NEW YORK -- The injuries are mounting as the Sharks get set to wrap up their four-game road trip on Monday against the Rangers.
Ben Smith is the latest player that will be scratched, after he was hit in the head with a Marc-Edouard Vlasic shot on Saturday. Coach Pete DeBoer said it was not a concussion, but Smith “took a bunch of stiches in the ear. It’s an ugly gash. That’s what he’s out with right now.”
Smith is still in New York, and was spotted riding a bike on Monday morning.
Paul Martin remains out with a lower body injury and will miss his second straight game. The Sharks sorely missed the 34-year-old defenseman against the Islanders in a 6-3 loss. DeBoer said Martin told him he’s “feeling better, but not ready to go,” and dubbed him as day-to-day.
Bryan Lerg was recalled from the Barracuda and will center the fourth line in Smith’s absence with Mike Brown and Barclay Goodrow. Dylan DeMelo will remain paired on defense with Matt Tennyson, while Brenden Dillon stays with Brent Burns in Martin’s spot.
Joonas Donskoi (lower body) is also still out, while Logan Couture is sidelined for at least one month with a fractured right fibula. All of the injuries have occurred on the road trip.
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The Sharks have opened the scoring in four straight games, a testament to being “ready to play” at the drop of the puck, according to DeBoer.
Still, they weren’t very strong defensively without Martin on Saturday.
“I think we’ve got to tighten things up a little bit from last game in our own end. I think when you score three goals on the road you should be getting points,” DeBoer said. “That’s the only area that I’ve got issue with, and we’ve got to make sure we’re a little tighter tonight.”
The Rangers figure to be an ornery group, losing to the Devils on Sunday at home in overtime, 2-1. They are winless in their last three (0-2-1) after starting the season with three straight wins.
“We know they’re going to be desperate,” DeBoer said.
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Lerg was one of the rare feel-good stories last season, making his NHL debut at 29-years-old and scoring the game-winning goal at Edmonton on April 9. He played in the season finale in Los Angeles two days later, too.
The Barracuda captain scored 2 goals in the first three AHL games before joining the Sharks at their team hotel in Manhattan on Sunday night a little after 10 p.m.
“I’m ready to go show I can play in the NHL, and I’ve got to do it on a consistent level now,” Lerg said on Monday morning. “Playing with Brownie and Goodie, I think it’s meat and potatoes for all of us. Put it in deep, get on the puck and go after it here. Bang some bodies.”
Lerg played in three preseason games without a point before he was reassigned to the AHL. DeBoer likened him to Stephen Gionta, another smaller, energetic player he had in New Jersey.
“Real versatile, plays with a lot of heart, plays the right way, and can do a lot of different things on the ice,” DeBoer said. “I’m a fan.”
Lerg said: “I wanted to be that first or second guy to knock on the door here, and I’m fortunate to be here and I’ve just got of make the most of it.”
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There was a pair of firsts on Saturday at Barclays Center, as Nikolay Goldobin scored his first NHL goal and DeMelo made his NHL debut.
Goldobin easily angled in a Joe Thornton pass on a three-on-two rush early in the second period, giving the Sharks a 2-1 lead at the time.
“He’s the best passer ever. I just needed to put it in the empty net, that’s it,” Goldobin said.
His parents were watching in the early morning hours in Russia. They texted him the next day, and according to Goldobin – who doesn’t lack for a sense of humor – they said: “Good job son. You’re the best. That kind of stuff.”
As for DeMelo, he was scoreless in 12:40 of ice time. Making things a bit more complicated is that he played on the left side, despite typically being on the right. He figures to remain there against the Rangers.
“Everybody has got to take the opportunity that’s given to them. It’s not always going to be perfect,” DeBoer said. “I like the fact he’s got his first game under his belt now, and those jitters are gone. We’re expecting a better game out of our entire D corps tonight.”