ANAHEIM, Calif. – A lot is on the line for the San Jose Sharks tonight: Their first three-game winning streak of the season. Getting back to .500.
Or, if you look at it another way, nothing is on the line for them: They’re still nine points out of the West’s last playoff berth, chasing a loaded Colorado Avalanche squad.
However, that’s not how Erik Karlsson is treating it – he’s definitely playing for something right now. Karlsson has found something reminiscent of his Norris Trophy-winning form in the last three weeks since his return from a minor groin injury.
“It’s the best form I’ve seen from him in a year and a half,” Bob Boughner, who returned to the San Jose Sharks organization at the beginning of the 2019-20 season, acknowledged.
Karlsson gave his reaction to Doug Wilson saying yesterday that the Sharks were now in “reset” mode. Also, he discussed being taken off the penalty kill.
San Jose Sharks (10-11-3)
— Locked on Dubnyk Island (@LockedOnSharks) March 13, 2021
Anaheim Ducks (8-14-6)
These are Anaheim’s lines from last night:
— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) March 13, 2021
Where to Watch
Puck drop is 7 PM PT at Honda Center. Watch it on NBC Sports Bay Area, Prime Ticket, or NHL.tv.
Erik Karlsson thought that the San Jose Sharks would be regular Cup contenders when he re-signed in June 2019 for eight years and $92 million dollars.
“As far as hockey goes, I’m excited to continue the chase for the ultimate prize: the Stanley Cup,” Karlsson said in June 2019. “Last year was an unbelievable run but we didn’t achieve what we set out to do. But the dedication I witnessed from my teammates, coaches, staff, and organization showed me that we all have a great future ahead of us, and that we are capable of fighting for that championship year in and year out.”
Since then, the Sharks have a 39-47-8 record, failing to qualify even for last year’s 24-team playoff.
So what does Karlsson think of GM Doug Wilson admitting yesterday that San Jose is in “reset” mode?
“After the year that we had last year, I think it was pretty clear that we were not going to be the team that we were maybe the first year that I got here. That doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out,” Karlsson said.
“Obviously, I did not sign here to go through a rebuild or go through what I did for 10 years in Ottawa.
“But it is what it is. We need to find a way to build with the core of the group that we have here. Figure out a way, how to be competitive here in the upcoming years. Even this year, I think, is a different kind of year, if we can find a way to get ourselves into the playoffs, anything can happen.
“I do think that we have a good group of guys here.
“But again, those are things that aren’t my concern. It’s not something that I can do anything about. That’s not my position in the organization, my position is to play hockey and be out on the ice and perform there.
“You just have to put the trust in the people around you that deal with those type of things. Here, it starts with Doug Wilson.”
For what it’s worth, “reset” and “rebuild” are obviously different words. San Jose Hockey Now used “reset”, Karlsson brought up “rebuild”.
You can find Karlsson’s full presser here.
Speaking of things not under his control, for the first time in a long time, Karlsson isn’t taking a regular shift on the penalty kill anymore.
This isn’t a big deal, except for how firmly Karlsson pushed back previously against having his PK usage cut down to preserve him in other areas of the ice:
“No. Penalty kill is one of the most enjoyable things to play out there. Even though you don’t necessarily play with the puck, it’s something I’ve always enjoyed,” Karlsson said last month. “It’s something that I think I’m good at. It’s a part of the strength of my game, whether you guys like that or not, or see that.
Karlsson took a much different tack today, when asked if he’d like to get back on the PK: “That’s another thing you can’t control. That’s not my decision.
“I do what I can, when I’m called upon, whenever that is. I’m not gonna sit here and bitch and moan about doing this and doing that. I’m going to do whatever I can to help this team win games and do well for myself and my teammates. And whatever that is, it is.
“We have full belief in our coaching staff that they do what they think is best for the team. Lately, I think that we’ve been playing a lot better, and everybody has been included.
“Some more, some less, but we all play just an equally important role, whether you’re a fourth-liner or a first-liner. That’s the feeling we got to get in this group, no matter who you are in life, everybody is equally important, and you do an equal amount of work.”
Reading between the lines, I’m sure that Karlsson wants to get back on the kill – it’s perhaps the final obstacle, along with drawing the toughest match-ups once again, to the restoration of his name as an elite defenseman – but he’s not going to complain as long as the San Jose Sharks are winning. San Jose has also found a decent PK groove, killing 23 of their last 27.
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