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Preview/Lines #35: Vlasic Trying to Rebound from 1st-Ever Healthy Scratch



Credit: San Jose Sharks

Marc-Edouard Vlasic found himself in an unfamiliar place on Tuesday night.

He was healthy…and he was not part of the San Jose Sharks‘ line-up against the Detroit Red Wings.

This was, for all intents and purposes, the first-ever healthy scratch of Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s decorated career.

On Apr. 11, 2014, Vlasic was healthy scratched, but that was to rest him for the playoffs. Per TSN, the 2014 Olympian, once considered perhaps the best shutdown defenseman in the world, has missed just 77 other regular season games over his 16-year NHL career, all due to injury.

“His game was dipping a little bit, it hit a wall in Pittsburgh,” San Jose Sharks head coach Bob Boughner offered yesterday. “I’ve said before that we got to treat everybody the same way.”

Coming on the heels of benching leading scorer Timo Meier in overtime last Thursday, sitting Vlasic, in the midst of an eight-year, $56 million dollar contract that will expire in 2026, was another shot to the bow from a coach who’s trying to maximize the performance of the up-and-down San Jose Sharks.

The Sharks have given up 23 goals in four games since their return to play on Dec. 28, frittering away a lot of the team-wide defensive improvements that they had established through Christmas.

“I need to see that urgency back in his game,” Boughner said.

This isn’t the first time that Boughner has asked for more “urgency” from Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

It’s hard to say whether or not Vlasic is on the same page with Boughner. He declined to speak to the media today and yesterday.

In late November, I asked Vlasic, “Bob said that he’s liked your urgency in your play recently. Do you agree with that assessment?”

He responded, ending the press conference, “I don’t like when you guys do that because I always have to say yes.”

My take: Vlasic didn’t like being forced into a position where he’d have to publicly agree with his coach — when he doesn’t — and he also didn’t want to broadcast a disagreement with his coach.

For what it’s worth, Boughner lauded Vlasic’s professionalism after yesterday’s practice.

“Guys will respond or they won’t respond. He’s been professional about it. He hasn’t pouted,” Boughner said. “He went out [before the Detroit game], worked extra with the extra guys that weren’t playing. Had a good practice today.”

Vlasic will get another opportunity tonight against the Buffalo Sabres with Erik Karlsson and Jake Middleton both out with upper-body injuries. He will be paired with Radim Simek.

“We want to be in a position where he plays a reliable game,” Boughner said. “When he’s on, his game is not flashy, but he does give you some good, honest, reliable minutes with a good stick, and experience.”

San Jose Sharks (17-16-1)

Buffalo Sabres (10-17-6)

Per, this is the Sabres’ projected line-up:

Jeff Skinner — Tage Thompson — Victor Olofsson
Rasmus Asplund — Dylan Cozens — Vinnie Hinostroza
Brett Murray — Mark Jankowski — Zemgus Girgensons
Ryan MacInnis — Cody Eakin — John Hayden

Rasmus Dahlin — Henri Jokiharju
Will Butcher — Mark Pysyk
Ethan Prow — Colin Miller

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen
Malcolm Subban

Where to Watch

Puck drop against Buffalo is 4 PM PT at KeyBank Center. Watch it live on NBC Sports California and ESPN+. Listen to it on the Sharks Audio Network.

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