The Sharks have had limited success over the past two seasons with both defenseman Brent Burns and Eric Carlson on the same power-play unit, where coach Bob Boffner announced three months ago that the idea had been put to rest.
“The experiment is over, really,” Boffner said on October 15. “It hasn’t had any success yet.”
Judging by the recent struggles of recent power-play units, it appears that the Sharks may be giving it another try.
The Sharks had Burns, Carlson, Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier on the top power unit, and Ryan Merkle, Nick Bonino, Jonathan Dahlen, Noah Gregor and Jasper in the Saturday morning skate before their game with the Pittsburgh Penguins. . Weatherby on the second unit.
This season the Sharks had Carlson on one unit and Burns on the other, as both players are most comfortable just above the blue line.
The Sharks are just 2-for-24 on a male advantage in the last 11 games, and are now 24th in the NHL on 17.0 percent — down from 13th in the league and 20.0 percent five weeks ago on December 10.
“I think we have to enter and set up. When we are set up, we have very good chances,” Bonino said. “I don’t think that’s the problem. I’ve been in teams where you can enter, you get set, and then it kind of freezes. I don’t think it’s here.
“I think it’s everyone working back, not just the drop guys. It’s us who are doing the stretching, being an option, especially for a high pressure team to give them out And they have to cover more people. So for us, it starts at the dump. We have to get back in the zone, get ready and take some pride in that.”
Using Burns and Carlson together over the past two years, the Sharks were 28th in the NHL on 12.8 percent last season and 16.4 percent two years ago. Carlsen was usually an upwind, and Burns was placed near the faceoff dot in a bar position on the left.
However, by keeping Merkle in the lineup, Boffner gets another choice in how he wants to deploy his units. Merkle was linked with Carlsen on a power-play unit in the last two matches.
“I think Ryan Merkle has the ability to play in the second unit, I like him at the top,” Boffner said. “So that allows us to put Burns and (Carlson) on the same unit that we’ve tried in the past and we’ve had average success with.
“But at the end of the day, if you take them both out there (along with Hertel, Couture and Meyer), you have your five best players on the ice, and it’s up to them, they have to get it done. ”
Lineup News: Goalkeeper James Reimer is coming off injured reserve but Edin Hill will start for the Sharks against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins on Saturday.
Reimer has not played since January 4, saying earlier this week that he had “flare up” some health problems during the Christmas break, which made him no longer able to play. Boffner has said Reimer was battling a lower body problem, and added on Saturday that the veteran goalkeeper’s health has improved and he could start at home against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.
The Sharks are making no other lineup changes as forwards Jeffrey Weil and Adam Raska remain on the fourth line and Len Pedersen will be a healthy scratch for the third straight game as he breaks out of the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol . With Merkle and Jakob Magna in the lineup, both Radim Simek and Nicolas Meloche will be scratched.
The Sharks, per Natural State’s trick, created 16 high threat chances and allowed the New York Rangers just six on Thursday, and wanted to give the same lineup a chance to compete against the Penguins.
“Analytically we are good in most departments, obviously, except finishing,” Boffner said. “Our expected target (2.72) was good enough to win the game.”
Including Saturday, the Sharks would play six of the eight games before the NHL All-Star break against teams in the top eight in 5-on-5 scoring. The Penguins have scored 82 goals in 36 matches under such conditions.