When the San Jose Sharks stumble into Winnipeg on Monday evening to face the Jets, the game will feature a matchup of the two top scoring defensemen in the NHL.
Sharks blue-liner Erik Karlsson will enter the match with 19 goals and 80 points in first place, while Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey sits in second with 66 points, including 15 goals.
Both skaters also head into the game coming off multi-point efforts Saturday night. Karlsson registered two assists in an 8-3 loss to the Washington Capitals in San Jose and Morrissey collected two goals and a helper during a 7-5 defeat of the Edmonton Oilers in Winnipeg.
Morrissey is having a breakout year, already far surpassing last season’s career-high points total of 37. The Jets still have 19 games left on their schedule.
“He’s elite,” Jets head coach Rick Bowness said of Morrissey. “This is, to me, not a fluke. He’s got the skating, he’s a competitive guy, he’s a great teammate, and he’s got the hockey IQ. He’s having a great year. I’m very, very happy for him. He’s a great person.”
The Jets are hoping the gutsy win against their Canadian prairie rivals on Saturday night will be the spark they need to get them out of a slump that, before the victory against Edmonton, saw them lose seven of eight.
“That’s what we’re looking for. Not to wilt under pressure, not to wilt when things get tough, but come together and keep playing the way we’re asked to play,” Jets center Adam Lowry said. “That’s certainly been missing the last couple of weeks. The consistency of that is going to have to be there going down the stretch for us.”
While the Jets are looking to get things honed ahead of the final push toward the playoffs, the Sharks are looking for things to play for. San Jose, with 19 games left, is 30th out of 32 teams in the league standings.
“We’ve got to refocus to play 60 (minutes) instead of 30,” Sharks coach David Quinn said after Saturday’s dismantling at the hands of Washington, a game from which he was ejected. “… It’s a group. Coaches, leaders, players, we’re all in this together. We will put a stop to it. That’s the thing I love about our team. We’ve rebounded from stuff like this.”
Quinn was ejected after pointing in a referee’s face and shouting expletives over a disagreement about penalty calls.
The Sharks had a 2-0 lead after one period before the Capitals rang up their eight goals during the final 40 minutes.
“It just can’t happen anymore. Whatever happens, there can’t be quit in us,” Sharks forward Tomas Hertl said. “We have to fight for each other, because every day everybody is fighting for something here. It’s tough.”
The Jets are hopeful they’ll see key center Pierre-Luc Dubois (lower-body injury) and winger Mason Appleton (upper-body injury) return to the lineup from injury Monday. San Jose defenseman Radim Simek could also be back after being listed as day-to-day on Saturday.
–Field Level Media