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At the Rink: Wild at Sharks

by Eric Gilmore / NHL.com

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks will be without defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic when they face the Minnesota Wild at SAP Center on Thursday.

Vlasic sustained an upper-body injury late in the first period against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday and did not return.

The Sharks can't expect any sympathy from the Wild, who are missing two defensemen, Keith Ballard and Marco Scandella.

Ballard sustained a concussion and three facial fractures Tuesday on a hit from New York Islanders forward Matt Martin. Scandella was suspended two games on Wednesday for an illegal check to the head of Islanders forward Brock Nelson.

Defensemen Christian Folin and Justin Falk, who was recalled from the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League, will replace Ballard and Scandella. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Falk will be paired with Nate Prosser, forming a physical duo.

"We'll be simple and hard," Falk said. "We don't like to do things too fancy."

Minnesota drafted Falk in the fourth round (No. 110) of the 2007 NHL Draft. He played his first 81 games for the Wild before being traded to the New York Rangers after the 2012-13 season. He returned to Minnesota this season as a free agent.

"It's nice to be back with these familiar faces," said Falk, who played three games with the Wild earlier this season. "I'm excited about tonight to get back in the lineup and play in the NHL again.

"It's another opportunity for myself to go out there and show that I want to contribute and can help this team when need be."

Ten days before his hit on Nelson, Scandella checked St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie in the head and received a fine, but no suspension.

"I'm not a dirty player, and I don't go out there to injure anybody," Scandella said. "I'm just going to forget about what happened, learn from what happened. I respect the League's decision and I'm going to move on from it."

The Sharks recalled defenseman Matt Tennyson from Worcester of the AHL to take Vlasic's place against Minnesota. Tennyson played one game earlier this season, on Nov. 26 against the Calgary Flames, before being sent back to Worcester.

"I just tried to play simple and play my game," Tennyson said. "It was my first game I had played in a while. Just simplified my game a little bit. So that's what I'm going to try and do tonight.

"I got good feedback from the coaches, and getting sent down was more of a numbers thing. They wanted to keep me playing. It wasn't anything that I did wrong necessarily."

San Jose also lost forward Mike Brown to a lower-body injury against Edmonton. Brown, and forward Matt Nieto (ankle), were placed on injured reserve Thursday. The Sharks recalled rookie Chris Tierney from Worcester to center the fourth line against the Wild.

Tierney opened the season with San Jose and had two assists in 11 games before being sent to Worcester. In 12 games for Worcester, he had one goal and nine assists.

"It was good to go down there," Tierney said. "I played a lot of minutes. I really could work on my game. Sometimes you'd have the whole week when you don't have a game so there's a lot of time to practice and work out and work on things. It was good to go down there I think and get some good experience.

"I think when I was up here I was a little tentative at times. Not afraid to make mistakes but just thinking maybe a little too much. I think I tried to go down there and play my game, take the systems and just go out there and play with it and not try and think."

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Thomas Vanek

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Jason Pominville

Nino Niederreiter - Kyle Brodziak - Charlie Coyle

Ryan Carter - Erik Haula - Justin Fontaine

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Christian Folin - Jonas Brodin

Justin Falk- Nate Prosser

Darcy Kuemper

Niklas Backstrom

Scratched: Stu Bickel

Injured: Matt Cooke (lower body); Keith Ballard (concussion, facial fractures)

Suspended: Marco Scandella

SHARKS

Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels

Barclay Goodrow - James Sheppard - Melker Karlsson

Andrew Desjardins - Chris Tierney - John Scott

Mirco Mueller - Justin Braun

Brenden Dillon - Brent Burns

Scott Hannan - Matt Tennyson

Alex Stalock

Antti Niemi

Scratched: Matt Irwin, Tye McGinn

Injured: Marc-Edouard Vlasic (upper body), Raffi Torres (knee), Tyler Kennedy (shoulder), Mike Brown (lower body), Matt Nieto (ankle)

Status report: Niemi is still not 100 percent healthy after being hit by a puck during the Sharks morning skate Tuesday. He'll be Stalock's backup again. ... With Vlasic out, rookie Mirco Mueller will be paired with Braun. Tennyson will take Mueller's spot with Hannan. ... Kuemper will return to the starting lineup after backing up Niklas Backstrom against the Islanders. In his previous start, Kuemper allowed five goals on 18 shots in 48:28 Friday against the Anaheim Ducks.

Who's hot: Pavelski scored two goals against Edmonton on Tuesday and two goals on Dec. 4 in a 7-4 victory against the Boston Bruins. He leads the Sharks with 14 goals. ... Marleau has a six-game point streak (1-8-9). ... Parise has a five-game point streak (2-6-8) and leads Minnesota with 22 points. ... Niederreiter scored his team-leading 12th goal on Tuesday, the game-winner against the Islanders.

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