Sharks

Sharks vs. Sabres lineups: Projected lines, pairings in San Jose

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USATSI

Sharks vs. Sabres lineups: Projected lines, pairings in San Jose

After starting the bulk of the early season on the road, the San Jose Sharks will finally play their second home game of the season. They start a two-game stint at the Tank hosting the Buffalo Sabres Thursday evening.

San Jose was without Tomas Hertl at Morning Skate Thursday morning. However, coach Peter DeBoer told the media the 24-year-old winger will be ready to play Thursday night against the Sabres. Dylan Gambrell filed into Hertl's spot on Logan Couture's wing during the session.

This is the first contest of a two-game season series between San Jose and Buffalo. The last time they met, the Sharks defeated the Sabres 3-2 in Buffalo. The Sabres are 7-7-5 on the road against the Sharks all time.

The Sabres are at the start of a swing through the west coast, coming off a rough 4-1 loss to the Las Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday evening. 

Sharks projected lines and pairs

Evander Kane -- Joe Pavelski -- Kevin Labanc
Tomas Hertl-- Logan Couture -- TImo Meier
Joonas Donskoi -- Antti Suomela -- Marcus Sorensen
Barclay Goodrow -- Rourke Chartier -- Melker Karlsson

Marc-Edouard Vlasic --Erik Karlsson
Joakim Ryan -- Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon -- Justin Braun

Martin Jones -- projected starter
Aaron Dell

Sabres projected lines and pairs

Conor Sheary -- Jack Eichel -- Sam Reinhart
Jeff Skinner -- Casey Mittelstadt -- Kyle Okposo
Remi Eli -- Vladimir Sobotka --Tage Thompson
Zemgus Girgensons --Evan Rodrigues --Jason Pominville

Marco Scandella --Rasmus Ristolainen
Jake McCabe -- Rasmus Dahlin
Zach Bogosian -- Nathan Beaulieu

Carter Hutton -- projected starter
Linus Ullmark

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 6-2 loss to struggling Panthers

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USATSI

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 6-2 loss to struggling Panthers

BOX SCORE

No, the start to Monday’s meetup between the Sharks and the Florida Panthers wasn’t the most thrilling hockey ever played. But boy, did things get heated in the end.

San Jose settled in after going down 1-0, and took over the pace of the game in the second period But a lackluster start to the third frame did them in yet again, and their frustration boiled over in a big way as the Sharks dropped their third straight, 6-2.

Here are three takeaways from Monday’s game:

What’s going on in the third period?

Certain aspects of San Jose’s game against Florida mirrored the contest against Tampa Bay just a couple days prior, namely how the third periods of both games got away from the Sharks. It made for a disappointing scene on Monday against the subpar Panthers, particularly because San Jose fought from behind to tie the game up 2-2 in the second period.

One of the problems plaguing the Sharks as of late has been that their penalty kill hasn’t been the shutdown force it was earlier in the season. Both the Lightning and the Panthers were able to capitalize on San Jose’s late-game mistakes by putting them in the penalty box, and scoring on the power play. 

[RELATED: Erik Karlsson will miss final games before NHL All-Star break]

You can’t hang all your hope on one player, but …

It has really shown over the last few games how much the Sharks need their defensive corps healthy down the stretch. Their blue-line depth has been tested through the month of January with injuries to Justin Braun, Radim Simek, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and now Erik Karlsson. While other players stepped up to help San Jose en route to a seven-game winning streak, it has become evident through the last few losses they could really use their top defensemen healthy sooner rather than later.

It doesn’t help the Sharks’ all-around team defense – which had improved greatly through December and the first half of January – hasn’t been quite as tight since San Jose defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins about a week ago. This is an area the whole team has to tighten back up, no matter who’s in the lineup.

On a positive note …

About darn time for Timo Time

You really have to hand it to Timo Meier for hanging in there through a frustrating goal drought. While he was visibly showing frustration in his last couple of contests, he continued to grind and create chances.

He looked primed for breakthrough on Monday night on a line with Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski – a line that created some of the Sharks’ best chances on the evening. The line cycled and cycled again trying to create chances in the second period, before Meier finally poked in his first goal in 17 games. Of course, that goal was also initially waved off and then challenged, creating even more drama. Lucky for Meier, the goal withstood both and the 22-year-old finally got off the schneid.

Sharks vs. Panthers watch guide: Projected lines and defensive pairs

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USATSI

Sharks vs. Panthers watch guide: Projected lines and defensive pairs

The Sharks play just two more games before the All-Star break, and the team kicks things off Monday as they continue their tour through the Sunshine State to play the Florida Panthers.

San Jose looks to continue its current road trip on a high note after dropping their last two contests. In their Saturday evening bout with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Sharks were able to dig out of a two-goal hole to tie things up in the second frame. But the Bolts jumped on the little mistakes the Sharks made and came away with a 6-3 victory.

San Jose remains in second place in the Pacific Division with 63 points, but the Vegas Golden Knights are right on their heels with 62. Vegas hosts the Minnesota Wild on Monday while the Sharks are in Florida.

The Panthers are on the opposite end of the spectrum from the Sharks. Florida currently occupies sixth place in the Atlantic Division, well out of a playoff spot. They have, however, been playing better hockey as of late and have won two contests in a row. On Saturday evening, they defeated the Nashville Predators 4-2.

Monday’s game marks the first of two regular season games between the Sharks and the Panthers. In 34 total meetings between the franchises, San Jose holds a 14-10-7-3 record.

San Jose is expected to be without defenseman Erik Karlsson for Monday’s game in Florida. Additionally, fellow blueliner Marc-Edouard Vlasic could potentially pencil back into the lineup after missing almost the entire month of January due to injury.

[RELATED: Karlsson will miss last two games before All-Star break]

Sharks projected lines and pairs:

Marcus Sorensen – Joe Thornton – Melker Karlsson
Timo Meier – Logan Couture – Joe Pavelski
Evander Kane – Tomas Hertl – Joonas Donskoi
Lukas Radil – Barclay Goodrow – Kevin Labanc

Radim Simek – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – Tim Heed

Martin Jones – projected starter
Aaron Dell

Panthers projected lines and pairs:

Frank Vatrano – Aleksander Barkov – Evgenii Dadonov
Jonathan Huberdeau – Vincent Trocheck – Nick Bjugstad
Mike Hoffman – Henrik Borgstrom – Denis Malgin
Jayce Hawryluk – Jared McCann – Colton Sceviour

Keith Yandle – Aaron Ekblad
Michael Matheson – Mark Pysyk
Ian McCoshen – Josh Brown

Roberto Luongo – projected starter
James Reimer