Notes: Braun injured; Sharks prepare for red-hot Kane


Notes: Braun injured; Sharks prepare for red-hot Kane

SAN JOSE – It’s tough timing for the Sharks to lose one of their top four defensemen.

Justin Braun will miss Wednesday’s game against the offensively gifted Blackhawks with an upper body injury according to coach Pete DeBoer, who considers the 28-year-old day-to-day.

Braun was dealing with an injury on the Sharks’ recently completed six-game road trip but “wasn’t in a good enough place when we got back here for him to play tonight,” DeBoer said.

Taking Braun’s vacated spot alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic will be Brenden Dillon. Paul Martin and Brent Burns remain attached at the hip, while Mirco Mueller and Matt Tennyson will form an inexperienced third pair.

[KURZ: Morning Skate: Blackhawks make only visit to Sharks]

“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” DeBoer said. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

Vlasic played more than 24 minutes in each of the six games on the road trip, maxing out at 28:55 in a regulation win in Pittsburgh on Saturday. Dillon, who has been primarily on the third defense pair all season, is looking forward to skating with the defensive stalwart.

“If there’s one guy that’s the easiest to play with, I’d have to say Eddy,” Dillon said. “He’s a guy I watch in practice every day, and games every day. I try to learn from him and replicate him if I can.”

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Vlasic and Dillon will likely see a healthy dose of the Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane. The exhilarating Chicago forward brings a 16-game point streak into tonight’s game, including 10 goals over that span, and is tied for the league lead in scoring with 32 points.

“I don’t know if there’s a guy hotter than him right now,” Dillon said. “He’s been really good. Obviously real dangerous with the puck, and these guys look to get it to him, and right behind him is Jonathan Toews. I don’t even know if I want to say behind him, because they’re both tremendous players.”

Joe Pavelski said: “When [Kane] gets that puck, he’s that dynamic where he creates some offense and he opens that up for some other guys. … You have to start with the puck and discourage him in other areas. Stay out of the penalty box. But, he’s a good player. He's going to create some chances."  

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The Sharks most recent homestand wasn’t a productive one, as they lost three of four games with just two out of a possible eight points.

They are 3-5-0 at SAP Center, one year after finishing with more losses in their building than wins (19-17-5).

“Sometimes talking about it doesn't help. I think for us it's about bringing our road mentality – we're a very good road team – home,” said DeBoer, whose club is 10-3-0 on the road for an NHL-best 20 points.

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Flying under the radar a bit lately is forward Joonas Donskoi, who brings a four-game point streak into Wednesday’s game. The second line left wing, Donskoi has 3 goals, 7 points and a +6 rating in his first 16 NHL games.

DeBoer is particularly with Donskoi’s consistency, always a big hurdle for a first-year NHL player.

“There's been no drop-off,” DeBoer said. “A young guy sometimes comes in, you see a couple good games and then a couple really poor games. He's very defensively responsible and competes really hard every game. I don't see that changing. I think he's a very good NHL player."

Hurricanes poke fun at Petr Mrazek after fighting Sharks' Joe Thornton

Hurricanes poke fun at Petr Mrazek after fighting Sharks' Joe Thornton

Thursday night’s matchup between the Sharks and the Carolina Hurricanes featured quite a ruckus, which began when Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek slashed Sharks veteran Joe Thornton after a play, prompting Thornton to put Mrazek on his back with a vicious forearm shiver.

During Friday morning’s practice, the Hurricanes decided to have some fun with their goalie by drawing an outline of where their net-minder gracefully hit the ice.

Mrazek remained on his back for several minutes after the blow but remained in the game.

[RELATED: What we learned in Sharks' shootout loss vs. Hurricanes]

The Sharks and Thornton may have won the fight, but the Hurricanes won the game 3-2 in a wild shootout.

Sharks say Petr Mrazek 'flopped', got what he deserved from Joe Thornton


Sharks say Petr Mrazek 'flopped', got what he deserved from Joe Thornton

There was no shortage of electricity in Thursday night's rumble between the Sharks and Hurricanes, which San Jose got a point out of after falling 3-2 in the shootout

But the game really went on the verge of exploding when Carolina goalie Petr Mrazek went after Joe Thornton -- which unleashed some next-level fury that Sharks fans on social media like to refer to as "Angry Joe."

"Jumbo plays hard, and the goalie went after him," Logan Couture said after Thursday's loss. "So, I don't know if the goalie expected to get pushed like he did, but if you're going to go at someone you're probably going to get pushed."

Thornton went to give the puck a nudge as he skated by Carolina's net, realizing a bit late that Mrazek already had frozen it. But it was enough to irk the Canes' netminder, who then attempted to violently slash Thornton and subsequently stood up out of the crease as if to square off with the future Hall of Famer. 

Thornton responded with a half-push, half-punch to Mrazek's face, sending the goalie toppling over backward to the ice. Mrazek remained there as a scrum ensued behind Carolina's net. 

[RELATED: Watch Jumbo send 'Canes goalie to ice with forearm shiver]

"I think it definitely gets your group emotionally engaged in the game when you have a goalie swinging a stick at a guy like, but, as you saw, Joe can take care of himself," Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer chuckled. 

Even after Thornton was ushered over to the penalty box to serve two minor penalties, Mrazek was slow to get up off of the ice. The long delay in play left some wondering if Mrazek had a concussion, but he stayed in the game. 

This, of course, raised a couple of mid-game questions. Should Mrazek have come out of the game and gone straight into the league's concussion protocol? Was it actually the fall and not Thornton's force that caused him to labor on the ice for so long? Or, was Mrazek waiting things out so Thornton would receive more discipline?

Sharks goalie Aaron Dell offered up his two cents after the game. "He either got hit really hard and should have gone into concussion protocol or he flopped a bit, but I guess that's the ref's call," Dell said with a shrug.

Mrazek didn't offer up much to the media after the game, calling it a "cheap shot" by Thornton before saying he has suffered hits "worse than those, so it's not bad." So, perhaps we'll never know the real story.

While there is a lot of attention on his tiff with Mrazek, Thornton also deserves credit for playing an incredible game. He led the third line along with Marcus Sorensen and Kevin Labanc to one of its most impactful games so far this season, and set up Sorensen for San Jose's first goal on the evening. With the Sharks' road trip continuing with a back-to-back this weekend against the Floridian teams, getting that kind of bottom-six contribution is vital.

"He's playing well," Couture said of Thornton. "We need [the third line]. Can't win with only the top six scoring. Some nights you need the bottom six to score, and I think that line's looked really good."