With their season literally on the line Tuesday night, the San Jose Sharks are limping into Game 6 of the Western Conference Final against the St. Louis Blues.
The Sharks watched a handful of their best players go down with injuries at various points in Game 5, and their absences were hard to miss at this morning’s practice.
Star defenceman Erik Karlsson and forward Tomas Hertl didn’t even have stalls set up in the locker room during practice, while captain Joe Pavelski had a place to sit but did not take the ice during the morning skate.
Karlsson, the team’s prized offseason addition and perennial Norris Trophy candidate, laboured visibly through a lower-body injury earlier in the series. He missed the entire second half of Game 5. He’s put up 16 points in 19 playoff games this year. With his free agency looming, he may have played his last game with the team if he can’t go and the Sharks end up bowing out in Game 6.
The 25-year-old Hertl is second on the team with 10 goals this post-season, after scoring 35 in the regular season. His absence puts increased pressure on a team that desperately needs secondary scoring behind Logan Couture.
Neither Karlsson nor Hertl made the trip to St. Louis with the team.
As for Pavelski, the Sharks’ captain is suffering through his second injury of the playoffs and has been called a game-time decision by head coach Peter DeBoer. He scored a team-leading 38 times in the regular season, and if he doesn’t play, the Sharks will have to stave off elimination without their two highest scoring players from the regular season.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs have been described in the past as a war of attrition, and the Sharks can likely relate to that feeling pretty strongly right now. They’ll have to gut it out as a team to force a Game 7 against the Blues, while the well-rested Boston Bruins wait on the other side of the bracket for a Stanley Cup Final opponent.
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