SAN JOSE –- The Sharks recalled bruising forward Micheal Haley on Thursday morning, immediately raising eyebrows that he would be inserted into the lineup against the Oilers to exact some revenge on Darnell Nurse, who jumped and pummeled Roman Polak at Rexall Place on March 8.
Coach Pete DeBoer would not confirm that Haley would play, but indications are that the 29-year-old with four points and 205 penalty minutes in 66 career games will be in on the fourth line in place of Dainius Zubrus.
“Hales has been our guy we’ve called up here for the last two months when we needed a guy, and we need 13 forwards,” DeBoer said.
At 18:20 of the third period in the previous meeting, Nurse grabbed Polak in front of the Sharks’ bench as he was going off on a line change. He started wailing away on the defenseman before Polak had a chance to get his gloves off, leaving Polak’s white road jersey stained red with blood. Nurse was issued a three-game suspension, while the Sharks won the game, 3-0.
Nurse took exception to an inference penalty on Polak earlier in the third, but replays showed Polak didn’t touch Edmonton’s Matt Hendricks before he went crashing into the boards.
Nurse was asked if any thought of the Sharks retaliating on Thursday night enters into his mind.
“When you guys ask questions, I think it does, but it’s last game,” he said. “I know both teams are looking for wins here tonight. That’s the most important thing.”
When asked if he felt any regret over the incident after seeing Polak never interfered Hendricks, Nurse said: “It was a heat of the moment thing. Obviously you don’t want to ever see guys hurt or things like that. I probably crossed the line, but it’s over now.”
Does he expect the Sharks to come after him?
“I know how I would feel after something like that, so I expect anything,” Nurse said. “That’s the way I look at it. There’s a game to be played and I’m sure everyone in their room is looking forward to just going out there and trying to get the win.”
Coach Todd McLellan also weighed in on subject.
“We had a -year-old that felt he needed to stand up for a teammate. His perception or read on a play was wrong. He crossed the line, he stood up, he served his suspension, and that’s where we’re at,” McLellan said.
“We’ve come to play hockey. I think the ball is in their court. They have playoffs coming, and they get to dictate how the game goes. We’re going to come out and we’re going to play hockey, and see what happens.”
On Wednesday, Polak indicated that he’s not concerned with getting back at Nurse for breaking his nose.
“I’m just going to play a regular game. … If something happens something happens, but I’m not going into the game to fight him or do something like that,” Polak said. “I’m just going to focus on my game first.
“He got suspended for it, it was dirty, maybe he’ll learn from that. We’ll see. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I can’t tell you now what’s going to happen.”
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James Reimer will oppose Cam Talbot in net. Reimer posted a 31-save shutout in that previous meeting on March 8, and is 5-0-0 with a 1.36 goals-against average and .959 save percentage in six career games against the Oilers.
Edmonton will be without forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins due to a minor concussion, according to McLellan. The top overall pick in 2011, Nugent-Hopkins has 11 goals and 33 points in 52 games.
The Oilers will have Connor McDavid in the lineup, the first time the rookie will make an appearance at SAP Center.
“He’s a guy you have to talk about prior to the game, which is the ultimate respect when you’re talking about an 18-year-old in your pregame meetings,” DeBoer said. “He’s earned that in the short time he’s been in the league.
The Sharks forwards will play a huge role in defending McDavid, who likes to pick up speed through the neutral zone, according to DeBoer. The San Jose defensemen, of course, will also have to be on top of their game in what will be the Sharks’ fourth straight without an injured Marc-Edouard Vlasic (lower body).
“Let’s not kid ourselves, he’s a pretty good hockey player,” Brent Burns said of McDavid. “I’m sure he’s going to get chances. … I’m sure their D are talking about playing against Jumbo. That big mutant still gets chances.”
McDavid is averaging more than a point-per-game in his rookie season with 14 goals and 28 assists in 39 games. He missed several months with a collarbone injury.
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The Sharks will be trying to avoid losing two-straight games in regulation for the first time since Jan. 2-7.
“I wasn’t aware of that, but that’s something good teams usually don’t do is lose a couple in a row and avoid those losing streaks,” Logan Couture said. “I believe we’re a good team, so we’re going to need a response tonight.”
DeBoer said: “I think that is a sign of an elite team and a team that’s ready for playoff hockey, so that’s obviously something that we talk about. I think our guys have been good about recognizing what went wrong and getting it fixed quickly. I think that’s been an important piece for us all year.”
The Sharks have lost two in a row just once in 2016, 4-3 to the Avalanche in a shootout on Feb. 24 and 3-1 at home to Buffalo two nights later.