SAN JOSE — As Joe Pavelski put it: the Sharks had “a lot going on” Saturday night.
Erik Karlsson got a rematch against his former-team. Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo, and Mikkel Boedker made their returns to SAP Center. Several of the team’s dads were kicking around after Thursday’s fathers’ trip to Las Vegas and Brent Burns got honored for playing in his 1,000th NHL game on Dec. 27 before puck drop.
Burns received a silver stick, a Sharks tooth and two African antelopes for his ranch in Texas. He skated out of the Sharks head with his son, Jagger Burns.
“That’s one of the best moments of my life and his life,” Burns said.
Adorable. 😍 pic.twitter.com/UyOtszQGeg
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) January 13, 2019
Somehow, the Sharks (27-13-7) managed to avoid a let down, securing two points to extend their season-high winning streak to six games.
Here’s what we learned in the Sharks 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators (17-24-5):
1. The Sharks forward depth could get a test heading toward the trade deadline.
Earlier this week, general manager Doug Wilson indicated he could be open to pursuing a rental at the trade deadline if the Sharks display a glaring need over the next six weeks.
His team’s forward depth could be put under the microscope if Joonas Donskoi misses games.
Donskoi left Saturday’s game in the middle of the first period with an apparent head injury after he took a hit from Mark Borowiecki in front of the Senators net. The Finnish forward returned for a shift in the latter stages of the first before he sat out the last two periods.
“He tried to come back. He couldn’t come back,” head coach Pete DeBoer said.
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The Sharks are off Sunday, so the team won’t be providing an update on Donskoi’s health until they resume practice on Monday.
The injury comes at a particularly tough time for both Donskoi and the Sharks forward group. After struggling throughout the first half of the season, Donskoi finally hit a groove after DeBoer shuffled up his lines in Edmonton on Dec. 29. The Sharks coach put Donskoi on a line with Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane and the trio combined for 28 points in seven-plus games. The rest of the Sharks forward lineup fell into place with the third line leading the charge. Donskoi scored eight goals in eight games after the line’s formation.
“It was hard to see,” Joe Pavelski said. “He’s been playing great, he really has. He looks confident with the puck, moving well. Hopefully, it’s not too bad, he gets healthy and keeps that pace to his game.”
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When Timo Meier missed three games with a head injury in late November, it produced a trickle-down effect that impacted three lines, exposing the Sharks lack of forward depth at the time. An injury to Donskoi will give the Sharks an idea of whether they’re better suited to absorb a forward loss in the wake of Lukas Radil’s emergence last month.
If Donskoi misses time and the Sharks struggle to compensate, it could encourage Wilson to seek more forward depth at the deadline. Injuries are common in the spring and the Sharks don’t want to have their Stanley Cup aspirations derailed by losing a single player.
With the Pittsburgh Penguins rolling into town Tuesday, the Sharks will get a chance to really test their forward group if Donskoi is unable to go.
2. The Sharks get it right for Karlsson in the rematch.
DeBoer could see the trap coming from the Vegas Strip on Thursday.
Playing their fifth game in eight days against the NHL’s 30th ranked team, DeBoer was glad that his club had the carrot of earning a win for Karlsson dangling in front of them Saturday night. The Sharks got humiliated in Karlsson’s homecoming to Ottawa on Dec. 1, a loss that inspired a closed-door meeting with Wilson and a reshuffling of the coaching responsibilities on DeBoer’s staff.
With Saturday’s win, the Sharks are 15-3-2 since the debacle in Canada’s capitol.
“It’s huge,” Burns said. “You always want to play well and get a win (against your former-team). He’s been awesome for us.”
The Sharks looked like a fatigued group as the battled through a sleepy first period that produced only goose eggs on the scoreboard. Pavelski eventually broke the scoreless tie at 17:57 of the second, scoring his team-leading 26th goal. Burns, Joe Thornton and Melker Karlsson joined the fun in the third, allowing Erik Karlsson to avenge the disaster in his return to Ottawa last month.
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) January 13, 2019
“It’s always special,” Erik Karlsson said. “It’s still weird. It’s probably going to be weird as long as I play somewhere else.
“The boys in here were tired today and we did what we had to do to get away with a W.”
3. Martin Jones stays hot.
Jones stole a couple points for the Sharks in Vegas, making 36 saves in a game where his team got outplayed. On Saturday, he stayed hot, making several key saves early on that allowed the Sharks to avoid the challenge of having to chase the game. They were the type of stops that he failed to come up with earlier in the season when the Sharks found themselves playing from behind on a near-nightly basis.
In the first, Jones made an impressive kick save on a Rudolfs Balcers shot from the slot, and later in the frame, he got a blocker on Mark Stone’s breakaway attempt. In the second, he got a left toe on Brady Tkachuk’s shot after he slipped behind Thornton on the rush. Jones stretched out his right pad to stop a redirection from Stone a few minutes later, setting the stage for Pavelski’s tie-breaking goal.
“He was really solid tonight,” DeBoer said. “That was a game where the first goal was going to be really important for whoever got it. He was dialed in and made a bunch of saves to make sure that we got to play out front.”
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