After two days of mystery, the Sharks have confirmed that defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic will be out of the lineup for Game 3 after sustaining an undisclosed injury in San Jose's Game 2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.
Tim Heed will fill in Vlasic's place when the Sharks take the ice at T-Mobile Arena for Sunday night's Stanley Cup playoff game.
So, what exactly do the Sharks have to do to not let the absence affect their game?
As was discussed on NBC Sports California’s live Facebook Q&A earlier Sunday morning, San Jose will benefit if its defense plays a “measured” game. Not just a full 60-minute game, but a consistent one as well.
A prime example of inconsistency is the effort in Game 2: After putting so much energy and emotion into rallying out of a 3-0 hole to tie the score at 3 before the first intermission, the Sharks’ overall game fell back on its heels.
Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said in his pregame chat with the media that he wants his team to do a better job of “stopping the bleeding” if the Knights grab onto the momentum. Playing a more measured game can help with that.
Vlasic’s absence also will require other blueliners to step up and give the team steady ice time. San Jose relied heavily on Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson after Vlasic exited Game 2, with Burns clocking 28:36 minutes of ice time and Karlsson skating 29:08 minutes. Getting more time from Brenden Dillon and Justin Braun can help keep the Sharks' defensive effort be more consistent.
But DeBoer told the media Sunday morning that he also wants to see Heed and Joakim Ryan “give us minutes” -- certainly a stark contrast to the 7:34-minute outing that Ryan logged in Game 2. Since DeBoer has kept his defensive pairings a bit fluid at the start of this first-round series, there’s a chance Ryan and Heed could be moved around during the game even though Ryan was paired with Burns during practice, while Heed skated with Braun.
However the pairs shake up, San Jose’s defense has to stop Vegas from taking an early lead and building momentum.
“The one thing they’ve been very good at has been grabbing momentum and then building on it,” DeBoer said of the Golden Knights. He said he wants to see his team respond right after the fact, “whether that’s a save, a kill, whatever it is. A shot block, a momentum shift right after.”
San Jose already has its hands full as the Round 1 series shifts buildings. The Sharks had a 1-1-0 regular-season record in the Golden Knights’ home barn, but they went 1-2-0 there during last year’s playoffs and were outscored 15-7. Additionally, the Sharks’ power play, which struggled in Game 2, registered just 18.8 percent in last year’s playoffs, with three goals in 16 opportunities on the man advantage.
On a positive note, however, San Jose’s penalty kill fared well at T-Mobile during last year’s playoffs, functioning at 75 percent.