The Mercury News

Karlsson addresses questions about his play, Sharks’ season start

- Ky Surtis uashelka cpashelka@bayareanew­sgroup.com

Defenseman Erik Karlsson said Wednesday he’s not overly concerned about the Sharks’ tepid start to the season or his own performanc­e after the first three games.

The Sharks, who have been trying to integrate some new players into their lineup and learn a new system under coach Bob Boughner after a 10-month layoff, have a 1-2-0 record going into Wednesday

night’s game with the St. Louis Blues.

The Sharks have been their own worst enemy at times early this season in terms of puck management and their defensive structure, costing them potentiall­y valuable points in a compressed 56-game season.

In Monday’s 5-4 loss to the Blues, Boughner felt the Sharks were unnecessar­ily feeding into the Blues’ offense with some questionab­le decisions with the puck. The Sharks have allowed 10 evenstreng­th goals in three games, including five on Monday, and have been outscored 7-1 in the second period so far.

Prior to their 11-day training camp in Scottsdale, Ariz., the Sharks’ last regular season game was March 11. So far, three Sharks players have made their NHL debuts this season, and the team has

yet to have one set lineup from one game to the next.

“We’ve only won one game and lost two, so (there’s) going to be a little bit more pinpointin­g from the outside,” Karlsson said. “But I think that within this group, it feels like everybody’s starting to kind of find their way back.”

Karlsson, who has one assist in the Sharks’ first three games, said adjusting to the new systems and getting everybody on the same page will be a work in progress.

“Once you step foot on the ice, it’s about playing and making the right reads, not necessaril­y about where people tell you where to go and where to stand,” Karlsson said. “You as a player have to take matters into your own hands.

“I’ve been in this league for 12 years and I’ve gotten this far from playing hockey, and that’s what I want to get back to. I think that goes for everybody else that’s in this group, where we feel like we have a little bit more freedom to make our own decisions out there. Because no one is going to do it for us. We’re going to have to do it ourselves.”

Going into Wednesday, Karlsson led the NHL in average time on ice at 28 minutes and 12 seconds per game.

So far, Karlsson said his body has held up well and that he’s felt good about his play away from the puck.

“I’m not too worried about my ability to create with the puck,” Karlsson said. “If that’s going well and everything else is not, then I would have to work really hard at certain things. But for me ... where my game is at after three games here and how I’m feeling, whether I’ve gotten

the results that I want or not, is feeling good.

“So I’m not too worried about where I’m at personally, and I’m not too worried about where we’re at as a team, either, even though the results have not transpired into what we would have like them to be at this stage after three games.” LINEUP CHANGES >> The Sharks will be tweaking their forward lines for Wednesday’s game, as Dylan Gambrell will make his season debut and center the third line. Patrick Marleau will center the fourth line.

Stefan Noesen will also return to the Sharks lineup after being a healthy scratch for Monday. He should start Wednesday’s game on a line with Gambrell and John Leonard.

Ryan Donato, who skated with Logan Couture and Kevin Labanc near the end of Monday’s game, will be back in that spot Wednesday. The second line has some muscle with Timo

Meier, Tomas Herl and Evander Kane.

Noah Gregor, Fredrik Handemark and Jake Middleton will be the healthy scratches Wednesday.

Asked what Gambrell needs to do to stay in the lineup, Boughner said, “I want reliabilit­y, I want consistenc­y — out of all those lines. But to know what you’re getting when you go over the boards, win your fair share of faceoffs in the circle.

“We’re going to use him on penalty kill, he’s obviously got some speed to his game. I want those lines to play fast, but also spending time in the other teams’ end.

“When you’re in that position and you’re a bottom six forward, the key is that you’re creating energy every time you jump off the bench and that you have possession time and you’re making it hard on the other team.”

This figures to be a big opportunit­y for Gambrell, who was a healthy

scratch for the Sharks’ first three games, to solidify his place in the lineup. Gambrell averaged just under 12 minutes of ice time in 50 games last season and he finished last season with five goals and six assists. Gambrell is set to become a restricted free agent at the end of the season. “This is kind of my chance now to get back at it and back in the lineup and make up for anything that I didn’t do in camp,” Gambrell said. “and I have that opportunit­y.”

JONES BACK IN GOAL >> Martin Jones will start in net for the third time in four games. Jones has a 5-5-0 record and a .916 save percentage against the Blues in 10 career regular-season starts.

This will be Jones’ 296th career regular season appearance for the Sharks., tying him with Antti Niemi for second-most in team history. Evgeni Nabokov leads the list with 563 appearance­s.

 ?? JEFF ROBERSON — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? The St. Louis Blues’ Vince Dunn, left, and Sharks’ Kevin Labanc chase after a loose puck in the first period of Wednesday’s game in St. Louis. The game was still in progress when this edition went to press. For details and more on the Sharks, go to mercurynew­s.com/sports.
JEFF ROBERSON — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS The St. Louis Blues’ Vince Dunn, left, and Sharks’ Kevin Labanc chase after a loose puck in the first period of Wednesday’s game in St. Louis. The game was still in progress when this edition went to press. For details and more on the Sharks, go to mercurynew­s.com/sports.
 ?? DYLAN BOUSCHER — STAFF PHOTOGRAPH­ER ?? The Sharks’ Erik Karlsson says he isn’t worried about his play so far this season and that he feels healthy and that his body is holding up to the physical strain.
DYLAN BOUSCHER — STAFF PHOTOGRAPH­ER The Sharks’ Erik Karlsson says he isn’t worried about his play so far this season and that he feels healthy and that his body is holding up to the physical strain.

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