SAN JOSE -- The Sharks might be dealing with some bumps and bruises on their blue line. But after playing a good game last weekend against the Predators, head coach Peter DeBoer isn't too worried about penciling another defenseman into the lineup.
Tim Heed will file back into the lineup on Tuesday night against the Edmonton Oilers with Mario Ferraro and Dalton Prout not quite ready to return to game action. Heed has been in the dog house after a slow start to the season, getting glued to the bench for long stretches of games. But after playing what DeBoer called his "best game of the season" last Saturday against Nashville, having to put No. 72 back out there doesn't seem as daunting.
"Those decisions become easy when you play like that," DeBoer said.
The Swedish defenseman clocked 13:25 minutes of ice time on Saturday -- a stark contrast to how little he played in games over the Sharks' road trip at the end of October. Heed also tallied three shots-on-goal and a hit while not allowing any goals against the Sharks. DeBoer explained that, like other players who have underperformed, it's up to Heed to play better if he wants to stay in good standing.
"Coaches don't make those decisions, players make those decisions on whether they're going to play again or how quickly they're going to get back in there again," the head coach said.
It also helps that San Jose's blue line has found its groove since Radim Simek came back into the lineup last week, in part due to the fact that he eats up more minutes and takes some of the pressure off of heavy hitters Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson. If Heed plays another solid game right out of the gate on Tuesday, that gives DeBoer even more room to space out responsibilities among his d-corps.
It doesn't hurt either that San Jose's skaters are individually getting their game together. So even with Ferraro getting injured, the Sharks' defensive pairs haven't looked completely out of sync.
"For me, it's been about guys individually finding their own games," DeBoer continued. "I think that's what you're seeing."
As far as Ferraro is concerned, DeBoer said the rookie is "really close" to a return and is considered day-to-day. Prout will play one more game for the Barracuda as he rounds out his AHL conditioning stint.
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Regardless of who is in the lineup, San Jose is looking to end their six-game homestand on a high note with the Edmonton Oilers playing a visit on Tuesday night. After a dismal first month of the season, DeBoer said he's finally seeing some positive patterns in his team's game., even if their record is still below .500.
"At least I'm seeing some consistency to our style of play and our identity, and that's stretching now probably to the beginning of the homestand," DeBoer said. "That's a good thing. I know our record doesn't show it like you wish it would, but I think that's coming. There are some good signs there."