What a pickle: Vlasic out, Stalock in for San Jose

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Some big developments from the Sharks this afternoon — Canadian Olympic defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic will miss his first game of the opening-round series versus L.A. with an injury, and the team is also giving Alex Stalock his first-ever playoff start.

We’ll let that marinate for a moment.

(waits)

Both stories are significant in their own right. Vlasic, who Sharks GM Doug Wilson called “one of the most fundamentally strong defensemen I’ve seen in 20 years,” was averaging over 20 minutes a night and sits second among San Jose’s d-men scorers this postseason.

With Vlasic out, Matt Irwin will make his series debut and play for the first time since Apr. 12.

Stalock’s start, meanwhile, is a huge shift for the Sharks, snapping Antti Niemi’s consecutive playoff starting streak at 39 games. The Finnish netminder had started every postseason game for the Sharks since coming over from Chicago four years ago, after he backstopped the ‘Hawks to the ’10 Stanley Cup.

That said, Stalock has shown well in limited work this series and apparently shown enough to warrant a start, especially in the wake of Niemi’s recent struggles. The 26-year-old has come on in relief of Niemi twice this series and been perfect, stopping all 26 shots faced in just over 57 minutes of action.

Stalock also performed well against the Kings in the regular season, stopping 20 of 21 shots in a 1-0 loss back in January.