Healthy Karls­son gives Sharks op­ti­mism head­ing into Game 3

The Tribune (SLO) - - Sports - BY JOSH DUBOW The As­so­ci­ated Press’ Pat Gra­ham and Mitch Stacy con­trib­uted to this re­port.

SAN JOSE, CALIF.

Erik Karls­son took the puck be­hind his own net and went on the type of end-to-end rush that has made him one of the NHL’s most dy­namic de­fense­men.

Even though Karls­son’s rush didn’t lead to a goal and came in San Jose’s 4-3 loss in Game 2 to Colorado, it en­cour­aged the Sharks that Karls­son ap­pears to be healthy once again.

“It’s like a fine wine get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter ev­ery game,” de­fen­sive part­ner Bren­den Dil­lon said Mon­day. “We know how good of a player he is and how much he im­pacts a game. It’s been fun to play with him.”

De­spite be­ing ham­pered ear­lier in the play­offs by a groin in­jury that side­lined him for 27 of 32 games in the sec­ond half of the sea­son, Karls­son is tied for the league lead with 10 as­sists this post­sea­son thanks to his vi­sion and pass­ing abil­ity.

His skat­ing and de­fense will be needed when the se­ries shifts to Colorado for Game 3 on Tuesday night af­ter the teams split the first two games.

The Avalanche took con­trol in Game 2 when coach Jared Bed­nar made a change in the sec­ond pe­riod to re­unite Mikko Ran­ta­nen on the top line with Nathan MacK­in­non and Gabriel Lan­deskog.

The trio helped cre­ate two goals in the sec­ond pe­riod that gave Colorado a 2-1 lead and helped lead to the win.

“The line did our job and our job is get­ting the team go­ing of­fen­sively,” Lan­deskog said. “Some nights you have it, some nights you don’t. But play­off time you got to try and find it ev­ery night and I thought we got deep and were able to get re­warded for a lot of our hard work.”

The boost from the top three scor­ers could be ex­pected for the Avalanche. But they also got a big lift from a pair of 20-yearold de­fense­men as Cale Makar teamed with Sa­muel Gi­rard.

Makar, the Hobey Baker Award win­ner as col­lege hockey’s top player, has played just five NHL games since fin­ish­ing up at the Frozen Four for UMass. Gi­rard has a bit more ex­pe­ri­ence with 150 reg­u­larsea­son games the past two sea­sons.

Game 2 was their first time play­ing with each other as Makar moved into the lineup when Gi­rard got hurt last round. They look ex­tremely com­fort­able in their role.

“Yes, we are 20. We just have to play our game,” Gi­rard said. “I know that Cale is able to play here. I know I’m able to. We just need to play our game. We need to bring some of­fense and make sure we play good of­fen­sively as well.”

JOSIE LEPE AP

The San Jose Sharks’ Erik Karls­son, right, who is tied for the league lead with 10 as­sists this post­sea­son, bat­tles for the puck with the Colorado Avalanche’s Matt Ni­eto in Game 1 on Fri­day.

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