There’s a lot of optimism at San Jose Sharks training camp, but not for Nikolai Knyzhov.
There was a lot riding on the sophomore defender coming into this season: The 23-year-old performed ably in top-four minutes next to Erik Karlsson last year, and there were hopes that Knyzhov and fellow 23-year-old Mario Ferraro could form the bedrock of the San Jose Sharks defense as soon as this fall.
Those hopes will have to wait, at least for now.
Last week, Knyzhov — who failed his physical at the beginning of training camp — took the ice for the first time, albeit in a jogging suit. If you were looking for a heartbeat, that was it.
Today, Bob Boughner was asked if Knyzhov was still trending up.
“Not really,” Boughner admitted.
In fact, things are going backwards for the Russian defender.
“His progression has sort of stalled, so he is flying out today to see a specialist,” the San Jose Sharks bench boss shared. “So we don’t know any more on him.”
Boughner added that he doesn’t think Knyzhov’s current lower-body ailment is related to last year’s end-of-season sports hernia surgery — he also noted it’s not ankle-related.
“We tried to get it better with some rehab and it really isn’t responding as quickly as we want,” he said.
Boughner also called the injury “long-term.” For what it’s worth, he also called Jeffrey Viel’s injury that — Viel looks like he will miss about a month with a finger injury suffered during the Oct. 4 exhibition game versus Anaheim.
The Sharks had already ruled out Knyzhov for the season opener on Oct. 16 and were trending that way for the following five-game road trip through Canada, Boston, and Nashville. But it sounds like Knyzhov should be out for even longer than that.
This puts San Jose’s defensive pairings into a state of upheaval. Just this preseason, Karlsson has already been paired with Jake Middleton, Santeri Hatakka, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The only constant on the Sharks blueline has been Mario Ferraro and Brent Burns.
Left-hander Radim Simek is also a contender to play with the righty Karlsson.
This indecisiveness in your top-four is decidedly not a good sign heading into this Saturday.
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