Tim Heed

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in annoying 2-1 road loss to Devils

sharkstakeawaysusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in annoying 2-1 road loss to Devils

BOX SCORE

The New Jersey Devils entered Thursday's game against the Sharks at Prudential Center as one of only three teams in the league with fewer points than San Jose. That no longer is the case after New Jersey came from behind and held off the Sharks for a 2-1 win.

The Sharks got on the board first and maintained that lead through the first half of the contest, but Jesper Bratt scored on a breakaway late in the second period to pull the Devils even and P.K. Subban's power-play goal in the third proved to be the game-winner. San Jose had an advantage in shots, scoring chances and high-danger chances, but New Jersey netminder Mackenzie Blackwood came up big when it mattered most.

Here are three takeaways from a loss that ends San Jose's road winning streak at four games.

Seizing the opportunity

Things started very well for the Sharks. They had good jump in the first period and were able to take the lead thanks to some unexpected contributors.

Just over seven minutes into the game, Alex True won a faceoff in the offensive zone and passed it back to Jake Middleton, who promptly slid it across the blue line to defensive partner Tim Heed. Heed then threw an innocent-enough shot at the net, but thanks to plenty of traffic in front, it slid past Blackwood for the first goal of the night.

True made his NHL debut a couple of weeks ago. Thursday was Middleton's eighth career NHL game, and Heed has gone back and forth between the Sharks and the Barracuda in the AHL in his career. Having the three of them combine for a goal was a promising sign, and the exact kind of silver lining San Jose should be focusing on throughout the remainder of a season that is not headed for the playoffs.

Bottom-dwellers

The fact that a fourth-line goal was arguably the Sharks' top highlight of the game should tell you everything you need to know about the level of competition involved. The Devils have been as active as any team as the league nears the trade deadline, and a combination of injuries to critical players and the recent trade of Brenden Dillon has similarly sapped San Jose's talent level.

The end result was a contest between two rosters that, frankly, should be at the bottom of the standings -- and are.

It would be tough for any team to overcome the injuries to Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl and Erik Karlsson -- the latter two of which were season-ending -- but the Sharks can't exactly use the same youth-movement excuse as New Jersey. Entering Thursday, the Devils' entire roster had appeared in a total of 5,648 NHL games. For comparison, San Jose's Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic had combined for 5,463.

[RELATED: True proving he deserves to be part of Sharks' future]

Promising, but frustrating

You can't pin Thursday's loss on Martin Jones, but nonetheless, his inability to finish off what was a stellar start in net through 1 1/2 periods is somewhat frustrating.

He was left out to dry on Bratt's goal, and Subban's tally was the result of some truly terrible timing to reposition. It also would have helped if someone had cleared the screen directly blocking his vision. Prior to those faults, Jones had played great and came up with several big saves to keep his team in front. His stick save on the goal line in the second period was arguably his best of the season.

With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, the Sharks surely will be looking into ways to address their goaltending problem. The odds are against Jones playing elsewhere anytime soon, but it sure would have been nice if he had something better to show for what might be his final showcase opportunity before Monday's deadline.

Erik Karlsson injury creates opportunity for Sharks' depth defensemen

Erik Karlsson injury creates opportunity for Sharks' depth defensemen

It would be difficult for the Sharks to find a positive in the wake of Erik Karlsson's season-ending broken thumb.

Their 2019-20 season was lost well before the two-time Norris Trophy joined the ranks of their walking wounded. San Jose faced an uphill climb -- we're talking a 90-degree incline -- to make the playoffs with the defenseman in the lineup down the stretch. Without him, Tomas Hertl (knee; out for the season) and Logan Couture (ankle; out indefinitely), the Sharks are certain to clean out their lockers soon after the April 4 regular-season finale. 

That doesn't mean the season is a lost cause for Karlsson's teammates, particularly those behind him on the defensive depth chart. 

"You're gonna see a situation where a lot of guys get to step up, and see what they can do and prove that they deserve to play in the NHL," former Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan said on Sharks Postgame Live after San Jose's 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. "Sometimes, it's [an] opportunity for other guys, but [it's] just an unfortunate circumstance. When it rains, it pours, and it seems like that's the way it's going for the Sharks right now."

The Sharks recalled Jacob Middleton from the AHL Barracuda before Saturday's game, but defenseman Tim Heed got the first look in Karlsson's absence. The Swedish defenseman skated 14:08, including 1:04 of power-play time. 

Heed had not played since Jan. 16, but was second among Sharks defensemen with two shots on goal Saturday. The 29-year-old seems poised for his longest look in the NHL since making his Sharks debut three seasons ago, and at an opportune time. He's an unrestricted free agent at the end of the summer, and he can use the stretch run to prove he's worthy of an NHL look -- whether in San Jose or elsewhere. 

Heed's fellow Swede, despite the injury, doesn't face nearly as much uncertainty. Karlsson is under contract through 2027 after signing a massive eight-year extension this offseason. The 29-year-old will have played in just 109 of a possible 164 regular-season games with the Sharks over his first two seasons in teal, as a groin injury hobbled him down the stretch last year, too.

[RELATED: Kane rips 'ridiculous' NHL Player Safety discipline record]

Karlsson previously sustained a lacerated left Achilles tendon in 2013 and underwent major ankle surgery in 2017. Another lower-body injury would've been much worse news for Karlsson and the Sharks, according to Hannan.

"And on a positive -- not knowing, of course, what the extent of that broken thumb is," Hannan said, "but it's not like it was the groin injury [again] for someone that relies so much on his skating, and his ability to evade checks and get away from people. So hopefully, this thumb injury is not that serious and he's able to just get that thing healed and be ready for the start of the season."

The Sharks will count on Karlsson to be at full strength this fall in order to ensure their playoff drought doesn't last longer than a season. His replacements, starting with Heed, will have plenty of motivation to make an impression in his absence. 

Sharks' Radim Simek to miss about two weeks for minor knee procedure

simekusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Sharks' Radim Simek to miss about two weeks for minor knee procedure

The Sharks have dealt with their fair share of knee issues over the last few seasons, and they're going to have to work through another one over the next few weeks.

Defenseman Radim Simek will miss about two weeks as he needs to undergo a procedure on his surgically repaired right knee, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson told reporters in Tampa on Sunday before San Jose's game against the Lightning. 

Simek tore his ACL and MCL in March, and had surgery soon after. He initially was projected to rejoin the team at the start of the season, but Simek didn't return to game action until Nov. 5. In 16 games this season, Simek has scored four points (one goal, three assists) and posted a minus-12.

[RELATED: Sharks lament 'poor, poor effort' late in loss to Lightning]

Despite those pedestrian numbers, Simek's presence in the Sharks lineup makes a big difference. San Jose is 4-10-1 when Simek has not played this season and 11-4-1 with him in the lineup.

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said Tim Heed would play in Simek's place Sunday. Although Heed has played well in his last couple of games, it's still possible Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson will play more and share Simek's responsibilities, much like they did at the start of the season when Simek initially was out.