Sharks

Erik Karlsson's health becoming increasingly concerning for Sharks

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USATSI

Erik Karlsson's health becoming increasingly concerning for Sharks

Suffice to say, things got pretty dicey for the Sharks when players started getting hurt and leaving the ice during Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the Bruins. No injury got more attention, though, than whatever Erik Karlsson sustained.

That’s right. The two-time Norris Trophy winner, who previously missed nine straight games with a lower-body injury, appears to still be dealing with some ongoing issues. With just 18 games left in the regular season, the stress surrounding Karlsson’s health becomes even more intense.

The defenseman, in his return to the ice since aggravating a groin injury against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, fell awkwardly in the second period of Tuesday’s game and headed straight for the dressing room. He returned later in the period but didn’t look like his dominant self. 

He was then absent from the Sharks’ bench for the entire third period -- and questions regarding whether he re-tweaked the injury began to swirl.

“You guys saw what I saw,” Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer told the media in Boston after the game. “He stumbled. He spun around and looked like he tweaked something again and tried to go back out there. I don’t have a report yet.”

DeBoer told the press he didn’t have an update on Karlsson’s health, to the point he couldn’t readily identify if it was the wrong decision to let him play on Tuesday evening. 

“Anytime somebody gets hurt, there’s regret,” he told Kevin Kurz of The Athletic. “But I really don’t know. Same injury, different injury, I have no idea what we’re dealing with yet.”

While the exact status of Karlsson’s ailment hasn’t been revealed yet, one thing is for sure: With just 18 games left on the regular season docket, San Jose needs him healthy and in the lineup.

“We saw what he can do when he gets rolling and we know what kind of player he is,” Sharks' captain Joe Pavelski said. “I think moving forward that’s probably one of the biggest things, getting his health back. Get him moving and skating and stuff. Because he is a great talent for us and it’s tough to see him not be able to move out there.”

There’s no doubt Karlsson is even more frustrated. Just before his initial return on February 16 against the Vancouver Canucks, No. 65 divulged to the press that not being able to help his team win games was difficult for him. 

“I think no matter what, you always have that itch when you’re out,” he told NBC Sports California at the time. “It’s one of the worst feelings you could have.”

[RELATED: Karlsson picked up newly acquired Nyquist from airport]

Whether that feeling pushed Karlsson to stay out on the ice longer than he should've been on Tuesday against the Bruins is anyone’s guess. But as Pavelski said, it’s a big priority now for the defenseman to get healthy.

The Sharks are set to play 12 of their last 18 games on home ice, and 15 of 18 against the Western Conference -- a big deal for a Sharks team still trying to catch up to the Calgary Flames in the Pacific Division race. If San Jose is going to be solid down the stretch and into the playoffs, they’ll need to be as healthy as possible.

Erik Karlsson’s health is an enormous part of that equation.

How Sharks’ Evander Kane, wife are healing since unborn daughter’s death

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USATSI

How Sharks’ Evander Kane, wife are healing since unborn daughter’s death

SAN JOSE -- Evander Kane had a relatively visible summer, including his near-nude photo shoot with ESPN and some back-and-forth jawing with Las Vegas’ Ryan Reaves.

However, none of that carried the same importance as the recovery that the Sharks winger and his wife, Anna, continue to make following the passing of their unborn daughter, Eva, at 26 weeks, almost exactly six months ago.

“It definitely makes you realize what’s important,” Kane said last week. “Every minute, you had different emotions, different feelings. My wife, seeing what she went through, it was harder on nobody else but her.”

Kane’s absence from the Sharks in late February initially corresponded with a high hit that Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara laid on him. Most of the public thought Kane’s extended leave was related to injury, until March 14, when he publicly revealed the tragedy on Twitter.

“It takes a real big toll on you, and I had to step away for a week there, in order to re-group and gather myself. And to be there for my wife,” Kane said. 

The hockey community across North America instantly responded to Kane via social media and other platforms. And it made a difference.

“It was humbling, actually, the support that we got,” Kane said. “Especially from the hockey world. I don’t want to say surprising, but it was, in the amount of support we got, and we’re very appreciative of it.”

Evander and his wife also received special support from a much closer place. Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson and his wife, Melinda, had lost their unborn child in March 2018, and were quick to be of comfort, given their unfortunate bond.

“Having a fellow teammate that has been through that process as well, and our wives being good friends, I think that definitely helped,” Kane said.

[RELATED: Sharks' alternate captains just as important as Couture]

Despite all of last season’s turmoil, Kane still managed to be one point shy of his career-high 57, while missing seven games. It’s amazing what he went through on a personal level during those final months, and leads you to believe some fresh beginnings will do he and his wife well.

“It’s still a process,” Kane said. “It was six months [last month]. It will always be a process, and we just want to cherish her much as we can. For me, that’s how I’ll move on. I find myself talking to her, even though nobody is around. It’s one of the ways I kind of find peace with it.”

Sharks alternate captains' job just as important as Logan Couture's

Sharks alternate captains' job just as important as Logan Couture's

SAN JOSE - Fans might have been scratching their heads when it was announced ahead of training camp that the Sharks will have four alternate captains this season.

But as head coach Peter DeBoer explained when camp opened up, each player wearing an "A"-- Joe Thornton, Tomas Hertl, Brent Burns, and Erik Karlsson -- brings something different to the table. And their jobs will be just as important as that of newly-appointed captain Logan Couture

"For me, it's always about the people around the guy wearing the 'C,'" DeBoer said. "They're just as important, and we've got two former captains in there in Jumbo (Joe Thornton) and Erik Karlsson."

He has a point. San Jose's "A-team" boasts a resume of players with extensive leadership backgrounds. From Thornton's and Karlsson's experiences as being captains to Burns' run as being one of the loudest voices in the Sharks' dressing room. Couture himself said having a group like that around him is a plus.

"I'm lucky here in San Jose," Couture said on Friday, the first day of training camp. "There are a lot of guys who are leaders and a few guys who have been captains in the past. So we've got a great leadership group." 

The one alternate captain selection that has garnered the most attention thus far has been Tomas Hertl, who is wearing a letter for the first time in his professional career. Of course, anyone who has kept tabs on the Czech forward during his tenure in teal knows he has developed into a leader over the last couple of seasons, particularly last season when he took rookies Lukas Radil and Radim Simek -- both of whom are older than Hertl -- under his wing.

"I know we've got a lot of leaders here on the team and I'm really happy Pete picked me," Hertl said on Friday, adding that he wants to continue elevating his game after a successful 2018-19 campaign. "I want to prove it, you know? I think I proved it last year but now, it can't just be one year and then I slow down. I want to push myself harder and harder and help the other young guys coming in."

"He's elevated his game and his confidence in demanding and making other people around him better," DeBoer said of Hertl. "That's grown over the four years that I've been here. He was a young kid that was coming off of a couple of really tough injuries when I first got here. His development and growth have just been off the charts."

DeBoer also mentioned that San Jose's contingent of leaders backing up Couture expands beyond the four players wearing "A"s.

[RELATED: Dell's extra motivation for 2019 season]

"We've got a lot of other guys, even (more) than the group who are wearing the letters," DeBoer said, "who are going to be part of our leadership group, including Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Evander Kane and other guys.

"I feel very fortunate here as a coach with what I've inherited in this organization. I think all of those guys will support Logan in his job."