San Jose’s thinned-out roster looks to continue its good form when the Sharks visit the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.
Seven San Jose players and three staff members (including head coach Bob Boughner) remain away from the team due to COVID-19 protocols. While defensemen Erik Karlsson and Jacob Middleton have been cleared, they and any other Sharks who might receive clearance before Thursday can’t rejoin the team until the Sharks leave Canada, due to cross-border COVID restrictions.
Karlsson and Middleton were among the first six names initially placed in protocols on Oct. 30 after showing COVID-19 symptoms one day prior. Since Oct. 30, the Sharks have held steady, posting a 3-1-1 record.
The latest victory was a 4-1 win at Calgary on Tuesday. The Flames entered the game on a 10-game point streak, but San Jose became just the second team this season to hand Calgary a regulation loss.
“We’re a pretty close-knit group in there,” Sharks goaltender Adin Hill said. “It doesn’t matter who is out, who is in, we’re all here to win. We’re all here to work hard, we’re all here to battle and compete.”
Hill stopped 37 of 38 shots and recorded his first two NHL points, assisting on goals from both Alexander Barabanov and Tomas Hertl.
Despite Hill’s big game, James Reimer is expected to start against Winnipeg. Reimer has a .946 save percentage and 1.60 goals-against average in six games this season.
Brent Burns had two assists against the Flames, and now has eight points (one goal, seven assists) over a five-game point streak.
Despite their shorthanded status, the Sharks continue to have one of the NHL’s best penalty-kill units, setting up a clash with the strong Winnipeg power play.
The Jets’ own penalty kill has been a major weak link, which again plagued them in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout defeat to the St. Louis Blues. The Jets allowed Pavel Buchnevich to score on the Blues’ lone power play of the game.
Coming off a 2-0 shutout loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday, Winnipeg had 41 shots on Tuesday, but only found two goals from all that pressure.
“We’re a little bit snake-bitten right now,” Jets captain Blake Wheeler said. “We obviously know that producing is a part of our job, but with the amount of chances, and quality chances that we’re generating on a nightly basis right now, it’s something we can build off of and start to find the back of the net a little bit more.”
Kyle Connor scored on Tuesday, as the forward has amassed nine goals and eight assists in 12 games.
Paul Statsny is questionable for the Jets after missing Tuesday’s game with a foot injury.
Connor Hellebuyck is expected to start in goal again Thursday after stopping 31 of 33 shots against the Blues. Hellebuyck missed the Jets’ previous three games due to illness and parental leave.
The Jets and Sharks are playing for the third time, with the Sharks winning both prior meetings in San Jose. Though the NHL regular season is only a month old, Thursday’s game will mark the end of the season series between the two teams.
–Field Level Media