SAN JOSE – The Sharks’ current injury situation, as well as their AHL team being only steps away in the same practice facility, has created a unique situation in practice the past two days. Since reassigning three players to the Barracuda on Monday, the club is currently carrying just 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goalies, so there are no extra players on the ice.
That has its pros and cons, according to coach Pete DeBoer.
“It’s good for pace. You cross your fingers that you can get through it without anybody going down, because the pace is good,” he said. “You’d always like a few extra guys, but it’s not realistic right now. It’s a lot better than being short somebody. We had a good practice today.”
Two of those forwards remain questionable to play on Wednesday against the Nashville Predators, as Joonas Donskoi has missed the last five games with a lower body injury and Ben Smith has been out for the last three after taking a puck to the head.
DeBoer said: “They got through another practice and both feel pretty good, but we’ll have to wait until tomorrow morning.”
On Saturday against Carolina, DeBoer said that Donskoi probably would have played had it been a playoff game, indicating the rookie is very close. Donskoi remained on the left side of Joe Thornton for Tuesday’s skate, and it sounds as if he’s planning on getting back in.
“I think so. There’s a chance. I think so,” Donskoi said of his availability.
It’s been tough for the 23-year-old to come out of the lineup after he played so well in training camp to make the team.
“Of course, I want to play all the time,” Donskoi said. “There’s nothing really you can do. That’s how it is. I’ve been trying to take everything out of what’s in the game [from] upstairs, and learn stuff from there.”
Smith has now taken part in two straight practices after he was struck in the head by a Marc-Edouard Vlasic shot on Oct. 17 against the Islanders.
“Felt good,” Smith said. “We’ll have to talk to the trainers and see how that whole protocol works.”
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The Sharks could use some healthy bodies, as their forward depth has taken a significant hit since Donskoi, Smith and Logan Couture were forced from the lineup.
The third line has scored just one goal in the five games since Couture fractured his leg, when Tommy Wingels tallied against Carolina on Saturday, while the fourth line hasn’t done much of anything – offensively, or otherwise – while shuffling players back and forth from the Barracuda.
Against the Hurricanes on Saturday, the fourth line of Mike Brown, John McCarthy and Bryan Lerg were the three worst possession players in the game in terms of unblocked shot attempts. McCarthy and Lerg have since been reassigned to the Barracuda.
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Still, DeBoer pointed out that they weren’t on the ice for any goals-against in the 5-2 win.
“When we’re healthy, we feel we have four lines that can attack and put pressure on. When you’re moving guys in and out of the lineup it gets tougher to do that,” he said.
“It hasn’t hurt us, the fourth line. You’re always looking for more. But, it hasn’t hurt us the last few games, and that’s important.”