Erik Karlsson injury: No update on Sharks star before Game 5 vs. Blues

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USATSI

Erik Karlsson injury: No update on Sharks star before Game 5 vs. Blues

The Sharks again are dealing with an Erik Karlsson injury scare. This time, however, it comes in the Western Conference final, with their season potentially on the line.

Karlsson spent the majority of the third period on the bench Friday night as the Sharks fell to the Blues 2-1 in Game 4. San Jose's star defenseman was in obvious discomfort during the period when he was on the ice.

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer didn't provide an update after the loss, and didn't have any new information Saturday. For now, though, Karlsson's teammates are acting like he'll be on the ice Sunday at SAP Center, with the best-of-seven series tied at two apiece.

"We’re focused as if he’s playing. Only Erik knows how he’s feeling," Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic told the media Saturday, via the Mercury News.

Karlsson clearly had a target on his back in Game 4. He was hit four times, and he has been hit 15 times in the series. 

[RELATED: Karlsson's absence could have drastic impact on Sharks]

Fatigue certainly can be a factor, too. Through the first four games of the series, Karlsson has averaged just over 25 minutes of ice time. That places him second on the Sharks, behind only Brent Burns. 

Karlsson missed 27 of the Sharks' final 33 regular-season games with various injuries. He's played in every playoff game so far, though, and the Sharks certainly will need him in Game 5.

Sharks could be headed for another Game 7 after Game 4 loss vs. Blues

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USATSI

Sharks could be headed for another Game 7 after Game 4 loss vs. Blues

If the narrative after Game 3 was that San Jose got all the bounces and all the officiating breaks, then the hockey gods did a fast 180 during Game 4 in St. Louis.

The Blues beat the Sharks 2-1, while never putting a single puck past Martin Jones themselves.

Here are some observations with the Western Conference final heading back to San Jose tied at two.

Close but not that close

The breakdown of San Jose’s shots was telling on Friday night: 30 pucks on goal, 21 attempts blocked, and 22 which missed the net. That’s a high volume of opportunities that never even put Blues goalie Jordan Binnington to work. Brent Burns also hit two posts. That’s how close this outcome was to the Sharks holding a 3-1 series lead.

Not a perfect theory

The legend of “undefeated when allowing two or fewer” comes to an end for San Jose.

In a streak dating back to March 2018, the Sharks were unblemished when holding their opponent to two goals or fewer. This season, their record in that circumstance is 39-1.

We never promised it was a guarantee, only a great recipe for success — which should still be counted upon.

Don't blame the refs

The officiating was questionable at best Friday night.

I have reservations about Brendan Dillon’s holding the stick penalty in the first, Timo Meier’s hooking in the first, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s corresponding slash in the second.

In the same breath, I also want to disconnect these calls from potential referee retribution against the Sharks, and I want to dispel the notion that officiating alone cost them the game.

What's up with EK65?

A big question mark moving forward will be the health of Erik Karlsson. He has found ways to either skate smarter, or recover faster from injury during these playoffs - but he was also noticeably absent for about six important minutes of the final period. The defenseman did return to the game once Martin Jones was pulled in favor of the extra attacker. If there is a silver lining to our concerns — it wasn’t seen as a risk to Karlsson or the game for him to participate at that critical juncture. But until answers arrive in Game 5, questions will persist.

[RELATED: DeBoer disagrees that Sharks have been 'lucky' in playoffs]

Are we going seven?

Even if our series goes a full seven games, it’s worth this observation since we’ve already passed the halfway point: The Sharks have every opportunity to advance. This is not a guarantee they will or a suggestion that the Blues are not up to the task of knocking them off. It’s just that we’ve seen matchups over the years where the result seemed destined to go against San Jose by this point. They’ve been outmatched and overpowered before, but you’d be hard pressed to say that’s the case here. The Sharks and Blues have alternated wins, and it might take a third consecutive Game 7 for San Jose to advance. But wouldn’t you accept that path if it meant playing for the Stanley Cup again?

Stanley Cup Final Schedule 2019: Dates, puck-drop times, TV channel

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AP

Stanley Cup Final Schedule 2019: Dates, puck-drop times, TV channel

With the St. Louis Blues winning Game 4 over the San Jose Sharks on Friday night, the NHL now knows the Western Conference final will go at least six games.

After the game, the league was able to announce that the Stanley Cup Final will begin on Monday, May 27 in Boston.

The Bruins, who swept the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference final, will host either the Sharks or the Blues.

With the Western Conference final now tied at two games apiece, the series shifts back to San Jose for Game 5 on Sunday at 12 p.m. PT.

All Stanley Cup Final games will be broadcast on either NBC or NBCSN. Should the Sharks advance, you can watch Sharks Playoff Live starting one hour before puck drop and immediately after the final horn sounds on NBC Sports California and streaming on the MyTeams app.

Here's the full Stanley Cup Final schedule:

Game 1 -- Monday, May 27 at 5 p.m. PT in Boston
Game 2 -- Wednesday, May 29 at 5 p.m. PT in Boston
Game 3 -- Saturday, June 1 at 5 p.m. PT in San Jose or St. Louis
Game 4 -- Monday, June 3 at 5 p.m. PT in San Jose or St. Louis
Game 5 -- Thursday, June 6 at 5 p.m. PT in Boston (If necessary)
Game 6 -- Sunday, June 9 at 5 p.m. PT in San Jose or St. Louis (If necessary)
Game 7 -- Wednesday, June 12 at 5 p.m. PT in Boston (If necessary)