SAN JOSE – For 18 of the first 22 games, Sharks coach Pete DeBoer has had a fully stocked and healthy group to fill out his six-man defense corps.
In those 18 games the Sharks are 13-5, allowing just 2.05 goals per game.
In the other four, however, it’s been a big time struggle. The Sharks were down Paul Martin for three games in October, dropping all three, and most recently were without Justin Braun on Wednesday, a 5-2 loss to the Blackhawks.
In the four games in which they’ve missed one of their vital cogs on the blue line the Sharks are 0-4, allowing 19 goals (4.75 per game).
It’s a concerning number, especially after it was revealed on Friday that Braun will be out for at least one more game and maybe more with an infected left elbow.
One player in particular that will have to step it up is Matt Tennyson. The defenseman skated for only 7:53 against Chicago, with just one late shift in the third period. He had a pair of blatant giveaways early, and was caught out of position on Jonathan Toews’ score on a two-on-one in the opening frame that gave the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish.
Speaking on Friday, Tennyson seemed unfazed by the benching.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” he said. “Like I’ve said all the time, just play my game and do the best I can every time I’m out there. Don’t change anything because of any circumstances. I just have to play better.”
What was his reaction to sitting for most of the third?
“Not really anything. I knew I wasn’t having the best game. I wasn’t really surprised. Got to be better, for sure.”
Tennyson is in his first full NHL season after spending most of the last three in the minors. He won a spot on this year’s roster over Dylan DeMelo in training camp, and has two assists and +2 rating in 19 games, averaging 11:27 of ice time.
DeBoer indicated he’d like to see more from the 25-year-old.
“I’ve liked some of the things that have gone on. I think we’re expecting more,” DeBoer said. “I’m expecting that when somebody goes down, that he can come in and play 15 minutes and we don’t have to limit him to seven or eight or 10.
“As a coaching staff that’s what we’re looking for, and that’s up to him to decide whether he can handle that or not.”
Tennyson will get a chance to bounce back right away against the Flames, who visit SAP Center on Saturday. No other players have been recalled from the AHL Barracuda, and Tennyson remained paired with Mirco Mueller at practice.
“We’re confident in him and his abilities,” DeBoer said. “I think like all young players in our group, it’s about consistency and gaining the trust of the coaching staff that you can bring that consistency so that you get the benefit of the doubt. You have to earn that.”