Erik Karlsson to miss San Jose Sharks game against Tampa Bay
SAN JOSE — Defenseman Erik Karlsson will be missing from the Sharks roster for Saturday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning and possibly beyond with an upper-body injury.
Sharks coach Bob Boughner said Karlsson has been dealing with his injury “for a while, and it’s just not getting better. Boughner said that for now Karlsson is being considered day-to-day, but added that the Sharks will soon have a clearer idea of how much time the two-time Norris Trophy-winning defender may have to miss.
The Sharks’ next game is Wednesday against the Washington Capitals, who begin a four-game road trip against some of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
Karlsson has 26 points in 33 games this season, already surpassing last season’s total of 22 points, and is third among all Sharks skaters with an average of just over 23 minutes of ice time per game.
Karlsson, however, had received a handful of maintenance days over the past few weeks, staying off the ice for practices, as the Sharks coaching and coaching staff tried to keep him as healthy as possible. .
Karlsson went 23:36 into the Sharks’ 3-2 loss to the Seattle Kraken on Thursday when he had three shots on goal and a minus-2 differential. He and defensive partner Jaycob Megna were on the ice for all three even-strength goals.
“You could probably tell last game he wasn’t 100 percent,” Boughner said. “He tried to build muscle and he just can’t go today.”
Radim Simek will return to the Sharks roster for Saturday’s game at SAP Center after missing the last six games, including the last four as a healthy forfeit, and will be paired with Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
Brent Burns and Mario Ferraro will be the Sharks’ best pair and Ryan Merkley will be paired with Megna.
Without Karlsson, Burns will be the Sharks’ top power-play unit quarterback along with Timo Meier, Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl and Alexander Barabanov. Merkley will be on the second unit along with Nick Bonino, Noah Gregor, Jonathan Dahlen and Jasper Weatherby.
The Sharks are 3-9 with the man advantage the past two games.
“(Merkley’s) needs to step up the second unit a bit and help us there,” Boughner said. “It’s going to be more ice time for the guys. (Simek) back (with Vlasic). (Megna and Merkley) are going to have to play more and give us their best.
Karlsson missed six games earlier this season after testing positive for COVID-19 as one of four Sharks defensemen in NHL protocol. Karlsson also missed Sharks games on January 6 and 8 against Buffalo and Philadelphia, respectively, with an oblique strain, although Boughner said the latter illness is different from that.
The Sharks, impressively, are 5-2-1 without Karlsson in the roster this season.
“We just have to get through it, see what the doctors say and hopefully (Karlsson) can get better,” Boughner said.
Karlsson’s injury comes at a time when the Sharks are about to embark on the toughest part of their schedule so far.
In addition to two games with the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning, including the second on Feb. 1 in Florida, the Sharks also face the Washington Capitals, Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes as part of a road trip starting Wednesday in CC
All four teams ranked in the top seven overall in the NHL on Saturday, with the Lightning, 59 points, two points behind the Panthers for first place overall.
The Sharks finished the first half of the season with a 21-18-2 record and entered Saturday ranked fourth in the Pacific Division with 44 points. In point percentage, however, the Sharks (.537) were fifth in the division and 11th in the Western Conference as Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Dallas – other teams trying to secure a playoff spot – had matches in progress.
UPDATE FROM GADJOVICH: Winger Jonah Gadjovich will miss his sixth straight game Saturday with an upper body injury. Boughner, however, is optimistic that Gadjovich will be able to get injured and be available to play on Wednesday. Gadjovich, injured Jan. 4 in Detroit, skated Saturday morning.
Rudolfs Balcers will also be able to join the Sharks on Wednesday if he leaves the COVID protocol.