Erik Karlsson suspension: Sharks D-man to miss two games for hit to head

Erik Karlsson suspension: Sharks D-man to miss two games for hit to head

The Sharks will be without Erik Karlsson for the next two games, as the NHL suspended the defenseman for a hit to the head of Los Angeles Kings winger Austin Wagner. 

Karlsson will miss San Jose's game on Sunday against the Arizona Coyotes, and against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday. The suspension is the first of Karlsson's career, and the first supplemental discipline he has faced since he was fined $2,500 for a slash during the 2011-12 season. 

In the second period of the Sharks' 3-2 overtime loss to the Kings on Saturday, Karlsson leveled Wagner with an open-ice hit just outside of the Kings' defensive zone. Wagner skated to the Los Angeles bench under his own power, but was clearly shaken up. 

Wagner did not return to the game, leaving with what the Kings called an "upper-body injury." Replays of the hit indicated Karlsson made contact with Wagner's head.

"[Karlsson] delivered a high hit to Wagner, making the head the main point of contact on a hit where such contact was avoidable," the department of player safety said in a video released Sunday. 

Karlsson was not penalized on Saturday, and the defenseman told reporters after the game he felt it was a clean hit with an unfortunate outcome.

“It’s one of those plays [where] I’m closing [the] gap, and he skates into me,” Karlsson said. “I don’t really lean into him, I’m in his lane, and it’s a shoulder-to-shoulder hit. 

“Unfortunately, he went down hard, and he didn’t come back, and I hope he’s OK. But at the end of the day, it’s a hockey play.”

In the video released Sunday, the NHL's department of player safety said they believed Karlsson was trying to make a "full-body hit," and not Wagner's head. They acknowledged Karlsson made some contact with Wagner's shoulder, but said the Sharks defenseman could have avoided hitting the Kings winger in the head. 

"If Karlsson wishes to deliver this hit, he must take a better angle of approach and hit through Wagner's core rather than picking his head," the video said. 

[RELATED: Sharks expect more from themselves after overtime loss to rival Kings]

The Sharks will likely turn to one of two defensemen in Karlsson's absence: Fellow swedes Tim Heed and Joakim Ryan.

Heed, like Karlsson, is a right-handed shot with strong offensive instincts. Ryan's a lefty, but played in 25 of the Sharks' first 27 games before rookie defenseman Radim Simek took his place alongside Brent Burns. Ryan has not played since Dec. 1, and Heed last suited up on Nov. 23. 

Erik Karlsson, wife Melinda bring home daughter after two-week hospital stay


Erik Karlsson, wife Melinda bring home daughter after two-week hospital stay

Last Thursday was a day Erik Karlsson and his wife Melinda never will forget.

After a two-week stay in the hospital, Erik and Melinda finally got to bring their daughter, Harlow Rain, home. It's been a big help to the Sharks defenseman, especially his sleep schedule.

"My wife's good with that. She's doing the heavy lifting," Karlsson said about his wife getting up to be with the Harlow, via Curtis Pashelka of The Mercury News. "I can get my sleep and be able to do what I need to do for my profession. It's nice to have the family home."

Harlow was born a five weeks earlier than expected, with Karlsson having to fly home before the Sharks' season-opener against the Vegas Golden Knights to be with Melinda as she prepared to give birth to their daughter at the 35-week mark of the pregnancy. 

Harlow spent two weeks in the hospital, so doctors could monitor her, but she finally got to come home Thursday. Bringing their little girl home without complications was a weight off both Erik and Melinda's shoulders. The Karlssons suffered a horrible tragedy in 2018, when Erik revealed the couple had lost their son, Axel, a month before he was supposed to be born.

Thankfully, all is well with the newest member of the Karlsson family.

“When something good happens, you want to be able to bring her home right away,” Karlsson said, via The Mercury News. “We wanted to make sure she was OK. We were fine with that. It’s not the most fun to be at the hospital all day long, but when I was home, I was there.

“But my wife was there way more than I was, obviously. It just takes a toll. Just nice that we can be at home now and we can figure our own stuff out.”

[RELATED: Simek improving but still a ways off]

Karlsson and the Sharks haven't gotten off to the best start on the ice, amassing a 3-5-0 record through the first eight games.

They'll look to right the ship starting Tuesday when they open a five-game East Coast road trip against the Buffalo Sabres. 

With Harlow and Melinda back at home, Karlsson feels better about focusing on the ice and is excited about the prospect of parenthood.

“It’s great, Anybody with kids knows it’s a lot of work, a lot of it obviously falls on my wife and she’s doing a great job with it,” Karlsson said. “We’re new parents, so we’re going to have to figure things out.

“We’ve getting lots of help from people around here that have that experience, people at home. But at the end of the day, we’re going to figure out our own things and what works for us. We’re excited about that.”

Sharks' Radim Simek improving, but not expected to play on road trip

Sharks' Radim Simek improving, but not expected to play on road trip

The Sharks made good use of their three-game homestand, earning four of six possible points against high-quality competition to get back on track after a miserable start to the season. San Jose's improved play has coincided with Patrick Marleau's arrival and Evander Kane's return to the lineup, and the Sharks will attempt to build off their recent momentum as they head off on a five-game road trip.

Unfortunately for San Jose, it doesn't sound as if the team will get back further reinforcements for the games in Buffalo, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Boston. The Athletic's Kevin Kurz reported that defenseman Radim Simek participated in some practice drills Wednesday, but is unlikely to play on the upcoming road trip, according to head coach Peter DeBoer.

Simek underwent knee surgery in March and has been rehabbing ever since. He's been somewhat of a secret weapon for San Jose, as the Sharks went 29-9-3 with him in the lineup last season, and allowed lower rates of shot attempts, shots and chances with him on the ice in 5-on-5 situations than when he wasn't. San Jose has proceeded cautiously with Simek and won't rush him back, but the fact that he was participating in more physical drills Wednesday bodes well for a return in the relatively near future.

Speaking of physicality, that's an area DeBoer believes the Sharks have been lacking in recently, and one that both Simek and another on-the-mend defenseman can help out in. Dalton Prout has been out of the lineup since the first game of the season, but that's bound to change soon, according to the Mercury News' Curtis Pashelka.

With both Prout and Simek expected to rejoin the team soon, it begs the question as to who they'll replace. Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brenden Dillon aren't going anywhere, and rookie Mario Ferraro has played well beyond his years. Tim Heed has been in and out of the dog house, and the most likely scenario is that Prout and/or Simek takes his spot on the third pair.

[RELATED: Exclusive: Marleau reflects on Sharks return in ride to SAP]

The Sharks have done a good job to get their feet back under them. They won't be at full strength for the upcoming road trip, but clearly, they're getting closer.