Tim Heed is heating up at a convenient time for the Sharks.
Heed, who played in just three games this season before the start of 2019, has scored five points in his last five games. That includes two primary assists in Sunday's 5-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, which was the 12th straight game in which Heed suited up and Erik Karlsson did not.
Karlsson, a fellow Swede and right-handed defenseman, is a hard player to replace. Only Brent Burns has played more per game (24:52) than Karlsson (24:32), and the Sharks are a decidedly better puck-possession team with him on the ice than when he isn't.
The Sharks haven't asked Heed to shoulder the same load as Karlsson, as Heed has played about 10 fewer minutes per game than him in the All-Star's absence. But, he is still producing offensively.
Heed has scored six points in those 12 games, all but one of which has come at even strength. Since Karlsson missed his first game due to injury on Jan. 19, Heed is second on the Sharks in 5-on-5 assist rate (1.92 per hour, according to Natural Stat Trick) and third in primary-assist rate (1.15 per hour). He has also scored 5-on-5 points at a higher rate (2.31 per hour) than any other Sharks defenseman in that same span.
Those rates of 5-on-5 production -- in a decidedly smaller sample size -- are higher in each category than Karlsson's on the season, and is a big reason why the Sharks are 9-3-0 in their last 12 games without Karlsson. Heed has heated up at the right time, and helped San Jose maintain stalking distance of the Calgary Flames atop the Pacific Division.
How much longer he can keep it up remains to be seen.
With Heed on the ice at full strength in the last 12 games, the Sharks unsurprisingly are generating fewer shots and generating fewer chances than when Karlsson has played at 5-on-5 this season. They're also allowing shots and chances at higher rates, but that hasn't yet translated into goals against.
Goaltenders Martin Jones and Aaron Dell have only allowed three goals playing behind Heed at full strength in his last 12 games, and have posted an eye-popping .964 save percentage with him on the ice. The Sharks have also scored on 16.42 percent of their 5-on-5 shots when Heed has played since Jan. 19, a significantly higher percentage than the team has converted all season (8.95 percent) and with Karlsson on the ice (8.72).
Add it all together and Heed has a 106.8 PDO, the sum of save percentage and shooting percentage. (Anything above 100 is considered lucky, and typically unsustainable)
Considering the Sharks' opponents have controlled a higher share of 5-on-5 shot attempts, shots on goal and high-danger chances while Heed has been on the ice over his last 12 games, Heed is more likely to regress to the mean the longer Karlsson is out of the lineup.
It would be a bigger concern if the Sharks were asking Heed to play a larger 5-on-5 role, however. He's not being tasked with Karlsson's ice time, and Heed's hot streak in his absence has gone a long way towards helping the Sharks continue to win without him.
All things considered, San Jose will take Heed's surge with Calgary's lead atop the Pacific Division down to just three points.