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."  

* * *

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.

* * *

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."

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


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.