SAN JOSE – Officially, the Sharks aren’t yet locked into third place in the Pacific Division. But the math says they might as well be.
San Jose has a 97 percent chance of finishing behind both Edmonton and Anaheim, according to sportsclubstats.com, and would therefore start the first round in one of those locales. The Sharks conclude the regular season on Saturday with the Calgary Flames.
Considering the Sharks’ core is among the oldest in the NHL, it might be a good opportunity for coach Pete DeBoer to pull some of his veterans from the lineup and give them some added rest before the playoffs. It’s been a brutal schedule, especially lately, as the Sharks have played 20 games in just 39 days from Feb. 28 through Thursday night.
DeBoer hasn’t ruled out that possibility.
“I don’t think anything is off the table. I think we’ll sit down here in the next day and see,” he said.
“It’s been a tough month. There’s always that question of whether you want to take someone out of a rhythm, whether you want to rest them. There will be some individual situations we’ll look at.”
The risk, of course, is that if some players do sit, there’s a chance that they will have been off for a complete week by the time the puck drops for Game 1. The Sharks are likely to open on Wednesday or Thursday of next week.
Patrick Marleau almost certainly won’t come out, as he has an ongoing iron man streak of 623 games. He understood why rest might be beneficial to some players, though.
“I think everybody’s situation is a little bit different. For some guys who have been playing well and feel like they need their rest, it would be a good opportunity,” he said.
“For guys who still want to feel like their game gets to another level, they can do that. For guys who feel like that might be too much time off – there’s different situations for everybody.”
Of course, the Sharks don’t have a long list of players currently at a high level. They’ve lost nine of their last 12 games, including Thursday’s 4-2 defeat to Edmonton in which they blew a third period lead. Perhaps trying to button up the details of their game is the best approach.
Regardless of the recent results, or if some guys do end up coming out for the season finale, Marleau is confident the team will be able to put the past five weeks behind it for the playoff opener.
“Definitely. Everybody starts at zero,” he said. “It’s not too hard to start fresh. It’s a brand new season, and that’s the way I think every team is looking at it.”
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Two players that surely won’t be in against the Flames are Joe Thornton (left knee) and Logan Couture (mouth). Thornton did not skate on Friday, while Couture is still not able to take contact.
Couture seemed downcast despite skating again on Friday. He was wearing a full cage rather than the face shield/jaw protector he was sporting earlier in the week, but when asked if that helped him see the puck better, he said: “Not really, no. They both suck. Just trying something different.”
The centerman still has no timeframe to return, and had another visit to the dentist scheduled later Friday.
”I don’t know what they’re going to do, but another trip there,” he said.