SAN JOSE –- For the first time in more than five years, the Sharks dressed half a dozen rookies for a game on Thursday night in Vancouver.
Looks like they’ll do it again on Saturday after that important 5-1 win over the Canucks.
Melker Karlsson, Chris Tierney, Daniil Tarasov, Mirco Mueller, Matt Tennyson and Barclay Goodrow are all expected play against Carolina as the Sharks open up a three-game homestand with the team that owns the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference.
“Age, rookie status doesn’t mean much to me,” Todd McLellan said. “It’s about whether players can help. We’re not chasing an age. …. It’s who can get on the ice, who can contribute and who can help us win.”
“I think everyone’s played well when they came up,” said Karlsson, who has nine goals in his first 24 NHL games since he was recalled from Worcester in early December.
Karlsson has become a mainstay in the top six on a line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, while Tennyson has given the Sharks steady minutes on the blue line, especially since Justin Braun was hurt before the All-Star break. Goodrow has been in and out of the lineup all year, with nine points in 36 games.
Against the Canucks, the spotlight was more on Mueller, who hadn’t played since Dec. 11, as well as fourth liners Tierney and Tarasov. Tierney was recalled on Wednesday, while Tarasov was making his NHL debut.
The Sharks’ first round pick in 2013, Mueller has been with the team since training camp. He played in 21 of the first 24 games, but had only dressed for three games since the end of November. The 19-year-old played for Switzerland in the World Juniors, dealt with a left wrist injury, and played three games on a conditioning stint in Worcester in late January.
He was pleased with his game against the Canucks, finishing with an even rating in a little more than 16 minutes of ice time paired with Brenden Dillon. Mueller surprised himself in that he felt fine despite having not played in an NHL game in almost two months.
“I thought it would maybe take a couple shifts, but surprisingly I think it went really well, especially conditioning-wise,” he said. “I think I was ready, so I’m glad that it worked out.”
Tierney will again center the fourth line, with Tarasov on one side and Andrew Desjardins on the other. Each of those players found the scoresheet against the Canucks, with goals by Tierney and Desjardins and an assist for Tarasov.
Tierney and Tarasov played a handful of games together on same line in Worcester.
"I thought it went pretty well,” Tarasov said. “The first couple shifts I definitely was nervous a little bit. As the game went on I felt more comfortable out there. Speed-wise, there [are] definitely fast guys out there. I tried to use my legs. It was good."
Tarasov said it helps having other rookies around in what is his first taste of life in the NHL.
“I've been talking with those guys, been spending time with them, getting some food and stuff like that,” he said. “Just been talking. They make me feel comfortable. It's nice to see all those guys and be a part of this team."
Prior to Thursday, the last time the Sharks dressed six rookies in a game was on Nov. 25, 2009. They were: Jason Demers, Benn Ferriero, Derek Joslin, Frazer McLaren, Steven Zalewski and Thomas Greiss.