Donskoi has picked up scoring pace since his demotion
Finnish forward has four goals in past three games, now on third line
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.”
Finn Joonas Donskoi got the message after being dropped to the fourth line on Dec. 27.