SAN JOSE -- After nearly two months of not being able to ice a consistent fourth-line combination, Sharks coach Peter DeBoer did away with the concept altogether in Thursday's win over the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Sharks dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen Thursday, and the decision worked so well that DeBoer said he might do the same thing again Saturday night against the New York Islanders.
The question now, of course, is how long that formula can last.
"Until we get a fourth line that we feel good about, that can go over the boards and can tilt the ice and win some battles and create some momentum for us, we'll continue to look at that," DeBoer said Saturday morning.
DeBoer scratched fourth-liner Lukas Radil on Thursday, rotating Evander Kane on and off the fourth line with Dylan Gambrell and Melker Karlsson. Additionally, defenseman Tim Heed -- who upped his game when he returned to the lineup while Mario Ferraro was injured -- skated 10:36 as the Sharks' seventh defenseman. DeBoer admitted he was happy with the results.
"It's the most comfortable I've been, especially on the road against a good team, being able to put four lines out on the ice and not have to worry as much," he confessed.
Of course, this plan has its drawbacks. Karlsson and defenseman Radim Simek left Thursday with unspecified injuries, leaving the Sharks even thinner.
"It's not perfect," DeBoer admitted. "As you can see, you get an injury or a penalty or things like that, you're all of a sudden pretty short up front and guys are overplaying."
This isn't the first time this season that the Sharks' coaching staff has been hyper-aware of overplaying their top skaters. It wasn't that long ago that Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson were logging around 25 minutes per game while Simek recovered from knee surgery. At the time, DeBoer admitted that he didn't want to have to play anyone on the team that much early in the season and have them burn out.
The same goes for the current formula. Rolling out 11 forwards helped the Sharks beat Vegas on Thursday, but it can tire players out if used too long. That's especially true with the busy schedule the Sharks have to close out the month of November.
"I don't think it's tricky one night or two nights, but we're going into a stretch of five games in seven nights," DeBoer said. "The extra ice [time] -- guys like it but there's no doubt it catches up to you. There aren't many 22-to-23-minute forwards in this league that can play a heavy, hard game and the right way and do those types of things. But if that gives us a better chance to win, that's what we're going to do."
DeBoer didn't confirm whether the Sharks would use the same lineup formula on Saturday against the red-hot Isles, especially since a couple of injured players were labeled game-time decisions. But, he left the door open to the possibility.
Until the Sharks finally have a fourth-line combination that works, it's probably their best option. Although it's also not a completely sustainable one, as DeBoer said.