SAN JOSE – It's no secret the Sharks have been dealing with their fair share of bumps and bruises – and things definitely looked even more dicey when Kevin Labanc took a puck to the face during Wednesday's morning skate in San Jose. But after a stretch of being beaten down by injury and illness, it looks like Team Teal is on the mend with six games left in the regular season.
Sharks captain Joe Pavelski took part in practice on Wednesday for the first time since he sustained a lower-body injury against the Nashville Predators on March 16. While coach Peter DeBoer didn't give a definitive answer as to No. 8's status, the chance he returns to the lineup on Thursday when the Sharks host the Chicago Blackhawks.
"Game-time decision," DeBoer said. "(He's) better, but we're going to wait and see how he feels tomorrow."
The Sharks would no doubt love to have their lead-scorer back in the lineup to help get the team back in the win column after a season-long six-game losing skid. However, DeBoer has stressed throughout his injury that they want Pavelski to be in tip-top shape with the playoffs just two weeks away.
Also on the injury front, Erik Karlsson was back on the ice ahead of Wednesday morning's team skate, although he left the ice before practice officially got underway. DeBoer had previously said the Norris Trophy-winning defenseman wasn't skating every single day, prompting suspicion Karlsson might have experienced a setback in his rehabilitation. But the coach was adamant when he told the press on Wednesday morning that it's all part of the process.
"The rehab schedule varies," DeBoer explained. "Sometimes we're going harder, or we're giving him some time off. Don't read anything into it. He's on track and progressing the right way."
The Sharks had a full team practice ahead of their game against Chicago as they try to turn around what has been a tough losing streak. While there is still a clear focus on getting the whole team as healthy as possible for Round 1, turning their fortunes around over the last stretch of games is also a priority. Coming off a 3-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Monday, DeBoer wants to see more of an effort from the entire team.
"I think it was one of those games (where) we didn't have a lot of guys playing at a high level individually," he said. "Then you combine that with chasing the game starting from the 30-second mark on. It was a tough game."