Sharks’ Karlsson plays with McDavid, Draisaitl on fairy-tale trio, but a harsh reality awaits

Sharks’ Karlsson plays with McDavid, Draisaitl on fairy-tale trio, but a harsh reality awaits

San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson played with Hart Trophy winners Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, forming a fairy-tale trio of generational-type talents on the Pacific Division team during the NHL All-Star Game’s three-on-three tournament.

“Anytime you get a chance to play with guys of that caliber,” Karlsson said later, “you jump on it.”

Unfortunately for Karlsson, the time together was short-lived. Despite a goal and an assist from the two-time Norris Trophy winner, the Pacific Division team lost 6-4 to the Central Division in the first semifinal of the tournament at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise, Fla.

The Central team then lost to the host Atlantic Division team 7-5 in the final, and Matthew Tkachuk of the Florida Panthers was named the event’s Most Valuable Player after he collected seven points in two games. The Atlantic team beat the Metropolitan team 10-6 in the second semifinal.

Karlsson was actually the only defenseman on the Pacific Division roster, which was also highlighted by Vancouver’s Elias Pettersson and Calgary’s Nazem Kadri.

Karlsson and McDavid connected for the Pacific Division’s first goal. Coming in on a 2-on-1, Karlsson fed a pass through Josh Morrissey’s legs to McDavid, who tapped it past goalie Connor Hellebuyck to tie the game 1-1 at the 3:48 mark of the first 10-minute half.

The Central Division, though, scored four of the next five goals and had a 5-2 lead by the 5:32 mark of the second half. Karlsson’s goal came with 2:23 left in the second half, cutting the lead to one, but Arizona’s Clayton Keller scored 40 seconds later to put the game away.”

“We lost, which (stinks), but I think we played well enough,” Karlsson said. “Their goaltenders made some key saves. I like this format, three on three, so we had a good time.”

Now a big dose of NHL reality is on the horizon.

The Sharks resume practice Monday in Tampa in advance of their game Tuesday against the Lightning. That kicks off a three-game road trip that continues with stops in Florida on Thursday and Washington on Sunday.

At that point, the March 3 NHL trade deadline will be less than three weeks away and with the Sharks (15-25-11) well out of playoff contention, Karlsson knows changes to the roster — with some veteran players getting moved — are more likely than not.

“I don’t know how it’ll go. But we know with the situation that we’re in, things are going to change a little bit,” Karlsson said. “What that will be, we have no clue and, that’s not our job.

“We’re going to show up every day and do the best that we can and some guys are going to get an opportunity from it and that’s a great thing as well.”

Asked if the obvious distractions might become an issue, Karlsson said, “Not really. Not for me. I think that’s a personal thing, and everybody feels a little bit differently. I think I’m fairly focused on the now and I’m excited to play hockey every day. I enjoy coming to the rink and that’s pretty much all I can control.”

Not only do the Sharks have two pending unrestricted free agents in forward Nick Bonino and goalie James Reimer, but they also have arguably the league’s most sought-after trade piece in winger Timo Meier.

Meier, a pending restricted free agent and the Sharks’ all-star from last season, has 28 goals and 20 assists in 51 games. At 6-foot-2 and around 210 pounds, Meier, whose never been afraid of shooting the puck or using the body, would easily fit into any team’s top-six forward group for a potentially long playoff run.

Trading veterans like Meier and Bonino could open the door for younger players to get a look over the final two months of the season.

“I’m sure we’re going to get some young guys coming in and out of the lineup to get some experience and move us forward. That’s always exciting,” Karlsson said. “Even though you know, times have been tough and we haven’t won as many games as we would like, I still think that we’re (making) progress and that’s what we’ve got to keep doing.”


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