NHL Gameday: Vlasic looks likely to return as Sharks visit Oilers

NHL Gameday: Vlasic looks likely to return as Sharks visit Oilers

Programming note – Sharks-Oilers coverage starts today at 5:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 24-14-2, 50 points, 1st Pacific Division
Oilers: 21-14-7, 49 points, 3rd Pacific Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***Marc-Edouard Vlasic will be a game-time decision, according to Pete DeBoer, but indications were that he would likely return after missing the last four games. Vlasic was taking shifts on the Rogers Place ice with regular partner Justin Braun.

Vlasic, who looks noticeably better as the swelling has gone down in his face, said: “I’m doing my thing. We’ll see tonight.”

The defenseman said last week that he suffered “a couple fractures” and some nerve damage from taking a the Shayne Gostisbehere shot to the mouth late in a 2-0 win over Philadelphia on Dec. 30. He’s still in some discomfort, though, and said: “Until the nerves heal, I’ll still have some pain.” 

Vlasic was wearing an extra-long visor that came down to about his chin level. 

If he plays, Vlasic would replace Mirco Mueller, who stayed on the ice late Tuesday morning. Tim Heed may get in on defense, perhaps in place of Dylan DeMelo, although DeBoer wasn’t revealing anything.

Also judging from the morning skate, Micheal Haley will return on the fourth line in place of Tommy Wingels.

***The timing would seem to be ideal to get Vlasic back in the lineup, as the Oilers’ top line of Connor McDavid, Patrick Maroon and Leon Draisaitl is tearing up the league. McDavid remains atop the league scoring race with 48 points (14g, 34a).

“With or without him, we’ve got to have all five guys defending against a guy like that and a line like that,” DeBoer said. “It would be nice to have Vlasic, but if we don’t, it’s still a five-man commitment from whoever we do have.”

***The Sharks and Oilers were battling for first place the last time they met on Dec. 23, a 3-2 overtime win for San Jose at SAP Center. Edmonton would overtake the Sharks in the standings with a regulation win tonight (although the Sharks have two games in hand).

Tonight also marks the official halfway point of the regular season for the Sharks. It’s time to start looking at the standings more frequently, Joe Pavelski indicated.

“You get to that halfway mark you start thinking a little bit more about positioning, and these guys have played well,” said the captain. “They gave us a good game [on Dec. 23]. So, it will be competitive. 

“We understand the situation in the standings. Everyone is so close together, so any time you can get a couple points, it’s important. If we can create a little separation in these games, that [would be] nice.”

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Patrick Marleau. The all-time franchise scoring leader was bumped from the top line two games ago, but he’s scored a goal in each of those last two games while skating on the third line. He has six points (3g, 3a) in his last five games, and sits seven goals shy of 500 for his career.

Oilers: Patrick Maroon. The big winger leads the Oilers with 16 goals, and was named as the NHL’s Second Star of the Week on Jan. 9, colleting five goals and one assist in four games including a hat trick in Boston on Jan. 5. He remains alongside star center Connor McDavid.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Timo Meier – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Kevin Labanc – Logan Couture – Joonas Donskoi
Patrick Marleau – Chris Tierney – Joel Ward
Melker Karlsson – Micheal Haley – Mikkel Boedker

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – Dylan DeMelo

Martin Jones (starter)
Aaron Dell

Oilers
Patrick Maroon – Connor McDavid – Leon Draisaitl
Milan Lucic – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Zack Kassian
Benoit Pouliot – Drake Caggiula – Jordan Eberle
Anton Lander – Mark Letestu – Matt Hendricks

Oscar Klefbom – Eric Gryba
Andrej Sekera – Matt Benning
Kris Russell – Adam Larsson

Cam Talbot (starter)
Jonas Gustavsson

INJURIES

Sharks: Marc-Edouard Vlasic (face) is a game-time decision. David Schlemko (upper body) and Tomas Hertl (right knee sprain) are out.

Oilers: Brandon Davidson (illness) is day-to-day. Iiro Pakarinen (knee), Darnell Nurse (ankle surgery) and Tyler Pitlick (lower body) are out.

QUOTEABLE

“I like our group when we’re healthy. We haven’t been. It’s hard for me to say because we haven’t had [Tomas] Hertl like we didn’t have Couture for 20-30 games. You plug him in and you’re a different team. If we can get healthy, I’m excited about the group we have here.” – Pete DeBoer, on if he likes where the Sharks are at the midway point of the season

Sharks clinch playoff spot with LA Kings' loss in Edmonton

Sharks clinch playoff spot with LA Kings' loss in Edmonton

BOX SCORE

Although it hasn’t been a smooth ride lately, the Sharks officially punched their ticket to the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Tuesday night by virtue of the Kings’ 2-1 regulation loss to the Edmonton Oilers.

The Sharks are currently hosting the New York Rangers, looking to snap a six-game losing streak in regulation.

