CALGARY – Melker Karlsson will be back in on the fourth line tonight when the Sharks face the Calgary Flames for the fifth and final time this season.
The 25-year-old winger missed the last two games with an undisclosed injury that looked to be of the upper body variety.
“Not a big thing, but better to get healthy than struggle with it for a longer term,” Karlsson said.
While Karlsson resumed his place alongside Chris Tierney and Dainius Zubrus, where he had been playing for most of the last two months before getting hurt, coach Pete DeBoer offered a new look on his second and third lines. Logan Couture was between Matt Nieto and Joel Ward, while Patrick Marleau centered Joonas Donskoi and Nick Spaling.
DeBoer has been mixing his lines up frequently of late, including in the midst of game play, as the Sharks’ attack has ebbed and flowed. Since the All-Star break, San Jose is 9-5-2.
“I think in an 82-game schedule you get into some dog days of the year. You get 60, 70 games in, and it gets tough. You have to use different ways to try and grab their attention or create a spark,” DeBoer said.
“You ask any coach, they’d love to roll the same four line combinations all year, but that’s not reality. I think we’ve been fairly consistent for the most part, at least with pairs and positioning. But, we get two periods into a game and we’ve got nothing going, this group has responded to that through the year. It’s not something you like to do, but if it works we’ll keep doing it.”
The Sharks would like to stay out of the penalty box against Calgary after being shorthanded seven times, and giving up three power play goals, in a 4-2 loss to Vancouver on Saturday.
“I believe we’re going to get scoring chances tonight, we’ve got to make sure we finish them,” DeBoer said. “We’ve got to fix what went wrong last game – we’ve got to stay out of the penalty box and play this game five-on-five as much as possible.”
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Martin Jones will be back in net against the Flames after his streak of 10 straight starts ended on Sunday when new backup James Reimer took the loss.
The Sharks play right away again on Tuesday night in Edmonton. Could Jones go back-to-back?
“I’ve got no problems playing him back-to-back. At the same time, we want to make sure Reims is ready, too,” DeBoer said. “The goal here is to make sure we’ve got two fresh goalies that are capable of starting come playoff time. That’s going to be the big picture here over the last  games.”
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Brent Burns was named as the NHL’s Third Star of the Week on Monday morning, with six points (3g, 3a) in three games.
The 30-year-old still leads all NHL defensemen with 23 goals, including scores in three straight games headed into Monday night, and is second in the league with 278 shots. Perhaps more importantly, though, Burns has a plus-11 rating since Jan. 7. Prior to that, he was a minus-15 on the year.
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Calgary has a pretty decent chance of securing the top overall pick in the 2016 draft, now that it has fallen to dead last in the Pacific Division. Last season, some teams like the Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres seemed to be in full tank mode in order to better their chances at getting prized prospect Connor McDavid.
Flames coach Bob Hartley emphatically stated that his club has no intention of trying to lose from here on out.
“You shouldn’t be in the league,” he said of teams whose goal it is to tank. “How can you come in one day and say it’s OK to lose, and suddenly the next day you have to win at all costs - you have to slide in front of shots, you have to drive the net like a mad man. I don’t live my life like this,” Hartley said.
“The message from ownership over here, the message from management, [president] Brian Burke and [general manager] Brad Treliving, we play to win every game.”
“It’s a privilege to be in the NHL. The day that I will be behind the bench with the intention of not trying to win, I’ll stay home.”