Injured Sharks' Joe Pavelski, Erik Karlsson on mend ahead of final six games


Injured Sharks' Joe Pavelski, Erik Karlsson on mend ahead of final six games

SAN JOSE – It’s no secret the Sharks have been dealing with their fair share of bumps and bruises – and things definitely looked even more dicey when Kevin Labanc took a puck to the face during Wednesday’s morning skate in San Jose. But after a stretch of being beaten down by injury and illness, it looks like Team Teal is on the mend with six games left in the regular season.

Sharks captain Joe Pavelski took part in practice on Wednesday for the first time since he sustained a lower-body injury against the Nashville Predators on March 16. While coach Peter DeBoer didn’t give a definitive answer as to No. 8’s status, the chance he returns to the lineup on Thursday when the Sharks host the Chicago Blackhawks.

“Game-time decision,” DeBoer said. “(He’s) better, but we’re going to wait and see how he feels tomorrow.”

The Sharks would no doubt love to have their lead-scorer back in the lineup to help get the team back in the win column after a season-long six-game losing skid. However, DeBoer has stressed throughout his injury that they want Pavelski to be in tip-top shape with the playoffs just two weeks away.

Also on the injury front, Erik Karlsson was back on the ice ahead of Wednesday morning’s team skate, although he left the ice before practice officially got underway. DeBoer had previously said the Norris Trophy-winning defenseman wasn’t skating every single day, prompting suspicion Karlsson might have experienced a setback in his rehabilitation. But the coach was adamant when he told the press on Wednesday morning that it’s all part of the process.

“The rehab schedule varies,” DeBoer explained. “Sometimes we’re going harder, or we’re giving him some time off. Don’t read anything into it. He’s on track and progressing the right way.”

The Sharks had a full team practice ahead of their game against Chicago as they try to turn around what has been a tough losing streak. While there is still a clear focus on getting the whole team as healthy as possible for Round 1, turning their fortunes around over the last stretch of games is also a priority. Coming off a 3-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Monday, DeBoer wants to see more of an effort from the entire team.

[RELATED: Karlsson no longer skating each day as playoffs near]

“I think it was one of those games (where) we didn’t have a lot of guys playing at a high level individually,” he said. “Then you combine that with chasing the game starting from the 30-second mark on. It was a tough game.”

Sharks credit perfect penalty kill in sealing big win over Hurricanes

Sharks credit perfect penalty kill in sealing big win over Hurricanes

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks' 5-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night was no easy feat.

In fact, the team was fairly unhappy with how they played in the first period at SAP Center, despite heading into the first intermission with a 3-1 lead. 

But the Sharks were happy with was how their special teams propelled them to their third straight win. Although a potent power play helped get them on the board early, the penalty kill made the biggest difference.

"Our penalty kill, we've taken a lot of pride in it for a long time," coach Peter DeBoer said. "It's been good for a few years here."

The Sharks ended the night with the NHL's third-best penalty kill with a 91.7 percent success rate. San Jose has not allowed a power-play goal in each of its last three wins.

Evander Kane's first-period hat trick gave the Sharks a boost, but they spent too much time in their own zone at even strength Wednesday. The Hurricanes, who were playing the second night of a back-to-back, gave San Jose netminder Martin Jones plenty of work to do. Carolina dominated the shot clock and had the game's better chances.

But when things got extra interesting in the second period and the Sharks got into penalty trouble, their kill came to the rescue. Barclay Goodrow, a mainstay on San Jose's penalty kill, credited the Sharks' short-handed success to their pace.

"We're moving our feet, we're pressuring the opposition," he summarized. "We're forcing them to make plays a little quicker than they would like to. I think that, and we're blocking shots. And we're getting clears when we want to, so it's going well."

The Hurricanes had a golden opportunity to climb out of their two-goal hole late in the second period. Goodrow and Patrick Marleau simultaneously sat in the penalty box for hooking minors, giving Carolina 46 seconds on the 5-on-3. 

But with help from Jones, the Sharks penalty kill kept the 'Canes off the scoreboard.

"Your goalie's always your best penalty killer," DeBoer said. "He was really solid. I thought that first period [the score] could've been 3-3. He's given us two really good games in a row."

[RELATED: Watch Kane score Sharks' first-ever first-period hat trick]

While every game carries its own momentum, the Sharks undoubtedly would like for the success of their penalty kill to carry over into their next game.

The Sharks close out their three-game homestand Saturday night against the Buffalo Sabres, who currently have the second-best power play in the league. As a result, San Jose knows its penalty kill will once again be a key point. 

"We're going to be playing a good Buffalo team," Sharks captain Logan Couture observed. "I think they lost tonight but they've been playing very, very well. Their power play is very hot. So it'll be a good test for us."

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-2 win over red-hot Hurricanes

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-2 win over red-hot Hurricanes

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks knew the Carolina Hurricanes would be a big test Wednesday night at SAP Center. If that test was being graded, you would be hard-pressed not to give them an A.

Fueled by Evander Kane's first-period hat trick and a potent power play, the Sharks played perhaps their best game to date and stymied the Hurricanes in a 5-2 win.

Here are three takeaways from San Jose's third straight win.

Evander Kane, obviously

When a player becomes the first in Sharks history to score a hat trick before the first period ended, not giving him his own takeaway would be a crime. 

Kane's first goal deserves some recognition because of how quickly he scooped up the loose puck at Tomas Hertl's feet to chip it past Hurricanes netminder James Reimer.

But his next two power-play goals were also impressive, and his third was downright Pavelskian.

The Sharks struggled to get traffic in front of the net during their winless start, but Kane and his teammates have been much better lately getting in the goalie's grill. On Wednesday night, that effort paid off. Big time.

Martin Jones keeps rolling

When Jones made a swift glove save on Teuvo Teravainen 1:07 into the game, you could tell he was about to have another strong outing.

The 'Canes spent most of the game in the Sharks' zone, and Carolina dominated the shot clock for the duration. But Jones was in the zone.

The Sharks won't be happy that Jones faced a lot of strong chances, even if San Jose collectively did a better job at minimizing the turnovers in this game. At least with both goaltenders playing well, the Sharks have a better chance of keeping those mistakes out of the back of their net.

[RELATED: Sharks' Labanc keeping focus on future after turnaround]

A special night for the power play and penalty kill

When the Sharks' special teams were in a rough state at the very start of the season, coach Peter DeBoer said he wasn't worried about it. He had a feeling it would figure itself out, and he was right.

In addition to Kane's two power-play goals, the Sharks penalty kill came up big in the second period when they killed off the Hurricanes' two-man advantage. Even though Carolina was visibly tired due to playing on the tail end of a back-to-back, the Eastern Conference leaders were still getting some good looks in front of Jones. The Sharks penalty kill, however, was on point. 

That bodes well for Saturday when the Sharks host the Buffalo Sabres, who currently have the NHL's second-best power play.