The Kings’ loss gives the Sharks back-to-back appearances in the playoffs after a rare miss in 2015. Last season San Jose advanced to its first-ever Stanley Cup Final, losing to the Penguins in six games.

Since 1997-98 the Sharks have made the playoffs in 17 seasons. Only Detroit, which has been officially eliminated from playoff contention this season, has more (18).

San Jose is aiming for its first Pacific Division title since 2011.

 

NHL Gameday: Karlsson, Labanc return as fading Sharks host Rangers

NHL Gameday: Karlsson, Labanc return as fading Sharks host Rangers

Programming note – Sharks-Rangers coverage starts today at 7:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 42-26-7, 91 points, 2nd Pacific Division
Rangers: 46-26-4, 96 points, 4th Metropolitan Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***There are several different scenarios that would clinch a playoff spot for San Jose tonight, but the simpliset would be the Sharks beating the Rangers in regulation or overtime, or the Kings losing in regulation to the Oilers.

***The New York Rangers make their only visit of the season to SAP Center, where they will see a Sharks team that has reached its season nadir. San Jose has lost its last six games, all in regulation, and has been outscored 13-3 in a pair of blowout defeats to Dallas and Nashville.

Coach Pete DeBoer did his best to put lipstick on the pig that is the last two performances, both five-goal losses.

“A loss is a loss. Sometimes you’re better getting beat by five than one,” he said. “We lost, we’ve got to figure out a way to win. I don’t look at the numbers on the board, or the difference – a loss is a loss. A lot of times it’s better to get soundly beaten. [You don’t] fool yourself and lose a one-goal game that maybe you didn’t deserve to win.”

***DeBoer offered the following update on Logan Couture on Tuesday morning, after the center underwent a medical procedure on Monday.

“Status quo. It was dental work, and I don’t have a timeframe for when he’ll be back, but I’m confident he’s going to be back,” DeBoer said.

The Sharks are 1-0-1 in the two games without Couture this season.

***New York won the only other meeting between the Sharks and Rangers on Oct. 17 at Madison Square Garden, 7-4. They are 2-3-2 in their last seven games, including a 6-3 loss in Anaheim on Sunday.

The Rangers have the NHL’s fourth-ranked offense, at 3.13 goals-per game.

“If we play the top end teams like that that have speed, we’re able to shut them down if we manage the puck and we’re not turning it over, and keep that good gap through the neutral zone,” Paul Martin said. 

Marc-Edouard Vlasic said: “We’ve just got to get back to good breakouts and good forechecking.”

The Sharks will try to end a streak of seven straight games allowing the first goal.

***Kevin Labanc was recalled from the Barracuda. DeBoer wouldn’t confirm any lineup decisions, but it appears that Marcus Sorensen will come out. Melker Karlsson (out the last eight games with a lower body injury), Vlasic and Chris Tierney and will all play, too.

Labanc was reassigned to the AHL on Feb. 20, having not scored a goal in his previous 25 NHL games. He has 19 points (6g, 13a) in 49 games with the Sharks this season, and another 19 points (6g, 13a) in 19 games with the Barracuda.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Patrick Marleau. The forward has been one of the only Sharks players lately that’s actually doing something positive, with three goals in the last five games. Marleau will be playing center for the fifth time this season, and probably the foreseeable future, too, with Logan Couture out indefinitely. Whether he can handle the added responsibility could determine where the Sharks finish in the Pacific Division.

Rangers: Mats Zuccarello. The shifty Rangers forward has a three-game point streak, at least one point in seven of his last eight games, with nine points (3g, 6a) over that span. The 29-year-old Norway native also led the way in New York’s win over the Sharks way back on Oct. 17, with one goal and two assists.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Jannik Hansen – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Melker Karlsson – Patrick Marleau – Mikkel Boedker
Kevin Labanc – Tomas Hertl – Joel Ward
Timo Meier – Chris Tierney – Joonas Donskoi

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Martin Jones (starter)
Aaron Dell

Rangers
Chris Kreider – Derek Stepan – Mats Zuccarello
Jimmy Vesey – Mika Zibanejad – Rick Nash
Michael Grabner – Kevin Hayes – Jesper Fast
Matt Puempel – Oscar Lindberg – J.T. Miller

Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi
Marc Staal – Brady Skjei
Brendan Smith – Nick Holden

Henrik Lundqvist
Antti Raanta

INJURIES/SCRATCHES

Sharks: Logan Couture (face) and Micheal Haley (suspension) are out.

Rangers: None.

QUOTEABLE

“You’re not always going to start with the lead, and if you don’t, you’ve still got to stick with it. There’s two teams out there. It’s 50 percent chance you score the first goal, and if you don’t, you’ve got to stick with your game plan. If you get away from it, that’s when things go bad.” – Marc-Edouard Vlasic