LOS ANGELES – It was a successful return to the lineup for a pair of Sharks that missed the final dozen games of the regular season.
Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic skated a game-high 23 minutes and 23 seconds for the Sharks and was scoreless with a plus-two rating, one shot on goal and three blocked shots, picking up right where he left off when he sprained his knee getting tangled up with Arizona’s Shane Doan on March 17.
“I thought he was vintage Vlasic,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “Came in, made smart little plays. Just a fantastic game. Managed the puck really well.”
Vlasic said: “I felt really good out there, yeah.”
Matt Nieto, who was hurt blocking a shot in the same game Vlasic went out, skated on the third line with Patrick Marleau and Melker Karlsson. That speedy trio appeared to be taking early advantage of a matchup against Los Angeles’ third line, featuring veteran Vinny Lecavalier.
Nieto had one shot and three hits in 12:43. DeBoer was complementary of his performance, too.
“I thought he was excellent,” DeBoer said. “I thought he was one of the guys that stood out for me last night. His energy, his speed. Nice to have him back.”
If the Sharks make any changes to their lineup for Game 2, they will apparently be on the fourth line. Chris Tierney, Tommy Wingels and Nick Spaling made up that trio in Game 1, while Dainius Zubrus and Micheal Haley were the healthy scratches.
DeBoer said: “I thought their fourth line was pretty effective last night. I’d like to see our fourth line – and I thought as the game went on they got better, but I’m always looking for more impact out of our depth guys.”
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In football, teams will often pick up players let go by rival clubs to get a sense of what’s going on in the other organization, tactically or otherwise.
The Sharks have that in Martin Jones, who, of course, spent the last two seasons in Los Angeles. And, DeBoer is using it to his potential advantage.
“We talked to him. I had a conversation with him about their systems and what he remembered,” DeBoer said. “I know [assistant/goalie coach Johan Hedberg] has talked to him a little bit about [Jonathan] Quick, and some tendencies. He’s been a valuable resource for us.”
Jones played off a suggestion that he could offer advice on what might be happening in Kings-land on a day like Friday.
“Honestly, teams do so much video and break down the other team so much now, there’s no secrets out there,” he said. “Our staff and everybody knows what the Kings are trying to do and they know what we’re trying to do.”
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As pleased as the Sharks were with their Thursday performance, there are always improvements and adjustments to be made game-to-game.
Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns both indicated the Sharks could get off to a better start. In Game 1, their first shot on goal was Pavelski’s power play one-timer at 6:25 that knotted the score at 1-1.
“It’s still a worry about the starts a little bit. They come out hard,” said the captain. “It’s still a road game, you’ve got to manage the puck and the crowd a little bit, the atmosphere and the emotion.”
Burns said: “It will probably remain a secret, but there are always things you’ve got to clean up and fix. They’re going to come back with a great game, and you’ve got to be that much better. The start is going to be a grind. That’s what we expect.”
DeBoer was displeased with the Trevor Lewis’ second period shorthanded goal, that could have been a killer had Tomas Hertl not tied the game at 3-3 just 30 seconds later.
“We can’t give up shorthanded goals in the playoffs, that’s going to come back to bite you,” he said.
“I also know that we’re going to get a big response from L.A. I know they’re going to be better. We played a good road game, good enough to win, but I think we have another level, too.”
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The Kings recalled defenseman Kevin Gravel from the AHL, according to multiple reports, suggesting Alec Martinez's status for Game 2 is in doubt.
The Los Angeles defenseman, who missed the last four games of the regular season with an undisclosed injury, departed late in the second period of Game 1 and did not return. He did not skate on Friday, according to LAKingsInsider.com.