Don­skoi has picked up scor­ing pace since his de­mo­tion

Fin­nish for­ward has four goals in past three games, now on third line

The Mercury News Weekend - - SPORTS - By Paul Gackle [email protected] ba­yare­anews­group.com

DEN­VER » Joonas Don­skoi didn’t need a talk in the coach’s of­fice. He got the mes­sage when Pete DeBoer sent him down to the fourth line on Dec. 27.

With just one goal and four points in 17 games, Don­skoi knew he needed to pick it up.

“That was the mes­sage it­self,” Don­skoi said in re­gards to his de­mo­tion af­ter the Christ­mas break.

When the Sharks re­turned to ac­tion in Ed­mon­ton on Dec. 29, DeBoer gave the Fin­nish for­ward a vote of con­fi­dence, putting him on a newly formed third line with To­mas Hertl and Evan­der Kane. He’s re­sponded with four goals in three games, in­clud­ing a tally that gave the Sharks a 4-1 lead over the Colorado Avalanche at 6:18 of the sec­ond pe­riod Wed­nes­day night.

The goal proved to be sig­nif­i­cant as the Sharks held on for a 5- 4 win.

Here’s what we learned as the Sharks earned their third win in four games:

IN­JURIES ON THE BLUE LINE ARE PIL­ING UP »

The plane ride home to Sil­i­con Val­ley will prob­a­bly be nervewrack­ing.

The Sharks fin­ished Wed­nes­day’s game with just four de­fense­men as Justin Braun suf­fered a right- knee in­jury in the first pe­riod while Mar­cE­douard Vla­sic missed the game’s fi­nal 6:40 with what ap­pears to be a left­wrist in­jury. The team was al­ready play­ing with­out Radim Simek, who suf­fered a con­cus­sion on a late hit from Cal­gary Flames for­ward Sam Ben­nett Mon­day night.

“This was a gutsy win,” DeBoer said. “We were down to five (de­fense­men) for most of the game and then we got down to four.

“That’s prob­a­bly an ex­pla­na­tion of why it looked like it did in the third.”

Braun left the game at 13:11 of the open­ing frame, in­jur­ing his right knee in a bat­tle with Mikko Ran­ta­nen along the boards. The Sharks de­fense­man re­turned for one shift at 4:14 of the sec­ond.

As Braun walked out of the Sharks dress­ing room af­ter the game with a slight limp, he ex­pressed hope that the in­jury isn’t se­ri­ous. The plan is to get his knee eval­u­ated Thurs­day when the Sharks re­turn to San Jose.

“The knee just shifted a bit. But every­thing seems in tact,” Braun said. “Hope­fully, just a cou­ple days and back at it.”

Braun said he jumped back in the game in the sec­ond to give his knee a test.

“Gave it a shot,” Braun said. “I didn’t think I was go­ing to be use­ful out there. I could have done more harm than good.”

De­spite Braun’s op­ti­mism, DeBoer is still hold­ing his breath.

“The jury’s still out,” the Sharks coach said.

Vla­sic ap­peared to suf­fer his in­jury in the mid­dle of the third af­ter he tum­bled over Bar­clay Goodrow, fall­ing onto his left wrist awk­wardly. The blue liner skated back to the bench hold­ing his wrist and re- turned for one shift later in the pe­riod. At this point, the sever­ity of the in­jury is un­known.

With Vla­sic and Braun in­jured, Erik Karls­son logged 30:54 of ice time, Burns re­ceived 29:13 and Bren­den Dil­lon skated for 20:07.

If Braun is un­able to go when the Sharks re­turn against the Tampa Bay Light­ning on Satur­day at the Tank, Tim Heed will likely draw into the lineup, as­sum­ing he’s healthy enough to play af­ter suf­fer­ing an in­jury on Dec. 23. Heed has been prac­tic­ing with the team this week.

An in­jury to Vla­sic would put the Sharks down three de­fense­men, forc­ing them to dip into the tal­ent pool with the AHL Bar­racuda to fill out the lineup against the Light­ning. Keep in mind, the Light­ning are the NHL’s dan­ger­ous team on of­fense, rank­ing first with 4.13 goals per game. It could be a stark turn of events con­sid­er­ing that the Sharks car­ried eight healthy de­fense­men through­out the year un­til Simek got hurt in Cal­gary.

Stay tuned. BRENT BURNS, JOE PAVELSKI PLAY LIKE ALL-STARS » Burns and Pavelski proved why they’re All-Stars.

On a day in which Burns and Pavelski re­ceived in­vi­ta­tions to the All-Star Game at SAP Cen­ter, both play­ers put to­gether ca­reer nights, record­ing four points to carry the Sharks to vic­tory. Burns last recorded a four-point game on Nov. 29, 2013; Pavelski last did it on Feb. 27, 2018.

Pavelski opened the scor­ing at 2:15, blast­ing in a one-time pass from Lo­gan Cou­ture in the left cir­cle for his team-lead­ing 24th goal of the sea­son. Burns earned the sec­ondary as­sist, ex­tend­ing his point streak to four games.

The Wook­iee recorded his sec­ond point of the night on a 5- on-3 power play at 17:14 of the first, by scor­ing his third goal in four games. Pavelski picked up the sec­ondary as­sist.

Burns and Pavelski recorded as­sists on Evan­der Kane’s 12th goal of the sea­son at 4:15. Burns grabbed a fourth point on Joonas Don­skoi’s fourth goal in three games at 6:18, and Pavelski snagged his on Lukas Radil’s fifth goal of the year at 16:33.

Karls­son, who will also be rep­re­sent­ing the Sharks at the All-Star Game, set up Burns’ goal by feeding him a one timer in the high slot. In do­ing so, Karls­son’s recorded points in the last 10 games he’s played in.

“We got some big ef­forts from our lead­ers,” DeBoer said. THE POWER PLAY DE­LIV­ERS » The power play bailed the Sharks out of a po­ten­tially dis­as­trous first pe­riod, shift­ing the mo­men­tum in the mid­dle frame.

Though the Avalanche out­shot the Sharks 9-2 in five-on-five play in the open­ing stanza, the Sharks went into in­ter­mis­sion lead­ing 2-1 be­cause the power play cashed in on a pair of op­por­tu­ni­ties.

In do­ing so, they seemed to crush the spir­its of the Avalanche, who des­per­ately needed a win com­ing into the game rid­ing a five game los­ing streak.

The Sharks took over in the sec­ond pe­riod, scor­ing three unan­swered goals, giv­ing them­selves a 5-1 cush­ion that al­lowed them to hang on while short two de­fense­men in the lat­ter stages of the third.

The power play went 2 for 3 on the night.

“Power play was huge,” DeBoer said. “Spe­cial teams are a re­ally im­por­tant piece ... and ours were good tonight.”

NHAT V. MEYER — STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Finn Joonas Don­skoi got the mes­sage af­ter be­ing dropped to the fourth line on Dec. 27.

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