Erik Karlsson will not return to the San Jose Sharks lineup when they play the Washington Capitals at SAP Center on Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSCA, NBCSWA, NHL.TV).
"Not in tonight, but getting close," coach Peter DeBoer said after the morning skate on Thursday.
Karlsson, who has missed eight games because of a groin injury, was a full participant in practice Wednesday, according to The Mercury News, but the Sharks were waiting to see how the 28-year-old defenseman felt on Thursday before deciding if he would play.
"We've purposedly been extra cautious to make sure there are no setbacks," DeBoer said, "and as a result when he jumps back in will be good to go."
Despite missing the Sharks' three games before the 2019 NHL All-Star Game in San Jose on Jan. 26, Karlsson did participate in the 2019 SAP NHL All-Star Skills and the Pacific Division's 10-4 loss to the Central Division in the first All-Star Game semifinal.
He has missed San Jose's five games since the All-Star Break, staying home during a four-game road trip from Feb. 5-11. The Sharks (34-16-7) lost their first two games without Karlsson but have won six in a row to move into first place in the Pacific and tie the Winnipeg Jets for the most points in the Western Conference with 75.
"It's getting better every day and it's nice to be able to finally practice with the guys," Karlsson, who has 43 points (three goals, 40 assists) in 47 games this season, told The Mercury News on Wednesday. "It's been a long couple of weeks and at the same time, the team was doing so well that it's made it a little bit easier for me."
The 28-year-old is in his first season with the Sharks after playing his first nine in the NHL with the Ottawa Senators, who traded him to San Jose on Sept. 13. The two-time Norris Trophy winner as the NHL's best defenseman can become an unrestricted free agent July 1 and will be eligible to sign an eight-year contract with San Jose after the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 25 at 3 p.m.
"We have no timetable on anything," Karlsson said Jan. 24. "Whatever goes on is going to be handled privately. (San Jose general manager) Doug Wilson has been great with us ever since we got here. He's been very respectful. I appreciate that a lot, both me and my wife do. When the time comes for a decision to be made, whenever that is, I think they've done everything they possibly can to give us the most information we need to make the right decision."