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Game Preview/Lines #49: Will Chekhovich, Melnichuk Play for Sharks This Year?

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Credit: Sheng Peng

The sixth-place San Jose Sharks are five points behind fourth-place St. Louis for the West’s fourth and final playoff spot. The Blues’ recent two-game sweep of Colorado, however, may be a death blow to San Jose’s playoff chances – St. Louis also has two games in hand and hold the tiebreaker over the Sharks. The Blues are in Minnesota tonight.

San Jose Sharks (19-24-5)

Arizona Coyotes (21-23-5)

Where to Watch

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

Morning Skate

The San Jose Sharks are going young – very young.

Tonight, Brinson Pasichnuk will become the eighth San Jose Sharks player to make his NHL debut this year, joining Sasha Chmelevski, Fredrik Händemark, Josef Korenar, John Leonard, Alexei Melnichuk, Nicolas Meloche, and Jeffrey Viel. This comes on the heels of San Jose’s nine NHL debuts last year: Lean Bergmann, Joachim Blichfeld, Mario Ferraro, Noah Gregor, Joel Kellman, Nikolai Knyzhov, Maxim Letunov, Alexander True, and Danil Yurtaykin.

Underscoring where San Jose is in the standings, these 17 NHL debuts over the last two years is the largest two-season Sharks total since their expansion era. From 1991 to 1993, no less than 20 players made their NHL debuts for San Jose squads that went a combined 28-129-7. Between 1991-93 and 2019-21, the greatest two-year number of San Jose NHL debuts is 14, achieved three times, 2002 to 2004, 2003 to 2006 (remember there was no 2004-05 NHL season), and 2018 to 2020.

“That’s the way it goes,” Erik Karlsson acknowledged on Monday night. “We’re in this spot we’re in because we put ourselves here.”

Bob Boughner conceded this morning, when asked if banged-up veterans like Kevin Labanc and Ryan Donato might have played on Monday if the San Jose Sharks were closer to a playoff spot, “They’re legit injuries. But when you have a kid that’s 100%, that you want to give a shot to, it’s probably the smarter thing to do.”

So youth will be served. The Athletic confirmed again today that Melnichuk will likely get a start by the end of the regular season. San Jose Hockey Now has heard that Ivan Chekhovich should also make his NHL debut this year.

Who’s left? Ryan Merkley? A San Jose State club player?

Evander Kane said of the youth movement: “We’ve been doing that all year, let’s be honest. I don’t know how many more different players you can bring in.”

Around the NHL

Coming and going: 2020 No. 2 pick Quinton Byfield will make his NHL debut tonight. At the same time, 2013 No. 3 pick Jonathan Drouin is taking an indefinite leave of absence from the Canadiens for personal reasons. And former San Jose Sharks rival Gerard Gallant is back at work, taking Team Canada’s head coaching reins for the 2021 World Championships.

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