Timo Meier

Sharks vs. Golden Knights watch guide: Game 5 projected lines, defensive pairs

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AP

Sharks vs. Golden Knights watch guide: Game 5 projected lines, defensive pairs

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks have their backs up against the wall, but have the opportunity to extend their playoff run as their best-of-seven first-round series with the Vegas Golden Knights returns to SAP Center on Thursday evening.

[RELATED: How to watch Game 5 live online on MyTeams]

San Jose will have Joe Thornton back in the lineup after serving a one-game suspension and missing the 5-0 loss in Game 4. Marc-Edouard Vlasic will also return to the lineup after missing Games 3 and 4 with an undisclosed injury. Micheal Haley remains out of the lineup after being injured blocking a shot in Game 3.

The Sharks are 16-18 all-time in Game 5's and have a 12-20 record when facing elimination, but the team is hoping that the energy from being back in front of their home crowd will help them get everything going in the right direction.

“We know what our crowd can bring for us,” Timo Meier told the media after morning skate on Thursday. “The energy level definitely goes up here at home. They help us a lot.”

Sharks projected lines and pairs:

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

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon – Erik Karlsson
Joakim Ryan – Justin Braun

[RELATED: Why Jones starting Game 5 vs. Vegas shouldn't be surprising]

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

Marc-Andre Fleury – projected starter
Malcom Subban

Sharks must focus on not falling behind early in do-or-die Game 5

Sharks must focus on not falling behind early in do-or-die Game 5

SAN JOSE – Ahead of a do-or-die Game 5, the Sharks aren’t looking to do anything fancy. They just want to push their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series to a Game 6 – and that starts with getting through the first period without trailing the Vegas Golden Knights on the scoreboard.

“I think that’s probably the biggest thing when you point to what’s gone on here the last three games,” Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer told NBC Sports California when he addressed the media after Thursday’s morning skate. "I think when you’re chasing the game like that early, you can get exposed and the stats show it. We know that having played out in front this year. It’s a lot easier playing out in front than it is from behind.”

The Sharks haven’t had a lead in the series since their Game 1 victory just a little over a week ago and have been out-scored 13-3 since tying Vegas 3-3 in the first frame of Game 2.

In all three games following the 5-2 Game 1 win, the Sharks have given up the first goal within the first few minutes of the opening puck drop -- Game 3 was especially bad, with Vegas scoring a goal less than a minute into each frame.

Game 4 was perhaps San Jose’s most frustrating outing yet, as the Sharks outshot Vegas 18-7 in the first period but went into the intermission trailing 2-0. They maintained a lead on the shot sheet through 40 minutes, then became emotional in the third frame en route to being shut out 5-0.

[RELATED: Why Jones starting Game 5 shouldn't be surprising]

To keep all of that from happening again, the Sharks have to not just tighten up defensively, but not let their offensive woes from the previous game linger in their minds.

“You’ve got to bounce back,” Timo Meier said, telling NBC Sports California that getting out of the first period unscathed requires them to be more engaged from the second the game starts.

“For us, it’s important to start the right way,” Meier summarized. “Everybody has to be on their toes right when the puck drops. That’s on us to get ready for tonight – do whatever you can and get yourself ready.”

To get ready, Meier continued, the Sharks need to get back to what made them so successful in Game 1.

“We’ve just got to get back to basics,” he said. “Play hard, work hard. We know what’s on the line.”

Even as they get set to play in their own barn – where they have had the most success all season – the odds are stacked up against the Sharks with their backs against the wall. Team Teal has a 16-18 record all-time in Game 5 situations and is 12-20 all-time when facing playoff elimination. Nevertheless, the Sharks still have faith in their ability to bounce back.

“It’s that time of year,” Meier said. “We know what we can do. We’re confident in ourselves. We know this group can do this. That’s all that matters.”

Toughness of Joe Pavelski, Timo Meier on display in Sharks' Game 1 win

Toughness of Joe Pavelski, Timo Meier on display in Sharks' Game 1 win

SAN JOSE -- There was a streak of dried blood under Timo Meier’s chin when he spoke to the press after the Sharks’ 5-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday. The battle scar was evidence of when the stick of Vegas defenseman Jon Merrill caught the Swiss forward in the face with mere moments left in the first frame. Meier immediately bent over and grabbed his face, then headed straight to the dressing room before the period expired. But then, he took the ice at the start of the second frame, all stitched up as if nothing had happened. 

“it’s physical out there, sticks are coming up high, that’s the kind of stuff that happens in the playoffs,” Meier said cool as a cucumber following the victory. “Nothing that bothers me.”

Meier was one of two Sharks who exited the first period with a facial injury, the other being Joe Pavelski, who scored the opening goal of the game off his lip and didn’t return to the bench until partway through the second stanza with a visor covering his face. Losing two top-liners could have really put the Sharks in a tough spot. Seeing two key pieces of the lineup exit with injuries so early in a playoff series can really do a number on a team’s mental wherewithal. 

But the Sharks didn’t sag, and rallied behind their two injured teammates to take Game 1, 5-2.

“I think we earned that one, so that’s a good feeling,” Pavelski said to the press through a swollen lip and a mouth missing a couple of teeth. “We got what we needed as far as commitment.”

Meier agreed. “I think the big part is that everybody chipped in. We played a solid team game, all four lines were on tonight. Defensively, we didn’t give them much. That’s the way we have to play.”

Meier was especially complimentary of Pavelski and how the captain came back into the game. “He’s a tough guy coming back from that,” Meier complimented. “That’s playoff hockey character for him, coming out like that and playing a solid game.”

[RELATED: Watch Pavelski give Sharks the lead with goal off his face]

Head coach Peter DeBoer also, unsurprisingly, applauded Pavelski for returning to the game despite being banged up. “Tough as nails, to take a puck to the face and not go down,” DeBoer said. “He’s a warrior.”

Neither Pavelski nor Meier wasted any time getting right back to work once they returned to the ice, with Meier skating 23 total shifts over the course of the game and Pavelski skating 21. (Their linemate Logan Couture skated 26 shifts altogether.) With the two forwards back on the ice, San Jose was better able to roll four offensive lines and march to victory.

Of course, now the focus turns to how healthy both players will be for Game 2. While he appears no worse for wear, Pavelski admitted he has to have his stitched-up mouth looked at ahead of Game 2 and will “see how they feel.” Meanwhile, San Jose still has to get ready for their next game against Vegas, which could potentially be even tougher than Game 1.

“They’re going to come out harder,” Meier said. “We have to be better than we were today, that’s the playoffs. You’ve got to always take a step after every game.”

Coming from a player who played with a couple new stitches in his face, it isn’t hard to believe the Sharks are capable of that.