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Preview/Lines #11: Sharks Have Seen Karlsson Start Off Slow With New Team Before

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Credit: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

San Jose Sharks fans have seen this before, Erik Karlsson acclimating himself slowly to a new environment.

When the Sharks traded for Karlsson in Sept. 2018, visions of Lord Stanley’s Cup danced in everybody’s heads. But the transition was not smooth, to say the least.

A loaded Sharks squad stumbled to a 12-10-5 start. Karlsson was struggling too. The normally point-per-game defenseman had just two goals and 13 assists through 27 games.

Five years later, Karlsson, after the San Jose Sharks traded him to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the off-season, is going through a similar transition. The star-laden Pens are 3-6-0 and Karlsson has two goals and four assists through those nine contests. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but well off his 101-point pace from last season.

“I think there’s another level to his game,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan told Pittsburgh Hockey Now. “We’re going through a little bit of a feeling-out process, but [Karlsson] is a guy who can drive offense. He can drive offense 5-on-5. He can drive offense on the power play. That’s what we envisioned when we acquired him.

“We’re working through a process here to try to capture his very best game…We all have seen elements of his ability to drive offense. We’re hoping we’ll get a little more consistency with that throughout the course of a 60-minute hockey game.”

Sullivan: Karlsson’s Capable of Lifting His Game to ‘Another Level’

Then-San Jose bench boss Pete DeBoer was probably saying something like that back in Dec. 2018.

So what happened next for Karlsson and the San Jose Sharks in 2018-19?

Karlsson posted 28 points over the next 20 games, and San Jose went on a 16-4-2 tear, which was preempted when Karlsson was felled by a groin injury which would dog him for the rest of the season in mid-January.

Regardless, those Sharks, even with a hampered Karlsson, made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals, losing to eventual Cup winner St. Louis Blues.

Sans the injury, the Penguins are hoping for that kind of turnaround from Karlsson and company.

The 2023 Norris Trophy winner thinks it’s coming: “We’re starting to speak each other’s language without having to say much [on the ice]. It’s going to be a growing process for us. Had a pretty good start. We feel pretty good about ourselves, even though we haven’t gotten the results that we would have liked.”

“He’s a guy we’re excited about having and we have to figure out how to maximize his ability level,” Sullivan said.

San Jose Sharks (0-9-1)

Mackenzie Blackwood will start, Magnus Chrona will back up.

Best guess on lines, sans Kevin Labanc:

So Mike Hoffman and Nikolai Knyzhov should draw in tonight.

Pittsburgh Penguins (3-6-0)

Tristan Jarry will start.

Penguins Game 10 vs. Sharks: Lines, Notes & How to Watch

Where to Watch

Puck drop between the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins is 7 PM PT at SAP Center. Watch it live on NBC Sports California. Listen to it on the Sharks Audio Network.

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