SAN JOSE – Needless to say, the Sharks’ line depth has been tested very early on in the season. With injuries and mid-game pushes to generate more offense, spectators have already seen a decent mix and match of the lineup despite the season only being a little over a month old.
San Jose’s forward assault is going to be tested yet again if Tomas Hertl misses time after being hit in the head during last Saturday’s tilt. But according to the players, being shuffled around isn’t a problem.
“Each forward on our team has changed lines so often throughout the season, this year and last year,” Logan Couture pointed out. “I think there’s a comfort level with most of the forwards, so I think that helps us.”
Having that comfort level can help San Jose in the long run, particularly when the combos get a makeover midway through a game. Sharks coach Peter DeBoer rearranged the forward lines a few times last game, notably most moving Joe Thornton to third line center and putting Joonas Donskoi on the top line with Joe Pavelski and Evander Kane. While this may be a new line combination on this season, Donskoi explained that playing with both skaters in the past sets them up to build chemistry at a quicker rate.
“We played together last year too,” Donskoi said. “I think last game, the shifts we had together we were starting to find that chemistry again.”
Although the team appears comfortable moving around, DeBoer likely doesn’t want to have to reshuffle the deck very much against Tuesday evening’s opponent. The Minnesota Wild are riding a two-game winning streak after going 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. Not to mention this is a team that can pressure their opponents into a corner and dictate the pace of the game.
“This is probably one of, if not the, best team we’ve played this year so far,” Couture said. “They have a lot of skill up front. Their d-men move the puck and move their feet. So, it’s a real challenge for us.”
Donskoi agreed there was a challenge ahead, but knows if the Sharks can play to Minnesota’s level – line shuffle or not – they’ll be in good shape.
“It’s a great challenge for us,” Donskoi said. “We really just need to roll four lines, all defense, and have a good game from our goalie to beat (these kinds of) teams. But it’s a great challenge.”