Sharks

Jacob Middleton up for the challenge after quick promotion to Sharks

middleton.jpg
USATSI

Jacob Middleton up for the challenge after quick promotion to Sharks

SAN JOSE - On Friday, defenseman Jacob Middleton was getting prepared for a San Jose Barracuda weekend series against the San Diego Gulls. Just 24 hours later, he was being held back from the rest of his AHL teammates with there being a possibility he could be getting the call to skate with the big club.

“It’s been quite a quick turnaround,” Middleton said with a semi-toothless grin. “Yesterday I was getting ready to hop on a Southwest flight down to San Diego to play with the Barracuda, and this morning I took a pregame skate with the Sharks.”

With injuries to multiple members of San Jose’s blue line – and news breaking just Saturday morning that Justin Braun has been placed on injured reserve – the 23-year-old Stratford, Ontario native is officially set to make his NHL debut on Saturday evening against a red-hot offense in the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“There’s no easy time to step into this league,” Sharks bench boss Peter DeBoer said. “But he’s not the kind of guy that’s going to be overwhelmed.”

The six-foot-three, 210-pound lefty – who took line rushes alongside Brent Burns at Saturday’s practice – has posted 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) and a team-leading plus-15 through 26 games played with the Barracuda so far this season. In 143 career AHL games, he has posted 49 points (nine goals, 40 assists) and a plus-25 rating. For the last season and a half with San Jose’s AHL club, Middleton has also served as alternate captain.

DeBoer told the press he has total faith Middleton will perform well at the NHL level. Even with a tough team in the building like the Bolts.

“He just has to play his game,” DeBoer said. “That’s easier said than done when you’ve got a lot of speed coming at you and the pace of play at this level, in a game like this tonight. But I have all the confidence in the world he’s going to come out here and give us some good minutes tonight.”

“These are kind of the moments you prepare for,” Middleton told the media. “I’m fortunate right now. I’m 23 years old, I’ve had a few years pro and kind of know what to expect in these big games. If you just play simple and play the game that you’re called up to play, hopefully things work your way.”

[RELATED: Couture can help Sharks set franchise record if voted All-Star]

In defenseman-related news, Radim Simek briefly skated during Sharks’ morning skate but did not participate in line rushes. Simek told the media on Friday he was feeling better after sustaining a concussion on December 31 but had not been cleared to play yet. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who is dealing with an undisclosed ailment, took to the ice on Saturday after the majority of the team had left. Joakim Ryan and Tim Heed skated on a pair together during the team skate.

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

karlssonusa.jpg
USATSI

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.