Successful road trip sets Sharks up nicely for four-game homestand

Successful road trip sets Sharks up nicely for four-game homestand

Through the first 11 games the Sharks’ 2018-19 campaign, they’ve only spent three tilts on home ice. All the travel hasn’t exactly been a cakewalk either. On the most recent three-game road trip, they traveled to Nashville, then all the way to the east coast to Carolina, then back to California.

“I don’t know if anyone’s had a tougher schedule to start than us,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer told the media after the team’s 4-3 overtime win in Anaheim, which finally concluded the hectic road schedule.

Now, the Sharks gearing up for a four straight games at the Tank with a mix of competition awaiting them. Despite not playing in San Jose very much, their success on the recent roadie sets them up pretty well to put a few notches in the win column while they’re at home.

Right out of the gate San Jose has a rematch against the New York Rangers, a team that beat the Sharks a couple weeks ago behind a vintage performance from netminder Henrik Lundqvist. After continuing to grind against a dominant John Gibson on Sunday, who gave Anaheim a chance to win on Sunday, the Sharks are even more prepared to go up against a strong opposing goalie.

It doesn’t hurt that the Sharks special teams came alive on the recent roadie, contributing in all three tilts away from San Jose. The Sharks can capitalize on that in the up-coming homestand with the first three teams they face – New York, Columbus, and Philadelphia – all ranking in the lower echelon in the penalty kill department. (That could potentially set them up by the time they face the Minnesota Wild who possess the sixth best kill in the league.)

It isn’t just the special teams that have gelled particularly well on the Sharks’ recent travels. Chemistry is clearly coming together on both the offensive and defensive front.

“We’re finding our way, we’re finding our identity as a team,” DeBoer commented after the win over the Ducks. “We know what our good games look like, what’s working for us.”

Knowing what works can really pay dividends as the Sharks prepare for this upcoming four-game homestand.

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


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

The Sharks played one of the best games of their season when the Lightning visited SAP Center earlier this month, defeating the NHL’s leading team 5-2.

In that game, Evander Kane found the back of the net twice while Brent Burns contributed as a helper on three goals. San Jose’s collective team defense also kept elite scorer Nikita Kucherov off the scoresheet.

[RELATED: Why Sharks' play against playoff teams is encouraging down the stretch]

The Sharks would like to put on a similar performance against the Lightning on Saturday evening. Especially since they are coming off a disappointing effort in Arizona where they fell 6-3 to the Coyotes and had their winning streak snapped at seven games. 

Tampa Bay is also looking for a rebound victory on Saturday after being defeated by the Maple Leafs 4-2 on Thursday. They’re still the best team in the Atlantic though – and in the league, for that matter – with a whopping 74 points. Despite Thursday’s loss to Toronto, they’re still 7-3-0 in their last 10 contests.

[RELATED: Sharks' Marc-Edouard Vlasic practices in Tampa, moves closer to return]

In 41 total franchise meetings, the Sharks have a 20-17-2-2 record against the Bolts.

Sharks projected lines and pairs

Marcus Sorensen – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Lukas Radil – Logan Couture – Timo Meier
Evander Kane – Tomas Hertl – Joonas Donskoi
Kevin Labanc – Barclay Goodrow – Melker Karlsson
Radim Simek – Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon – Erik Karlsson
Tim Heed – Justin Braun
Martin Jones – projected starter
Aaron Dell

Lightning projected lines and pairs

Ondrej Palat – Steven Stamkos – Yanni Gourde
Alex Killorn – Brayden Point – Nikita Kucherov
Mathieu Joseph – Anthony Cirelli – J.T. Miller
Adam Erne – Cedric Paquette – Ryan Callahan
Victor Hedman – Dan Girardi
Ryan McDonagh – Erik Cernak
Braydon Coburn – Anton Stralman
Andrei Vasilevskiy – projected starter
Louis Domingue

Sharks' Marc-Edouard Vlasic practices in Tampa, moves closer to return


Sharks' Marc-Edouard Vlasic practices in Tampa, moves closer to return

After injuries broke up the Sharks’ defensive corps at the start of the new year, it looks like San Jose’s blue line is inching closer to getting the band back together.

Injured defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic isn’t likely to see game action, although coach Peter DeBoer called him a game-time decision against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. The news was reported by Paul Gackle of the San Jose Mercury News.

“We’ll see how he feels," DeBoer told the media after Friday’s practice. "I think he’s getting closer.”

Vlasic has been sidelined since the beginning of the month when he sustained an upper-body injury against the Colorado Avalanche. He participated in the Sharks’ practice in Tampa Bay on Friday ahead of the game against the Lightning – the first time he has been a full participant in team practice since sustaining the injury. 

While it’s a positive sign Vlasic has rejoined his teammates, DeBoer remains cautious about putting him back in the lineup too soon.

“We’re not going to put him out there and get him reinjured,” the Sharks’ bench boss said. “Especially with the 10-day break on the horizon. But if he can help us and get in there then he will.”

Vlasic has registered 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in 42 games played so far this season for Team Teal.

Sticking with the theme of blueliners: Erik Karlsson was absent from morning skate on Friday with an undisclosed ailment. DeBoer told the media he was taking another maintenance day and is expected to be in the lineup Saturday in Tampa Bay.