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Game Preview/Lines #18: Have Karlsson, Sharks Learned Their Lesson from 2019?

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Credit: Sheng Peng

Have the San Jose Sharks and Erik Karlsson learned their lesson from 2019?

That season, Karlsson was sidelined three different times by groin injuries, culminating in groin surgery in May 2019.

Tonight, Karlsson is likely to make his return to the Sharks line-up after two weeks off because of a groin injury.

It feels rushed – but Bob Boughner and Karlsson say it’s not.

San Jose Sharks (7-8-2)

St. Louis Blues (10-8-2)

Zach Sanford-Ryan O’Reilly-Jordan Kyrou

David Perron-Brayden Schenn-Nathan Walker

Sammy Blais-Oskar Sundqvist-Mike Hoffman

Kyle Clifford-Jacob de la Rose-Mackenzie MacEachern

Marco Scandella-Justin Faulk

Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo

Torey Krug-Niko Mikkola

Binnington

(HT Lou Korac)

Where to Watch

Puck drop is 7:30 PM PT at SAP Center. Watch it on NBC Sports Bay Area, FOX Sports Midwest, or NHL.tv.

Morning Skate

Based on yesterday’s post-practice media availability, we knew that Dylan Gambrell and Radim Simek were likely to play today.

But surprise, surprise, Erik Karlsson is also likely to return to the San Jose Sharks line-up tonight.

Karlsson last played on Feb. 13 against the Golden Knights. On Tuesday, Bob Boughner issued what appeared to be a dire prognosis:

But Karlsson, however, participated fully in practice yesterday:

Hertl “Doing Very Well”, Karlsson Finishes Full Practice

“He went through a full practice yesterday and felt extremely good,” Boughner said. “Came back [on the ice] this morning. He feels like he could be 100 percent out there.”

Karlsson explained his “sudden” return to good health.

“It’s been going well the whole time,” Karlsson stressed. “Everybody, myself included, didn’t want to feel like we rushed things, that’s why the relayed message was we weren’t expecting anything anytime shortly.”

So while Karlsson’s return seems sudden, he says that he’s learned his lesson about rushing back from a groin injury. Karlsson suffered his first groin injury in Jan. 2019, exacerbated the injury a month later, and played through it in the 2019 Playoffs. In May 2019, he had to have groin surgery.

“I’ve never had groin problems until I came here. So I didn’t really know how to deal with it last time,” Karlsson said. “I probably could’ve played through this one too. Who knows where it would’ve ended up.

“We were a little more knowledgeable and I was a little more knowledgeable about my body this time around than I was two years ago.

“The other one, I kind of didn’t really do anything about it. I didn’t really step aside at the right time. That’s why it turned out to be as aggressive as it was.”

“We caught it very early. Hopefully, it’ll be a non-issue moving forward.”

Boughner added, “From a medical standpoint, MRIs and all the testing, he’s in a good spot there.”

And hopefully, Karlsson will find his sweet spot this season. The San Jose Sharks need it.

“You ask the player. He has to be honest with himself,” Boughner said. “He wants to play. He wants to come back and try to make a difference.”

That’s a delicate balance there – will Karlsson’s body strike it?

SPORTLOGiQ Pre-Game Stat of the Night

When Karlsson has been at his best this season, it seems like he has the puck a lot. High possession time suggests that he’s comfortable carrying the puck and fending off checkers. That means his legs are going. So that’s something to look for tonight.

Despite a lot of talk from the San Jose Sharks about improving their Offensive Zone Possession Time – “hang onto the puck more” and what not – San Jose is just 29th in the NHL in Even Strength OZ Possession Time, per SPORTLOGiQ.

Their 4:50 ES OZ Possession Time Per 60 Minutes is a far cry from St. Louis’s 6:29, good for third in the league, and top-ranked Colorado’s 6:54. The NHL median, by the way, is 5:38.

A revived Karlsson will help here.

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timorous me

I really hope Karlsson is sure about this and doesn’t get re-injured right away. I hope that for a lot of reasons, but not least because I am really sick of hearing the unending stream of criticism from so many corners about Karlsson, and if he’s injured there’s no way he can pick up his game and shut up (at least some of) the critics.

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