Closing argument? San Jose Sharks winger seems to cement roster spot with solid game

San Jose Sharks close preseason with a 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings at Delta Center in Salt Lake City. Now it’s decision time for Mike Grier and David Quinn

It’s a forward line that could be together for the San Jose Sharks’ season-opening game against the Vegas Golden Knights next week.

That birthday present would most likely be appreciated by William Eklund.

Eklund played on a line with center Mikael Granlund and Luke Kunin in Thursday’s preseason game against the Los Angeles Kings, and he assisted on Thomas Bordeleau’s game-tying goal in the third period in the Sharks’ 4-3 overtime loss at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City.

After spending the majority of last season in the AHL, Eklund may have just cemented his spot on the Sharks’ roster to begin the regular season.

NHL teams must reduce their rosters to 23 players by Monday, and Eklund is likely to be one of the 13 or 14 forwards the Sharks carry into their season opener next Thursday at home against the defending Stanley Cup champions. That day marks Eklund’s 21st birthday.

“I thought he played another strong game,” said Sharks coach David Quinn of Eklund. “I was impressed with his performance tonight. He’s been moving in the right direction, as we’ve discussed.”

Eklund simply adds a dynamic presence and pizzazz to the Sharks’ lineup that is lacking in other areas. There’s also a strong work ethic and a motor that hasn’t stopped for three games in a row, as he finished the preseason with one goal and two assists. He also served as a penalty killer and was a member of the Sharks’ second power-play unit.

Bordeleau scored at 14:15 of the third period, his second in as many preseason games. Bordeleau chased the puck behind the Kings’ net before Eklund arrived to help. Eklund found Bordeleau in front of the net with a nice pass that the Michigan product deposited past Los Angeles goalie Pheonix Copley.

Did the game clarify or complicate things in terms of who will make the team out of training camp?

“I want it to be as complicated as it can be, that’s for sure,” she said. “But it was going to be complicated regardless of what happened tonight.” We knew we’d have to make difficult decisions, and we’ll take the time to do so here over the next few days.”

Other Thursday takeaways:

THAT UNIQUE POWER PLAY: Without Erik Karlsson, the Sharks are forced to be creative in order to generate offense. One of those changes, at least for the time being, is having five forwards, which puts the first power play unit at risk.

The Sharks began experimenting with the unconventional look in practice this week, gave it a shot Thursday in their final preseason game, and saw immediate results. At 17:39 of the first period, Alexander Barabanov, who was stationed around the slot area, redirected a pass from Granlund along the ice past Copley.

With the man advantage, the Sharks went 1-for-5. Granlund, Barabanov, Mike Hoffman, Tomas Hertl, and Anthony Duclair were on the first unit. Forwards Eklund, Bordeleau, Filip Zadina, and Kevin Labanc were on the second unit, as was defenseman Matt Benning.

The five-forward configuration has advantages and disadvantages.

One advantage is that it allows more skilled playmakers who are used to having the puck on their stick to be more creative. The disadvantage is that it can lead to dangerous situations for players when they don’t have the puck. They aren’t always accustomed to skating backwards or defending the net in their own end.

Granlund served as the power play quarterback, with mixed results.

“For the first time, I thought when we were in the zone, we did a lot of good things,” said Quinn. “When we don’t have the puck, we just have to clean up the other aspects.” We’ll have to play in the neutral zone and occasionally in the D-zone, and that’s where things get a little hairy. So, as we discussed when we did this, we’ll have to be patient, and we’ll clean that up.”

KINGS-SHARKS BELLICOSITY: In the second period, Mario Ferraro went after Adrian Kempe after the Kings forward knocked down Zadina with a late shoulder-to-shoulder hit. But that wasn’t the night’s final scrum.

With 49 seconds left in the third period, Benning, Zadina, and Kyle Burroughs got into a fight with Pierre-Luc Dubois, Kevin Fiala, and Mikey Anderson, eliciting a cheer from the Delta Center crowd.

Quinn was asked if he was concerned that Burroughs had come off the bench in violation of NHL rules. Quinn, on the other hand, claimed Burroughs appeared on the ice during a routine line change. There were six misconduct penalties and four double-minors for roughing it.

Quinn was pleased that the Sharks were once again fighting as a unit.

“(Burroughs) didn’t come off the bench just for that.” “I’m aware there was a line change,” Quinn explained. “Whenever there’s trouble, five guys must go to defend each other.” It’s not about being the bullies on Broad Street. It’s about standing up for your teammate and responding.”

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