Jacob Middleton up for the challenge after quick promotion to Sharks


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.

Why Sharks trading Patrick Marleau to Penguins isn't surprising at all

Why Sharks trading Patrick Marleau to Penguins isn't surprising at all

The Sharks held on to one franchise legend at the NHL trade deadline, but opted to ship another away. While San Jose decided to not trade Joe Thornton, they sent Patrick Marleau to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday. 

This certainly didn't shock NBC Sports California's Brodie Brazil. 

"It's not anything surprising," Brazil said on the NHL Trade Deadline Show. "I think Thornton and Marleau were the names of guys that were listed out there. And no shocker because they were on one-year contracts, because they're both reaching 40 years of age." 

Marleau, 40, scored 20 points in 58 games with the Sharks this season. So far this season, he has posted career lows in goals (10) and assists (10). 

[RELATED: Marleau can fill hole on résumé after trade from Sharks]

But Brazil wouldn't be shocked if Marleau returned to San Jose next season. 

"When know Patrick and his family are gonna stay out here," Brazil said, "keep their house out here in California. So, I wouldn't be surprised if he goes and plays with the Penguins here for a couple months and then comes back to San Jose. That wouldn't be surprising at all." 

Patrick Marleau can enhance Hall of Fame résumé after trade from Sharks

Patrick Marleau can enhance Hall of Fame résumé after trade from Sharks

Scott Hannan spent over a decade of his NHL career as Patrick Marleau's teammate on the Sharks, so when San Jose sent the 22-year veteran to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for a conditional 2021 third-round draft pick Monday, Hannan had a mixed reaction upon hearing the news.

"Obviously, a little bit of shock," Hannan told NBC Sports California. "Seeing Patty come back this year and how well he has played, and obviously he's synonymous with the Sharks -- been here for so long, a leader in so many categories -- but at the same time, you're happy for him to be able to get a chance with a really, really good team to chase the Cup, because the one thing that is missing on a Hall of Fame career is that. So, sorry to see him go, but at the same time, happy and hoping that he gets a chance to lift the Cup."

Marleau is headed to a far better situation in Pittsburgh, where the Penguins currently sit two points behind the Washington Capitals for first place in the Metropolitan Division. With new teammates like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, he'll be on one of the most talented teams in the league as he attempts to win his first Stanley Cup.

"We all know how hard it is to win the Cup, and I sometimes don't like that conversation," Hannan added. "We know how many things you have to do, the luck, the good teams you have to be on. I mean, before Alex Ovechkin won the Cup, it was always, 'Can he ever do it? Is it about him?' That conversation, you never want to have that one later, and to see him hoist that Cup, I think it would just be a perfect capper to an already historic career."

Hannan views the trade as being beneficial for both sides. While the Penguins get a battle-tested veteran capable of moving up and down the lineup, the Sharks add something of more pressing use to the franchise.

"A third-round pick with an option of a second is a good pick-up, and the Sharks, if this is a mini reset or whatnot, we know you have to stockpile picks, and that's to be able to build for the future. And to be able to do that with Patty ... I like the fit for him in Pittsburgh, let's just call it that."

[RELATED: Before being drafted by Sharks, Marleau rooted for Penguins]

While Hannan believes Marleau will seamlessly fit in with the Penguins, it's worth noting that Marleau will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Might he return to San Jose next year as he closes in on Gordie Howe's all-time NHL record for games played?

"Wouldn't that be a story?" Hannan said. "Patty goes off, wins a Cup and comes back and locks down the most games played. That would be a cool story. Obviously, I would hope for that, but once somebody does move on, you just never know how that's going to fit. I'm not going to throw a percentage out there ... I just want to see Patty go on and have a great playoff run with the Pittsburgh Penguins."

The last -- and only -- time San Jose made it to the Stanley Cup final, it was defeated by Pittsburgh. If the Penguins are fortunate enough to win it all again -- with Marleau rather than against him -- you can be sure Sharks fans will feel differently than the last time around.