SAN JOSE -– Despite not having anything to play for in their regular season finale, none of the Sharks veterans will be taking the night off on Saturday when they host the Arizona Coyotes.
Ultimately, of course, that’s Pete DeBoer’s decision, but he got plenty of input from his players, many of which have logged lots of miles this season and in their careers.
‘When we started having conversations with guys about the last two or three games of the season, whether some guys wanted to rest or to maybe sit out some games, to a man they wanted to stay in the game rhythm especially knowing that we might not play for a week,” DeBoer said.
The only lineup change will be Dainius Zubrus returning in place of Micheal Haley on the fourth line, after the 37-year-old missed the Jets game.
DeBoer was as displeased with Thursday’s 5-4 loss to Winnipeg as he’s been all season, when the Sharks were officially denied any chance at having home ice in the first round. He’d like to see a cleaner performance against the Coyotes, another club, like Winnipeg, that saw its postseason hopes dashed several weeks ago.
“Good habits, stay healthy, and hopefully get a win,” he said.
Tommy Wingels said: “I hope we can come out of tonight’s game feeling good about our power play, our penalty kill, and our five-on-five play. It’s a good opportunity for us to work on it one last time before the real thing begins here.”
The Sharks could know their playoff opponent even before the puck drops on Saturday. If the Ducks lose in regulation in Colorado, San Jose will visit Anaheim for games one and two.
Wingels didn’t plan on watching that game, which starts at 2:30 p.m., but said: “Are we interested? Absolutely. I’m sure someone will be talking about it. Whoever it is, it will be a great first round series.”
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Marc-Edouard Vlasic will miss his 12th straight game, although he said on Friday he expects to be in for the first playoff game next week in either Los Angeles or Anaheim.
That means rookie Dylan DeMelo will remain in the lineup, paired with Justin Braun. The 22-year-old is scoreless with an even rating since slotting in for Vlasic, and although he’s still the most likely candidate to come out of the lineup when Vlasic returns, getting in some games down the stretch was beneficial.
If the Sharks go on any sort of extended playoff run, there’s little doubt they’ll need DeMelo at some point.
“It’s been great just to stay fresh,” said DeMelo, who was pushed out of the lineup in late February when the club acquired Roman Polak. “If [Vlasic] comes back and he’s in, it’s good to be playing this many games and having that game-ready mindset and that compete level. Obviously the ante is going to be raised in the playoffs. … If I was out three or four weeks, I think it would be pretty tough to come in for my first playoff game.”
DeBoer said: “The nice thing is, he sat for a long time an jumped in and there really wasn’t a drop off, which is what I was hoping for. … You always wonder how a young guy comes back from that, and he jumped right back in at the same level he left at, which was important.”
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It would seem that Saturday’s game would be an important one for Martin Jones, after the goalie gave up five goals on 26 shots to the Jets. His counterpart, James Reimer, has been lights-out since he was acquired from Toronto, although the team has seemed to play better in front of Reimer lately than it has for Jones.
“I don’t think [Jones is] any different than anybody else. Everyone wants to feel good,” DeBoer said.
“I think his body of work speaks for itself. Whether he wins or loses tonight, plays great or doesn’t play great -– he’s not the kind of guy that’s going to walk in on Thursday of next week and carry around with him anything that happens tonight or last game. I’m not worried about that.”