The San Jose Sharks have a challenge in bottling up the Tampa Bay Lightning attack on Sunday, but they appear to be getting a defensive reinforcement.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic appears ready to return to the lineup, prompting the demotion of Dylan DeMelo, according to CSNBayArea.com’s Kevin Kurz.
Vlasic, 27, has missed four straight games with an upper-body injury. While his scoring totals are generally modest (17 points in 52 games this season), he’s enough of a defensive stalwart to earn an Olympic nod. Many would agree that he’s the Sharks’ best defensive defenseman.
This won’t necessarily make facing Tampa Bay a cakewalk, but they’ll at least be easier to manage.
News and notes from around the crease …
No shame about Ray
The Philadelphia Flyers couldn’t have felt great about their slim playoff hopes when Steve Mason went down with his knee injury. For better or worse, it’s on Ray Emery, and Sunday is the kind of game he has to win.
Since taking over for Mason in February, Emery’s gone 1-0-2. The 30-year-old’s overall numbers aren’t much to brag about (9-9-3 with a .890 save percentage), but this stretch will probably make a big impact on how the league views the pugnacious puck-stopper going forward.
On the Buffalo side, Michal Neuvirth gets a chance to stretch his legs in the Sabres’ net with Jhonas Enroth shipped off to Dallas.
The situations are quite different, yet both netminders have plenty to prove today.
Blues at Panthers: Brian Elliott vs. Roberto Luongo
Lightning at Sharks: Expected starters are Ben Bishop against Antti Niemi
Capitals at Ducks: Expected starters are Justin Peters vs. John Gibson
Marc-Edouard Vlasic took part in Saturday’s practice and might be able to return on Sunday, per the San Jose Mercury News.
“Yesterday I made the decision to practice with the team today,” said Vlasic. “Today myself and the Sharks organization will make a decision what happens tomorrow.”
What has caused the 27-year-old defenseman to miss four straight games in the first place has been a mystery. Officially he’s out with an upper-body injury, but Vlasic initially said he had a cold. So it raised eyebrows when he was put on the injured reserve list shortly after he made that statement.
There was some speculation that he had a concussion, but Sharks coach Todd McLellan has denied it. The blueliner seemed to be wearing a neck protector during the skate.
His absence has come at a time when the Sharks have also been trying to get by without defenseman Justin Braun (hand). McLellan thinks Braun might be back in time for the Sharks’ outdoor game against Los Angeles on Feb. 21.
The San Jose Sharks don’t have the kind of attendance issues that teams like the Florida Panthers face, but at times this season has been a trying one when measured against their past success. San Jose sold out 205 straight games until that streak was broken on Oct. 25. They have gone on to sellout just 14 of their 29 home contests and Wednesday’s game against Washington drew their smallest crowd since Feb. 2, 2006 with a total of 16,956 fans in attendance.
That’s caught Joe Pavelski’s attention, but he doesn’t blame the fans for the diminished showings.
“I think right from the start we were aware of it. The first game,” Pavelski told CSN Bay Area. “Obviously, the crowd has been there, and we love our fans. I’ll be the first to say I love playing in the Shark Tank.
“But, the way things were handled in the summer – I don’t blame some of the fans, either. There was no real buzz created. Not that there has to be, we as players own part of that and we’ve got to play better and harder. We’ve got to put our best product out there. They are bringing it for us and supporting us, and we’ve got to create that atmosphere on the ice for them.”
San Jose had an unusual summer to say the least. There was talk of a rebuild after the team’s first round collapse to the Los Angeles Kings, but that led to little material change to the team’s core.
The Sharks have since had a decent season and are in position to make the playoffs for the 11th straight campaign. Every team that enters the postseason has a chance to win it all, but the Sharks will have a tough time getting far and optimism is difficult to generate given the past playoff showings that statistically better Sharks squads have produced.
Head coach Todd McLellan is of the mindset that the team’s performance is the biggest factor in attendance numbers and that if they “keep doing our job to try and get better and improve” then they can bring people back. Which is fair because certainly there’s no question at this point that there’s a sizable fanbase willing to support this team.
In the meantime, it’s worth repeating that while their sellout streak might be broken, the crowds haven’t been bad.
It took four tries, but the San Jose Sharks were finally able to provide head coach Todd McLellan with his 300th victory with their 4-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes Friday night.
San Jose fell behind 2-0 in the first period, but Sharks forward Joe Pavelski led the charge in the second with a marker just 27 seconds into the second.
Pavelski became the third player this season to reach the 30-goal mark when he tied the contest midway through the second frame. He later helped himself to an empty net goal to complete the hat trick. Rookie Barclay Goodrow, 21, accounted for the Sharks’ other marker tonight.
With 300 wins in 515 games, McLellan is the second fastest bench boss to ever reach that milestone, behind only Bruce Boudreau, who did it in 496 contests. Since McLellan assumed his current role as head coach of the Sharks in 2008-09, San Jose has never missed the playoffs.
The Sharks are in position to advance to the postseason again this year, although their spot is far from secure. Their position has weakened after dropping five of their previous six contests, but their win tonight gives them a five-point cushion in the battle for a playoff spot.