Logan Couture holds a better mark in that department, and this probably explains why DeBoer has stuck with Spaling as long as he has.
Zubrus was on the ice when Karlsson scored the fifth goal of the night, though he didn't factor into the scoring otherwise. He didn't take a shot on goal and blocked one shot. With the Predators trying to roll their lines quickly to avoid direct matchups, the fourth line needs to tread water. They did that on Saturday night and that's likely a good enough reason for DeBoer to roll the same lines on Monday in Nashville.