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.”
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.