Quick Strikes: Lightning arrive in San Jose to say hello to next summer’s best free-agent defenseman

<strong>We hear Erik Karlsson likes to dress up as a pirate AND his contract is up in 2019.</strong>

The Headline

Are you staying up for the game tonight? If so, here’s a brief look at what San Jose is up to before the preview comes out.

Sharks Practice Notes: Radim Simek Skates, Blue Line Uncertain Vs. Tampa [NBC Bay Area]

However healthy the Sharks’ blue line is come Saturday, they know what lies ahead of them as they ready to host one of the league’s elite offenses. Tampa Bay visits with the best record in the NHL and a power play that towers above everyone else’s. It’s going to be a defensive challenge up and down the lineup for the Sharks – and one they’re looking forward to.

”I think it’s going to be a good game,” Brent Burns said on Friday. “I think it’s a good measuring stick for us to see how we stack up.”

Erik Karlsson had a slow start with his second-ever NHL team, but he’s picked up his pace lately and begun to enjoy himself. He’s doing pretty well, and the Sharks bloggers think he’s back to being a Norris contender. Just in time for his contract to run out... [Blades of Teal]

EK65 is finally starting to benefit from the amount of talent that the he’s surrounded with on San Jose Sharks, and Team Teal is starting to get adjusted to sharing the ice with a player like Karlsson. One of the biggest benefactors from this blockbuster trade would have to be Brendan Dillon. Who’s seen his role on this team drastically expand from 3rd pairing defender, to playing premium minutes with crucial situations. All while sporting +16 plus/minus and a positive CF/FF percentage.

So. Do you still like dressing up as a pirate?

The Bolts

You know something’s up when the New York Times is pausing to talk about your team: 4 Reasons the Tampa Bay Lightning Have Dominated the N.H.L. [N.Y.T.]

This time last season, the Lightning began to drag, allowing the Boston Bruins to catch them at one point in the division race. Nashville and Winnipeg eventually passed Tampa Bay in the final league standings. Seeking to maximize their window for a championship, the Lightning made a big trade at the deadline, landing McDonagh and Miller from the Rangers.

If you haven’t read it yet, here’s a good halfway-mark article from Joe: Tampa Bay Lightning midseason report: 41 thoughts after 41 games [The Athletic, paid content]

The Lightning will have to make another roster decision when J.T. Miller (week-to-week, upper body) is ready to return. He’s been on the trip rehabbing and is slated to be re-evaluated soon. Since Koekkoek’s conditioning assignment means he’s still on the 23-man roster, something will have to give once Miller comes off IR. It doesn’t appear that Cernak is going anywhere, so unless there’s another injury, someone like Danick Martel may have to be exposed through waivers. Do the Lightning want to let go of the player some have called “the next Yanni Gourde?”

His father drove him to the NHL. Literally. [Tampa Bay Times]

But without a dad willing to drive, Jeff probably would not have played college hockey. He probably would not have reached the NHL, much less played 14 years in it with the Capitals, Lightning and five other teams.

Without a dad willing to drive with a jacket tied around his head without a driver’s side window, Jeff probably would not have become a Lightning assistant coach who runs the NHL’s top power play.

Did you know that the hardest part of Tampa Bay Lightning schedule is still left? [Raw Charge]

With the Lightning having already finished off most of their games against non-playoff contenders in the first half, they only have 15 left against those teams. 7 of the 15 games will be at home. The only teams left in this group that the Lightning have not gotten a win against are the Arizona Coyotes and Minnesota Wild. The Lightning also have both games against the St. Louis Blues left.

The Prospects

Read what’s up with the Crunch in yesterday’s preview!

For the Crunch, there a couple of pieces of good news. One - they don’t have to face Bridgeport at home, where they have posted a remarkable 12-1-2-1 record. On the road, the New York Islanders affiliate is a more reasonable 9-8-2-1. Second - leading scorer Michael Dal Colle (28 points) is currently busy scoring goals for the Islanders and not the Sound Tigers.

The Game

The biggest non-WJC news yesterday was that Mike McKenna was claimed off waivers by the Flyers. Couldn’t have happened to a better goalie, and we wish him the best in Philly.

Flyers claim goaltender Mike McKenna off waivers [Philadelphia Flyers]

The Philadelphia Flyers announced today they have claimed goaltender Mike McKenna off of waivers from the Vancouver Canucks, according to Executive Vice President/General Manager, Chuck Fletcher.

Flyers could tie NHL record by using seventh goalie this season [NHL]

”I’ve played for teams in the American league where we’ve probably used five or six goaltenders in a season ... but the NHL it’s obviously very rare,” McKenna said. “It’s unique, but you can’t predict anything in this game. It’s what reality is right now. I’m going to come in and do my best job.”

‘There have been no downs for him’: Sammy Walker emerging for Gophers [The Athletic, paid content]

And while he is the smallest player on the ice, the 19-year-old Walker isn’t afraid to stand up for himself in scrums with bigger and older players. During the dying seconds of Saturday’s loss to Ferris State, Walker was in a battle with 6-foot-5, 200-pound, 24-year-old defenseman Zach Yoder and didn’t back down trying to get the puck loose for a game-tying goal.

Come on back to Raw Charge at 9 AM to read yesterday’s WJC recaps from the awesome Lauren!