Sharks

Erik Karlsson injury creates opportunity for Sharks' depth defensemen

Erik Karlsson injury creates opportunity for Sharks' depth defensemen

It would be difficult for the Sharks to find a positive in the wake of Erik Karlsson's season-ending broken thumb.

Their 2019-20 season was lost well before the two-time Norris Trophy joined the ranks of their walking wounded. San Jose faced an uphill climb -- we're talking a 90-degree incline -- to make the playoffs with the defenseman in the lineup down the stretch. Without him, Tomas Hertl (knee; out for the season) and Logan Couture (ankle; out indefinitely), the Sharks are certain to clean out their lockers soon after the April 4 regular-season finale. 

That doesn't mean the season is a lost cause for Karlsson's teammates, particularly those behind him on the defensive depth chart. 

"You're gonna see a situation where a lot of guys get to step up, and see what they can do and prove that they deserve to play in the NHL," former Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan said on Sharks Postgame Live after San Jose's 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. "Sometimes, it's [an] opportunity for other guys, but [it's] just an unfortunate circumstance. When it rains, it pours, and it seems like that's the way it's going for the Sharks right now."

The Sharks recalled Jacob Middleton from the AHL Barracuda before Saturday's game, but defenseman Tim Heed got the first look in Karlsson's absence. The Swedish defenseman skated 14:08, including 1:04 of power-play time. 

Heed had not played since Jan. 16, but was second among Sharks defensemen with two shots on goal Saturday. The 29-year-old seems poised for his longest look in the NHL since making his Sharks debut three seasons ago, and at an opportune time. He's an unrestricted free agent at the end of the summer, and he can use the stretch run to prove he's worthy of an NHL look -- whether in San Jose or elsewhere. 

Heed's fellow Swede, despite the injury, doesn't face nearly as much uncertainty. Karlsson is under contract through 2027 after signing a massive eight-year extension this offseason. The 29-year-old will have played in just 109 of a possible 164 regular-season games with the Sharks over his first two seasons in teal, as a groin injury hobbled him down the stretch last year, too.

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Karlsson previously sustained a lacerated left Achilles tendon in 2013 and underwent major ankle surgery in 2017. Another lower-body injury would've been much worse news for Karlsson and the Sharks, according to Hannan.

"And on a positive -- not knowing, of course, what the extent of that broken thumb is," Hannan said, "but it's not like it was the groin injury [again] for someone that relies so much on his skating, and his ability to evade checks and get away from people. So hopefully, this thumb injury is not that serious and he's able to just get that thing healed and be ready for the start of the season."

The Sharks will count on Karlsson to be at full strength this fall in order to ensure their playoff drought doesn't last longer than a season. His replacements, starting with Heed, will have plenty of motivation to make an impression in his absence. 

Ever wonder where Sharks' giant head came from? It involves Disney

Ever wonder where Sharks' giant head came from? It involves Disney

Editor's note: Every Tuesday and Thursday during this sports hiatus, we'll answer questions that Bay Area sports fans long have debated in "Ever Wonder?" Second up in the series: Where did San Jose's giant shark head come from?

The Sharks have one of the most memorable entrances in all of sports. Skating through the giant shark head at SAP Center is right up there with "Enter Sandman" at Lane Stadium for Virginia Tech football and the run down the hill at Clemson.

But did you ever find yourself wondering where that huge shark head came from?

NBC Sports Bay Area has you covered on that front as Brodie Brazil explains where that massive shark head came from in the second episode of the "Ever Wonder" series.

During their first few years, the Sharks were looking for a way to give their team an epic entrance. They eventually found it, and, of course, Disney was involved.

To find out the whole story, check out the video above.

More from "Ever Wonder"

Sharks' Stefan Noesen dealing with extra uncertainty in coronavirus pandemic

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AP

Sharks' Stefan Noesen dealing with extra uncertainty in coronavirus pandemic

Sharks forward Stefan Noesen is isolating with immediate family in his home state of Texas during the coronavirus pandemic.

And he’s slightly bored.

“You can only do so many lunges at your house, so many laps around the neighborhood,” Noesen said with a laugh in a 1-on-1 interview with NBC Sports California on Tuesday.

The NHL’s suspended season is par for the uphill course of Noesen's current campaign.

It began with a professional tryout in the Dallas Stars organization, which didn’t pan out. He then played 22 AHL games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, which led to signing a two-way contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins on December 2nd. They waived him shortly before Christmas.

“This year has been a s---t-show, legit,” Noesen said. “Up until being with the Sharks.”

That turning point definitely happened in San Jose. Even during the Sharks' down season, Noesen came in and earned a role, plus the respect to go along with it.

“First thing I did when I got (to San Jose), was meet with [general manager Doug Wilson],” Noesen said. “He told me what he expected of me, which was honestly nothing but to go out and play my game.”

That game resonated, with Noesen scoring six goals in 34 games. And now, there's a lot of fans who would like to see him re-signed for next season.

“I’ve always believed it’s not that hard to be a good guy,” Noesen said. “All you have to got is be yourself, treat others with respect, and find a way to get along with everybody.”

[RELATED: Sharks' restocked draft picks, college signings offer hope]

There's a lot of uncertainty for Noesen’s career at this point, like when and where he will play hockey next. But these life-changing times have also even made him ponder what comes after the game.

“The world has kind of taken things for granted up until now,” Noesen said. “And I think everyone is kind of taking a step back and realizing the little things are actually important.

“The minute that we’re able to go back to whatever life is after this, I think it will be interesting.“