San Jose, Calif. — The San Jose Sharks could be headed into their fifth elimination game of the postseason short-handed.
The Sharks left town Monday to play Game 6 of the Western Conference final at St. Louis with questions about the status of captain Joe Pavelski, high-scoring forward Tomas Hertl and playmaking defenseman Erik Karlsson.
Coach Peter DeBoer gave no update on their conditions and didn’t say whether any of the three made the trip to St. Louis. San Jose lost all three stars to injuries during a 5-0 loss at home to the Blues on Sunday that left them trailing the best-of-seven series 3-2 headed into Tuesday night’s game.
The Sharks have already staved off elimination four times this postseason, rallying from 3-1 down in a first-round series against Vegas and then winning a seventh game on home ice in the second round against Colorado.
“We’ve dealt with this before and guys have stepped in and got the job done,” DeBoer said. “People can write us off but I know in our room we know we have guys in there who we know can step in and get this done.”
Pulling it off again against a deep and physical Blues team could be even more of a challenge, especially if the Sharks will be missing some key pieces.
Karlsson has been dealing with groin injuries since January. He missed 27 of the final 33 regular-season games but returned for the start of the playoffs even if he often looked hampered by the injury. Karlsson appeared to be finding his groove, scoring two goals, including the overtime winner, in Game 3 at St. Louis before coming up lame again in the fourth game.
Karlsson played just one shift in the final 9:24 of Game 4 but told DeBoer he was good to go Sunday. He wasn’t moving well early in the game and committed a turnover that led to St. Louis’ first goal. He played just 3:03 in the second period and was unable to accelerate on the play that led to Vladimir Tarasenko’s penalty shot. Karlsson then didn’t come back out for the third as DeBoer acknowledged he had regrets about playing him.
If Karlsson is unable to go, Tim Heed will likely get his first action since filling in for an injured Marc-Edouard Vlasic in Games 3 and 4 of the opening round. But the Sharks will miss Karlsson, who has two goals and 14 assists this postseason.
Hertl was hit high in the first period by Ivan Barbashev in a play the Sharks believe should have been penalized as an illegal hit to the head. He remained in the game through the second period but also didn’t come out for the third.
That was the second time this series the Sharks felt one of their players got hit in the head with no penalty in the game or supplemental discipline. Defenseman Justin Braun got hit by Sammy Blais in Game 3.
“You don’t want to see your teammates get hit like that,” Braun said. “You can’t worry about the refs’ calls or non-calls. You have to go out there and keep playing.”
Pavelski, who led the team with 38 goals in the regular season, dealt with yet another injury early in the third when Alex Pietrangelo sent him into the boards and appeared to hit him high at the end with an elbow. Pavelski didn’t return and there is concern because he missed six games already this postseason after a bloody concussion when his helmet slammed into the ice in Game 7 against Vegas.
If Hertl and Pavelski can’t go, the Sharks’ depth up front will take a serious hit. Marcus Sorensen, who missed two of the past three games, could move back into the lineup, with winger Lukas Radil and untested center Dylan Gambrell also options.
Chara getting better
Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara returned to practice and worked out with the full squad Monday, his first such workout since sitting out Boston’s Eastern Conference-clinching victory over Carolina with an undisclosed injury.
Chara had skated prior to practices over the weekend but didn’t participate in any full sessions. He said he felt good after the Bruins’ 45-minute workout on Monday and is on track to play in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on May 27.
Chara was the first player on the ice Monday. Forward David Krejci also returned to practice. Coach Bruce Cassidy said Krejci was given a “maintenance day” on Sunday.
Being a spectator for a series-clinching victory was difficult for the 42-year-old Chara. He was a member of the Bruins, who defeated Vancouver to win the Stanley Cup in 2011 and lost to Chicago in the Cup Final in 2013.
“It was, I’m not gonna lie,” Chara said. “Watching games are not fun. You want to play them, you want to be involved in them. It was that feeling of an anxiousness to play. But the guys did a great job.”