SAN JOSE — Sharks coach Pete DeBoer is placing Joonas Donskoi on alert: get your sport in form or you could possibly be the odd man out.
With Evander Kane’s return to follow on Wednesday, the Sharks ahead group is on the verge of being absolutely wholesome for the primary time since they acquired Gus Nyquist on the commerce deadline final week. In consequence, somebody will probably be getting bumped from the lineup within the close to future, and at this level, Donskoi is a number one candidate, struggling by way of one other chilly stretch on the scoresheet.
“He’s executed sufficient in these droughts to be within the lineup and nonetheless be an vital half up to now,” the Sharks coach stated. “However you’re within the final 20 video games, and if we get wholesome, there’s a variety of wholesome our bodies round right here.”
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DeBoer took Donskoi off Tomas Hertl’s proper wing at follow on Wednesday, changing him with Nyquist to offer the road extra scoring punch. As a substitute of skating with Hertl and Kane, Donskoi served as a placeholder for Joe Pavelski on the highest line because the Sharks captain missed follow to get better from a flu bug.
At this level, it’s unclear whether or not Kane will go well with up for Thursday’s conflict with the Montreal Canadiens at SAP Heart after lacking two video games with a “center” physique harm. Kane labeled himself as questionable after Wednesday’s follow. But when Kane is wholesome sufficient to play on Thursday, Donskoi will possible get demoted to the fourth line or bumped out of the lineup all collectively.
“He’s a streaky man, at all times has been,” DeBoer stated. “When he’s on, he’s a dominant participant. It’s all about extending these streaks so long as you possibly can after which making an attempt to shorten up the time between them.”
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Donskoi is prone to shedding his spot within the lineup as a result of he’s mired in one other chilly spell, the kind of scoring hunch that seems to contaminate his sport a few occasions a 12 months.
Previous to his two-point sport towards the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, Donskoi went eight straight video games with out discovering his approach onto the scoresheet. He earned simply 5 factors in a 19-game span between Jan. 12 and March 1 and hasn’t scored a objective since he recorded his 14th of the 12 months on Jan. 10.
The Sharks want extra manufacturing from a participant who’s skating on a line with a 29-goal scorer and a 27-goal scorer. Enter Nyquist.
Nonetheless, Donskoi’s dry spell isn’t precisely triggering alarm bells in Sharks territory. The ups and downs are the story of Donskoi’s four-year NHL profession.
After he performed a key function within the Sharks run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Last, Donskoi struggled by way of a sophomore hunch in 2016-17, producing simply 17 factors in an injury-plagued season. Although he put collectively a bounce-back marketing campaign final winter, Donskoi nonetheless hit the skids on a pair of events, recording simply 4 factors throughout an 18-game stretch within the first half and 5 factors throughout a 19-game run within the final quarter of the season.
Donskoi used one phrase to elucidate his streaky play: confidence.
“It’s all about confidence — I’m not going to lie,” Donskoi stated. “If you don’t get factors shortly, you begin to consider it at the back of your head. Perhaps beginning to drive performs, making an attempt an excessive amount of.”
Regardless of the continued inconsistency in his manufacturing, Donskoi’s sport is exhibiting maturity this season. In previous years, Donskoi’s slumps would infect each side of his sport, leaking into his defensive play, puck administration choices and possession sport alongside the boards.
Now, he’s doing a greater job of sustaining his effort away from the puck when the factors aren’t coming so simply.
“I’m somewhat bit too arduous on myself,” Donskoi stated. “Now, once I’m not getting factors, I inform myself to simply calm down, hold going. I do know that I can play on this league.”
Logan Couture stated the change is noticeable from the Sharks bench.
“The one factor with Donny is that he at all times works,” the Sharks alternate captain stated. “He’ll at all times give a full effort and work as arduous as he can. You admire that on the bench when issues are going powerful for somebody.”
Nonetheless, Donskoi might want to present extra than simply effort if he’s going to take care of a spot within the Sharks top-six ahead group within the wake of Nyquist’s addition. Regardless of the uncertainty surrounding his function down the stretch, Donskoi insists that he isn’t overly involved in regards to the prospect of getting demoted or shedding his spot within the lineup. He has charted these waters earlier than.
“I’m not apprehensive. What I need is the best-possible strains. At this level, I simply need to win,” Donskoi stated. “If it’s me on the fourth line, then it’s me on the fourth line. I don’t actually thoughts. You simply know it’s important to do one thing higher and work your self again up.”
— Erik Karlsson will miss the Sharks subsequent two video games as he continues to get better from a groin harm that has sidelined him for 12 video games in 2019.
“Making progress, however he’s not going to play this week,” DeBoer stated. “We’ll take a look at subsequent week primarily based on the progress he has by way of the tip of the week.”
— Brent Burns and Pavelski each missed follow on Wednesday to get better from a flu bug that’s sweeping by way of the Sharks dressing room.