The San Jose Sharks roster has taken its lumps recently. Then a lineup mistake exacerbated blue-line losses at the Pacific Division-rival Calgary Flames Wednesday, Jan. 11…
Blue-line injuries have impacted the San Jose Sharks roster during a stretch of Pacific Division battles. The newest conspired with an administrative error to cost them a game at the Calgary Flames Wednesday, Jan. 11.
Paul Martin took a puck to the foot at the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday but dressed to play in Calgary. He skated during warmups but could not go.
Unfortunately, San Jose had already submitted the official lineup card. Thus, the two shifts Mirco Mueller skated in his place were not legal and there would be no more.
The Thin Blue Line
Since Mueller had already taken the ice, Martin could not be reinserted either. To make matters worse, Tim Heed was making his NHL debut because the Sharks were already without two others. Dylan DeMelo broke his wrist in Edmonton and David Schlemko did not even make the trip to Alberta.
Fortunately, Marc-Edouard Vlasic returned Tuesday. He led San Jose’s four experienced defensemen—all skating over 22 minutes—with 27:57 ice time. Even Heed skated over 16.
That blue-line strain eventually proved too much on the second of back-to-back games. It certainly contributed to the Sharks giving up a goal at the end of the second and third periods.
If Martin is out Saturday when San Jose hosts the St. Louis Blues, that spells a blue-line emergency. Schlemko is on injured reserve and will not return until at least Jan. 18 at the Los Angeles Kings.
There is no stable of blue-line prospects at the San Jose Barracuda like the Sharks enjoy at forward, either. Thus there would be no option for anyone to bow out for illness or injury.
Most likely, Martin will be available for at least such an emergency if he already thought he could play Wednesday. Moreover, San Jose is fortunate the injuries are coming from the bottom of the blue-line depth chart. The team struggled with Vlasic out before Tuesday: 1-1-1 with 10 goals allowed…and both losses to Los Angeles.
Brent Burns picked up the blue-line slack for the Sharks before the midpoint of the first period. He found Logan Couture in the slot for a shot-pass deflection on the power play to start the scoring.
The Flames answered 102 seconds afterward, as Michael Frolik put home a Deryk Engelland rebound. However, Burns laced a wrister through traffic 4:44 later to regain the lead that almost survived the second period.
Unfortunately for San Jose, Calgary scored 32 seconds before intermission. Mikael Backlund fired the puck toward the net and Matthew Tkachuk deflected it past backup goalie Aaron Dell to tie it.
Backlund and Tkachuk got assists on the game-winning goal, too. Dougie Hamilton buried a shot through traffic with a little over two minutes left in regulation. The Sharks could not recover.
The Numbers Station
One might have expected the Flames to have a major event summary edge. However, turnovers (11-5 giveaways, 6-10 takeaways) erased their faceoff edge (31-21). Their five more hits (16-11) could have made the difference for them, reflected home-ice nepotism or indicated more time defending.
In the end, it meant little. Calgary had one more shot (28-27) and the same number of attempts (54) while San Jose blocked six more shots (19-13).
The Flames closed to three games behind the Sharks for the Pacific Division lead with a second win in three games this season. The Oilers and Anaheim Ducks are between them, while the Kings are just half a game back of that pack.