SAN JOSE - The Sharks have already dealt with their share of injuries through the first month-plus of the 2019-20 season.
So getting Melker Karlsson back in the lineup from an injury holds more weight than many Sharks fans might realize.
Karlsson has missed San Jose's last two games with an upper-body injury, and the Sharks racked up a whopping 23 penalty minutes in that span. As a member of San Jose's league-leading penalty kill, Karlsson's return is important considering the Sharks are also one of the most penalized teams in the NHL.
Even with a couple of young players getting their look on San Jose's fourth line, Karlsson's contributions on special teams make him one of Peter DeBoer's go-to guys.
"Melker's the easy choice because he's a huge part of our penalty kill, which is a huge part of our game," the head coach said on Saturday morning.
While San Jose is perfectly happy with having a penalty kill that tops the NHL, they'd probably prefer to take fewer trips to the sin bin overall. Spending so much time on the kill has taken the flow out of the Sharks' five-on-five game and has zapped the life out of the special teams players. With Karlsson out of the lineup, that has meant putting even more pressure on some of the Sharks top players.
"We missed him last game," DeBoer said of Karlsson. "We took three penalties in a row. (One penalty) late in the first and two in the second. That really tired out some of our big guys without him in the lineup."
Karlsson spoke to the media on Saturday morning about what he saw in Thursday's game -- a helter-skelter battle in which the Sharks jumped out to an early 4-0 lead but had to hold on for dear life toward the end of the contest. The Swedish winger's biggest observation went beyond his team needing to take fewer penalties. They need to put out a full 60-minute effort.
"We've got to find a way to play a full 60 minutes," Karlsson said. "We can't only play half the game to want it. We need to play with the lead."
A lead is something they would like to get on Saturday against the Predators, who defeated the Sharks 5-2 in their first meeting of the season. Karlsson explained he thinks San Jose has a better chance of beating Nashville this time around.
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"I think we play better now, as the season has gone on," he said. "The first ten games, I don't think we played good enough. We know they have a lot of skill, so hopefully we can play in their zone tonight."
Getting more o-zone time is going to rely on San Jose not taking six penalties like they did the last time they faced Nashville. At least with Karlsson back in the lineup, they have a better chance of shutting the Predators down.