Sharks Cram With Regular Season Approaching

SAN JOSE – The Sharks reduced their NHL roster to 27 players on Thursday with the reassignment of defenseman Tim Heed to the Barracuda.

That’s the group that will head to Arizona on Friday as the Sharks play their penultimate preseason game against the Coyotes. The Sharks will practice in Arizona on Saturday and conclude the preseason in Anaheim on Sunday.

The lines remained the same as Tuesday during what was a lengthy practice at Sharks Ice. Tomas Hertl will almost certainly start the year on the left wing of Joe Thornton, while Chris Tierney will get a chance to center the third line.

With Heed gone the club is down to eight defensemen, as Dylan DeMelo and Mirco Mueller are both still around. Coach Pete DeBoer made it sound as if DeMelo has a distinct advantage in the competition for the seventh spot - assuming they keep only seven - but he’s pleased with Mueller’s development.

“I think Mirco has definitely improved from a year ago when I came to my first camp here,” DeBoer said. “I like some of the things he’s doing. There’s some areas he still has to work on. Finding a way to get more pucks to the net offensively from the blue line, some things like that that we’ve talked to him about.

“Dylan is Dylan. The strength of his game is he gives you the same thing every time out. That consistency is something that coaches like.”

Thursday also brought with it some special teams work. The top power play unit, not surprisingly, is unchanged. The Sharks load up that group with Thornton, Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau, and they were the primary reason San Jose scored a league-leading 62 power play goals last season.

The second unit consisted of Hertl, Mikkel Boedker and Joonas Donskoi up front, with Marc-Edouard Vlasic and David Schlemko manning the points. Joel Ward also rotated in.

The nearly 90-minute practice session was so long that it required an ice resurfacing midway through. It was just the second practice that consisted of all the players expected to make the team after many were delayed due to the World Cup.

Practice time is “critical” now with just six days left until next Wednesday’s opener at home against the Kings, said DeBoer.

“We’ve got a really short window here with everybody. All hands on deck, and healthy. … We’ve got to make sure that we get as much in as possible.”

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The Barracuda named veteran forward John McCarthy as their captain on Thursday. Alternate captains are defenseman Dan Kelly and forward Ryan Carpenter.

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