SAN JOSE – On Thursday against the Wild, and for the first time this season, the Sharks will be without their top defenseman.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic is still sidelined with an upper body injury suffered in the first period of Tuesday’s 5-2 win over Edmonton, and was ruled out for the tilt by head coach Todd McLellan.
Against the Oilers, the defense had some nervous moments but the team was able to overcome the loss of arguably its most indispensible player. They’ll have to do it again if the Sharks want to extend their home winning streak to five games.
“I think the game plan should stay the same and [we should] still have the ability to execute it,” McLellan said. “If we walk in and present ourselves differently because we’ve lost one defenseman back there, I don’t think that bodes well for the group, so the game plan will probably stay the same. Expect a high level of execution.”
“I thought we did pretty well,” Justin Braun said of Tuesday’s effort, after Vlasic was lost. “It creates challenges, but we might need that going forward. … I think it was good for us to see new partners a little bit and just kind of work through it and still get the win.”
Braun will likely be paired with Mirco Mueller, while Brenden Dillon and Brent Burns will stay together. The third defense pair looks to be Scott Hannan with Matt Tennyson, who was recalled from Worcester and landed in San Francisco around 2:00 a.m. with teammate Chris Tierney, who will draw in on the fourth line.
Tennyson played one game on Nov. 26 against Calgary, going scoreless with a -1 rating while playing with Dillon. It was his first NHL game since the shortened 2013 season.
“It was the first game I had played in awhile. Just simplified my game a little bit, so that’s what I’m going to try and do tonight,” Tennyson said.
Tierney made the Sharks out of training camp, notching two assists in 11 games before he was reassigned on Nov. 6. There were signs that he needed some seasoning in the minors, and the 20-year-old managed 10 points (1g, 9a) in 12 games for Worcester on a team that has trouble consistently finding the back of the net.
He’ll be centering the fourth line with Andrew Desjardins on one wing, and either John Scott or Tye McGinn on the other.
“I think when I was up here I was a little tentative at times. Not afraid to make mistakes, but just thinking maybe a little too much,” said Tierney, who was playing on a line with fellow recall Melker Karlsson and Daniil Tarasov in Worcester. “I think I tried to go down there and play my game, take the systems and just go out there and play with it, and not try and think."
McLellan indicated that part of the decision to reassign Tierney to Worcester was some players like James Sheppard were ready to return from preseason injuries. Still, Tierney was better off playing big minutes in Worcester, including special teams situations, than limited minutes in San Jose.
“We’ll see if he’s completely progressed,” McLellan said. “That’s part of taking the test. … When he left it was about us getting healthy and getting some players back that we wanted to get in the lineup, and also getting him into a situation where he could play regularly. His game wasn’t poor, by any means.”
In goal, Alex Stalock will make his third straight start. Antti Niemi suffered a minor injury in Tuesday’s morning skate, and McLellan would like him to get one more practice in before potentially returning on Saturday against Nashville.