Yes, Evander Kane still wears the number nine sweater in San Jose, not Evander Holyfield. However, you may not have guessed it after Kane recently slugged it out with Boston Bruins‘ defenseman Zdeno Chara, who just happens to be the biggest player in the NHL at 6-feet-9-inches tall. Kane isn’t about to trade in his hockey stick for a pair of boxing gloves just yet even though he’s been quite truculent of late.
The 27-year-old left winger from Vancouver, British Columbia is playing with quite an edge this season and it sure hasn’t hindered his production on the ice. After 64 games Kane has chipped in with 27 goals and 51 points despite serving 149 minutes in the penalty box. He’s on pace to finish the campaign with 35 goals and 66 points as well as close to 200 minutes in penalties.
But now comes the bad news for the Sharks’ brass and their fans as Kane missed the team’s 4-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche on March 1st due to an injury. Head coach Peter DeBoer isn’t about to hit the panic button just yet though as he told the media he doesn’t expect the forward to be out long. He also stated the problem was unrelated to the head shot Kane took from Chara a few days earlier which initiated the brawl between the two players.
DeBoer is definitely hoping Kane returns to the lineup sooner rather than later to give the squad the physical presence it needs heading into the playoffs. He’s one of the league’s dying breed of power forwards and has proven he isn’t afraid to back down from any confrontation. Kane has scored 213 goals and 405 points in the NHL with the defunct Atlanta Thrashers, Winnipeg Jets, Buffalo Sabres and Sharks.
He’s already reached a career high in penalty minutes this year as his previous high mark was 113 with the Sabres in 2016/17. He was selected with the fourth overall draft pick by the Thrashers in 2009 after a high-scoring junior career with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL. Kane could always handle himself well even in junior, but he was mainly drafted for his scoring touch.
Kane hasn’t exactly filled the net in the NHL, but has been a consistent contributor and a physical presence on the ice. He’s also been labeled a bit of a dressing room disruption in the past, but has gelled well with his teammates on the west coast since been traded to the Sharks last season.
Still, losing Kane even for a game or two doesn’t help matters down the stretch run as high-scoring blue liner Erik Karlsson is back on the shelf as well with a groin problem. Luckily for the Sharks, they picked up skilled forward Gustav Nyquist from the Detroit Red Wings at the trade deadline and his presence should make Kane’s absence less painful. In addition, defenseman Tim Heed acquitted himself very well while playing seven games as a replacement for Karlsson in February.
Heed notched three points and was a plus-5 during Karlsson’s first stint in the infirmary and has displayed a positive attitude all season long even when he hasn’t been playing. Overall, the 6-foot, 185-pounder has skated in 21 games this season with two goals, six helpers and a plus-5 rating.
He’s adept at moving the puck and his big shot from the point certainly doesn’t hurt his chances of receiving some ice time on the power-play.
Sharks’ alternate captain Logan Couture has been impressed by Heed and told The Mercury News, “You almost feel bad for Heed because he’s played so well and he’s only gotten into 20 games. It hasn’t been easy on him, but he goes in when he’s called upon and he plays very, very well for us. You never want to take Erik out of your lineup, but when Heed’s playing as well as he is, it softens the blow.”
The 28-year-old Heed, who hails from Gothenburg, Sweden was originally taken by the Anaheim Ducks in the fifth round with the 132nd overall pick in the 2010 Draft and was signed by the Sharks as a free agent in 2016. He’s played just 51 games in the NHL up to now with five goals and 17 points to his name.
After being drafted by the Ducks, Heed decided to remain in Sweden and notched 76 points in 191 games with Skelleftea in the top tier. He skated with the San Jose Barracuda in the American Hockey League during his first pro season in North America and was named to the league’s Second All-Star Team after racking up 14 goals and 56 points in 55 outings in 2016/17 along with a plus-14 rating.
Heed believes there’s no point in sulking when he’s listed as a healthy scratch and feels his hard work in practices and games will eventually pay off with a steady job on the blue line. In the meantime, he’s prepared to step into the lineup and help out whenever called upon.
The Sharks aren’t happy about playing without Kane and Karlsson, but at least they don’t appear to be fighting for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. They sat in second place in the Pacific Conference on March 2nd with 84 points and were 16 points clear of danger regarding the playoff race. The Sharks may be able to take a bit of a breather at the moment as they have 12 of their final 17 games at home.
San Jose is 20-5-5 at the SAP Center so they’ll welcome some home cooking for a while. They just wrapped up a stretch of 25 road games out of 41 contests. However, while some have suggested the team shut Karlsson down for the season and let him rest before the playoffs, others feel the team may want to take a run at the Pacific Division title since they’re just seven points back of the table-topping Calgary Flames.
One thing’s for certain, though, the Sharks’ chances at taking a healthy run at the Stanley Cup are definitely going to be greater with Kane and Karlsson in the lineup and Heed ready, willing and able to step in at a moment’s notice.