Joonas Donskoi

Sharks vs. Golden Knights watch guide: Game 4 projected lines, defensive pairs

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USATSI

Sharks vs. Golden Knights watch guide: Game 4 projected lines, defensive pairs

The San Jose Sharks have battled through their fair share of adversity in this first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But the stakes will be even higher on Tuesday night when they take the ice down a few starters in Game 4 against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Team Teal will be without Joe Thornton, who is serving a one-game suspension for an illegal check to the head made on Tomas Nosek in Game 3. They will also be without fourth-line enforcer Micheal Haley, who was hurt blocking a shot in Game 3. Joonas Donskoi and Lukas Radil will pencil into the lineup to fill in the gaps on offense.

The Sharks will also be without defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic for the second straight game after he left in the middle of Game 2 following a blocked shot. Tim Heed will take his place for the second game in a row.

San Jose is looking for a better start against Las Vegas, who scored goals less than a minute into all three periods of Game 3 on Sunday evening.

Sharks projected lines and pairs:

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

Joakim Ryan – Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon – Erik Karlsson
Tim Heed – Justin Braun

Martin Jones – projected starter
Aaron Dell

Golden Knights projected lines and pairs:

Jonathan Marchessault – William Karlsson – Reilly Smith
Max Pacioretty – Paul Stastny – Mark Stone
Tomas Nosek – Cody Eakin – Alex Tuch
Will Carrier – Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – Ryan Reaves

Nate Schmidt – Deryk Engelland
Brayden McNabb – Shea Theodore
Jon Merrill – Colin Miller

[RELATED: Kane roasts Reaves over fight]

Marc-Andre Fleury – projected starter
Malcom Subban

Sharks need everyone to step up in crucial Game 4 against Golden Knights

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USATSI

Sharks need everyone to step up in crucial Game 4 against Golden Knights

Perhaps the biggest criticism head coach Peter DeBoer made after the Sharks were stunned 6-3 by the Golden Knights on Sunday in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs was that not enough players stepped up.

“We didn’t have enough participants playing at a high enough level,” he told the media after the loss. “We weren't good enough across the board to win tonight."

Now, with even more players missing from the Sharks' lineup for Game 4, the stage is set for everyone to step up their game – and not, as Sharks’ radio announcer Dan Rusanowsky said on NBC Sports California’s live Facebook Q&A, “hand the game to another team on a silver platter.”

San Jose is getting a new look for Tuesday evening with Joe Thornton, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Micheal Haley all being out of the lineup. While the shuffle is partially to adjust to Joonas Donskoi and Lukas Radil being added to the forward attack, it also serves as a test for the Sharks to get a jump on Vegas’ offense.

The Sharks haven't been able to counter the attack of the Knights’ forward assault in the last two games, particularly the combination of Mark Stone, Paul Stastny, and Max Pacioretty. As Sharks broadcaster Bret Hedican summarized during NBC’s Facebook Q&A that a line needs to make the decision to step up and commit to shutting the Stone line down – or better yet, the whole team needs to rise to meet that test.

Game 4 will also be a big test for Donskoi and Radil, who have been healthy scratches through the first three games of these playoffs. Donskoi told the media after practice on Tuesday that he had been feeling “kind of helpless” watching the team struggle the last two games and not being able to do anything to help.

Tuesday’s game would be a great time for Donskoi, as well as Radil, to really show how they can fill in and make a difference.

Overall, the Sharks as a whole need to step up on the defensive side of the puck. While Martin Jones no doubt has to have a much stronger performance than he did in Game 3, the blame for letting in three goals less than a minute into every period doesn’t rest solely on him.

After doing a great job taking the center of the ice away from Vegas in Game 1, San Jose has let the opposition travel quickly into their zone and make big plays. If the Sharks are going to have any chance of building momentum and not letting the Knights take over the pace of play yet again, they’ll need to get back to having that “defense-first” mentality.

[RELATED: How Thornton suspension affects Sharks' lineup]

While big performances from any of these parties could help the Sharks win Game 4 and tie the series up 2-2, it will really take all members of the team stepping up and banding together.

The Golden Knights enter Tuesday’s contest with a leg up in the series, plus the support of their home crowd to push them along. It’ll take the collective San Jose squad to shut them down.

How Joe Thornton suspension affects Sharks' lineup in critical Game 4

How Joe Thornton suspension affects Sharks' lineup in critical Game 4

The Sharks won't have Joe Thornton on Tuesday night as he serves a one-game suspension in Game 4 against the Vegas Golden Knights, leaving a hole in the middle of San Jose’s lineup.

Trailing 2-1 in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoff series, San Jose needs to win in order to avoid facing elimination headed into Game 5 on Thursday. The Sharks have a replacement waiting in the wings -- pun intended -- but Thornton's absence because of his illegal hit to the head in Game 3 undoubtedly will be an obstacle. 

Through three playoff games, Thornton (one goal, two assists) is tied for third on the team in points, and ranks second in primary points (three). The Sharks’ Thornton-led third line has been a mixed bag 5-on-5 in this series, posting a 52.38 corsi-for percentage but controlling just 20 percent of the high-danger chances, but he was solid alongside Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen after the trio reunited for good in early March.

Still, San Jose largely weathered this particular storm early in the season. Thornton missed nine games in October, The Sharks went 5-2-2 during that span, and captain Joe Pavelski had particular success sliding over to center in Thornton's absence. He was a strong puck-possession player (63.27 percent corsi-for, 60.8 percent shots-for and 67.35 percent high-danger chances for) and scored four goals at full strength during that time.

Assuming Pavelski again mans the middle in Game 4, either Joonas Donskoi or Lukas Radil figure to take his place as a winger. It's possible both will play, as Sharks coach Peter DeBoer told reporters Monday in Las Vegas that Micheal Haley was "day to day" after blocking a shot and not returning in Game 3. Who they -- and Pavelski -- would play with is another question entirely.

[RELATED: How beef between Kane, Reaves evolved over the years]

Radil's most common linemates during the regular season were Barclay Goodrow and Melker Karlsson, so it seems likely he would slot into the fourth line in Haley's place if he can't play. Donskoi played more 5-on-5 minutes with Evander Kane and Tomas Hertl than he did with anyone else, but Pavelski barley played with Labanc and Sorensen comparatively. DeBoer moved Pavelski alongside Kane and Hertl in the third period Sunday, so Pavelski centering Labanc and Sorensen can't necessarily be ruled out for Game 3. 

All of that is to say the Sharks will give the Golden Knights a much-different look up front Tuesday, and out of necessity. They haven't looked strong in two consecutive defeats, but you can be sure they'd still rather have Thornton in the lineup in Game 4.