Tonight is a huge game for both the Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks, and it could prove to be a pivotal moment in this first-round series.
A win for Vegas would give the Knights a commanding 3-1 lead, whereas a win for the Sharks would make it a brand new series. In the case of a Sharks win, San Jose would re-claim home-ice advantage for what would then be a best-of-three series.
But the Sharks will have to try to do so without veteran center Joe Thornton, who will miss Game 4 as he serves a one-game suspension for his hit to the head of Tomas Nosek late in the second period of Game 3.
Joonas Donskoi, who has yet to play in the series after falling out of favor with head coach Pete DeBoer for his lack of production down the stretch, will fill in up front. San Jose also could be without forward Michael Haley, who exited Game 3 after blocking a shot. Lukas Radil would be his replacement if he is unable to go.
The Sharks have changed things up ahead of tonight’s tilt in order to compensate for Thornton’s absence.
The main change involves Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski being split up. Pavelski will now center the second line between Marcus Sorensen and Gustav Nyquist, while Kevin Labanc will take Pavelski’s spot on the top line with Couture and Timo Meier.
The line of Tomas Hertl, Evander Kane and Donskoi, which had much success during the regular season, will be reunited as the third line. Radil will take Haley’s spot on the fourth line with Barclay Goodrow and Melker Karlsson.
As for the power play, Labanc will take Thornton’s spot on the top unit, while Tim Heed will step in as a second defenseman on the point for the second unit with Erik Karlsson; they will be joined by Nyquist, Meier and Kane.
Despite speculation on the interwebs, Martin Jones will get the nod for San Jose once again tonight.
DeBoer says Jones is starting tomorrow. Lists Vlasic and Haley as being day to day. Said x-rays on Haley were negative. Neither are skating today for the #SJSharks very optional practice— Curtis Pashelka (@CurtisPashelka) April 15, 2019
The Knights will not make any lineup adjustments, and for good reason. Aside from a few strong stretches from the Sharks, the Knights were dominant in Game 3 and will look to build on the momentum they’ve generated from back-to-back victories.
Tonight could be quite a physical affair given how ugly this series has become, though both teams will need to stay disciplined given the magnitude of the situation.
Here are the projected lineups for both clubs:
Marchessault — Karlsson — Smith
Pacioretty — Stastny — Stone
Nosek — Eakin — Tuch
Carrier — Bellemare — Reaves
Engelland — Schmidt
McNabb — Theodore
Merrill — Miller
Meier (#28) — Couture (#39) — Labanc (#62)
Sorensen (#20) — Pavelski (#8) — Nyquist (#14)
Kane (#9) — Hertl (#48) — Donskoi (#27)
Radil (#52) — Goodrow (#23) — M. Karlsson (#68)
Ryan (#47) — Burns (#88)
Dillon (#4) — E. Karlsson (#65)
Heed (#72) — Braun (#61)
ICYMI, here is the preview for tonight’s game.