San Jose Sharks forced to look in mirror after recent injuries

San Jose Sharks will be without both Mikael Granlund and Logan Couture for at least the near future

SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Sharks will be without Mikael Granlund for the remainder of their difficult homestand, and possibly longer, leaving the team without two of its top three centermen for an unknown period of time.

Granlund was placed on injured reserve Friday, one day after re-aggravated a lower-body injury in San Jose’s season-opening game against the Vegas Golden Knights. The Sharks were already without Logan Couture, who is considered week-to-week.

Granlund, who suffered the injury during training camp, will miss Saturday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche and will be out for upcoming games against the Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins, as well as possibly others.

Most, if not all, NHL teams would suffer if two of their top-nine centermen were unavailable. This is especially true for the Sharks, who are still establishing depth at the position from top to bottom.

“I think anytime you lose two players in one position, you get a chance to kind of assess where you’re at in that position,” Sharks coach David Quinn said before Saturday’s game. “and that’s what we’ve done as an organization.”

The Sharks recalled Jacob Peterson from the AHL’s Barracuda on Saturday to fill Granlund’s roster spot. He, Tomas Hertl, Thomas Bordeleau, and Nico Sturm were the four centers scheduled to face the Avalanche.

Still, as with other positions, the Sharks will face difficulties in matching up with the majority of their upcoming opponents at the center position.

Carolina, which visits San Jose on Tuesday, is considered a Stanley Cup contender, and Boston, which visits here on Thursday, is still expected to be in the playoff mix despite key personnel losses in the offseason, most notably Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Taylor Hall.

After Thursday, the Sharks will embark on a five-game road trip, three of which will be against last season’s playoff teams.

Sturm knows how good it can be, having won the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche in 2022 as part of an extremely deep forward group.

“I never came to the rink and was like, ‘Oh, no, what’s going to happen now?’ if there was a guy hurt.” “Everyone on that Avs team knew exactly who the next man up would be,” Sturm said. “And there was never any doubt about whether or not that guy could fill that hole.”

“Obviously, we still have a long way to go to achieve that type of chemistry.” (In Colorado), it’s a group that has been together for a long time, at least the core. We obviously have a lot of turnover right now, with a lot of new faces coming in and out, but that is definitely what we want to build toward.”

Bordeleau is in his second full season as a pro, and Swedish-born Peterson is in his third in North America. However, drafted centermen like Will Smith, Filip Bystedt, and Cameron Lund may be two or three years away from becoming full-time NHL players.

The Sharks drafted forward William Eklund as a centerman two years ago, but there do not appear to be any plans to move him to the middle anytime soon, if ever, according to Quinn.

“When I had Clayton Keller at (Boston University), he was a center and now he’s one of the better left wingers in the league,” said Quinn. “Most great forwards were probably centers before they got to this level.” I remember coaching in the (AHL) and asking how many guys were centers on the first day. 12 forwards, I believe, raised their hands. That’s pretty typical of what (Eklund) does.”

For the time being, the Sharks are hoping to get by without Couture and Granlund as they continue to face some of the best teams in the NHL.

Couture, according to Quinn, is getting close to being able to skate again. Couture, who did not practice with the Sharks during training camp, skated twice earlier this month before suffering what Quinn described as “a bit of a setback.”

“Colorado doesn’t care that we don’t have Couture and Granlund,” Quinn went on to say. “They’re not going to be gentle with us. Nobody cares who’s in and who’s out, who’s hurt and who isn’t. So it’s up to the 20 guys who are dressing tonight to be ready to go and do their jobs.”

Ozzy Wiesblatt, a 2020 Sharks first-round draft pick who is now with the Barracuda, was suspended for three games by the American Hockey League on Saturday for interference on a Rockford IceHogs player.

The sequence occurred during a game at Tech CU Arena in San Jose on Friday night. Wiesblatt sat out San Jose’s game against Rockford on Saturday and will also sit out games against Henderson on October 20 and 21.

Wiesblatt, 21, had just entered the Rockford zone when he leveled IceHogs forward Kale Howarth, who didn’t have the puck. Howarth, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 201 pounds, was down on the ice for several moments before being helped off.

At the 3:12 mark of the second period, Wiesblatt, who stands 5-10 and weighs 185 pounds, was given a five-minute major and a match penalty. Wiesblatt, who was drafted 31st overall by the Sharks in 2020, was suspended by the AHL’s player safety committee on Saturday morning. The Barracuda were in action for the first time this season.

Following the incident, the IceHogs scored twice on the subsequent power play, extending their lead to 4-1. Rockford won the game 7-2 after scoring three more goals in the third period.

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