SAN JOSE – There are only two games left for the Sharks before they start counting for real on Wednesday in Los Angeles, but trying to forecast the opening night roster and line combinations would still be an exercise in futility.
No one has been cut since Monday, and the Sharks still have 29 players on their active roster (not including the injured Raffi Torres) as they face the Coyotes on Friday and Ducks on Saturday to conclude their seven-game preseason slate (2-2-1).
“Still got to look at some individuals in certain situations,” head coach Todd McLellan said.
Against the Coyotes, expect to see Joe Pavelski centering Tomas Hertl and Tye McGinn, while Logan Couture’s line with Patrick Marleau and Matt Nieto will try to rebound from a poor outing against the Kings on Tuesday in a 4-1 loss.
Former Sharks captain Joe Thornton will not play, and somewhat oddly spent Friday morning’s practice skating between Mike Brown and Andrew Desjardins.
For Pavelski, it’s the first time he’ll start a game in the center position, as the team has to decide whether to play him in the middle or the wing.
McLellan said: “He needs a little work in that [center] position in case we turn to that at some point. It’s part of the plan.”
“To be honest it feels like I play center every shift, whether it’s me or not, I’ve gotten into that mentality,” said Pavelski, who played some center during the team’s preseason opener in Stockton on Sep. 23. “I know my responsibilities on wing and what I have to do, but those responsibilities don’t change if I get thrown in that position while I’m playing center.”
Friday’s game seems like a golden opportunity for McGinn, especially. The forward had a strong outing against the Kings in a bottom six role, and starting on a line with Pavelski seems to indicate he could very well end up skating on opening night.
“I’m looking forward to it,” McGinn said. “It’s something I’ve been working hard for all summer, and basically since I started playing hockey, it's to make an impact in an organization and make them like you as a player and want to have you around.”
The Sharks’ bottom six appears to be Chris Tierney between Barclay Goodrow and Tommy Wingels, while Adam Burish will center John Scott and Eriah Hayes on the fourth line. Alex Stalock will start in net.
Rookie Nikolay Goldobin remains out for unspecified reasons – McLellan said it was “not necessarily” due to injury – and the 18-year-old will not play in either game this weekend. James Sheppard (left knee) and Tyler Kennedy (upper body) are also not yet skating with the team.
Some conclusions will have to be drawn by the coaching staff and management by early next week, leading up to the opener at Staples Center on Oct. 8.
“The most important part of these last two games is to make good decisions for our organization, and for individuals,” McLellan said. “In the meantime, we’re trying to get ready as a team.
“I don’t know what tomorrow night’s game in Anaheim will look like, where we’ll go with what type of lineup. Tonight’s game will dictate some of that, and individuals play will dictate it, too.”