SAN JOSE – Headed into the final weekend of the preseason, the Sharks have five key players – perhaps even their five best players – that have still not yet seen any game action.
Expect that change on Friday night in Arizona, as Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic all will likely skate against the Coyotes.
“We’re going to make some decisions at game time, but we’re going to go with as close to an opening night lineup as we can,” Pete DeBoer said on Friday morning.
Both Thornton and Vlasic mentioned avoiding injury when asked what they’d like to accomplish in their first action since the World Cup of Hockey. The Sharks are already down one player for the weekend in Joel Ward, who won’t go on the two-game trip with a lower body injury, but is expected to be fine for Wednesday’s opener against the Kings at SAP Center.
Although the plan for Sunday’s preseason finale in Anaheim is unclear, several Sharks veterans will probably only end up playing in a single preseason game. Is that enough?
“I think so,” Pavelski said. “Practices have been good the last four or five days, and [we have] meetings and stuff to get into it. Tonight will be a good test. I think they’ll play a pretty good lineup, and it will get us up to speed.”
Vlasic said: “We’ll be alright. Just [have to] get back to the pace of the hockey, but I’m ready for Wednesday.”
The Sharks are already one of the older teams in the league, and are coming off of a short offseason, so DeBoer didn’t seem overly concerned that he’s only getting his full compliment of players for a pair of preseason games.
“I think the nice thing about having a veteran group like we have is they know how to prepare themselves and they know the level it’s going to get to next Wednesday. I’m sure we’ll be ready,” said the coach.
“You just cross your fingers and hope that you get out without injuries. But, they’re a fact of the game. You can’t keep these guys in a bubble, though. We have to get ready.”
Martin Jones will start in net, his third straight, so Aaron Dell will likely play on Sunday in Anaheim.
Among the players still pushing for a job are forwards Barclay Goodrow, Nikolay Goldobin, Kevin Labanc and Micheal Haley; and defensemen Mirco Mueller and Dylan DeMelo. DeBoer left open the possibility that some players already reassigned to the Barracuda could play Sunday.