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Sharks' Donskoi, Smith back in lineup vs. Predators

by Eric Gilmore

PREDATORS (6-1-1) at SHARKS (5-3-0)


SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks forwards Joonas Donskoi and Ben Smith will return to the lineup against the Nashville Predators on Wednesday at SAP Center after missing multiple games because of injuries.

Donskoi, a rookie left wing who missed the previous five games because of a lower-body injury, will rejoin the top line with center Joe Thornton and right wing Joe Pavelski. He skated the first three games on the top line and scored a goal in a season-opening victory against the Los Angeles Kings.

"I'm excited," Donskoi said Wednesday. "It's been a long time. It's very nice to be back again. It's kind of a new beginning, and I haven't played for a while. So I've tried to practice a bit longer and get my skating power back."

Smith missed the past three games after being hit in the head on a shot by defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic during a game Oct. 17 against the New York Islanders. He needed 17 stitches in his right ear and sustained a concussion.

"Feeling good," Smith said. "Just happy to be back out there with the guys and not riding the bike while they're out there skating. That's the main thing. Just looking to bring some excitement, some energy."

That's exactly what Sharks coach Peter DeBoer wants to see from Smith and Donskoi.

"Just some energy for us," DeBoer said. "It energizes the group when you have guys that have been sitting that you know can help you finally get back in the lineup. I think they're going to bring some energy first game back."

Donskoi returned just in time to face Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne, who was a teammate with Finland at the 2015 IIHF World Championship. Rinne is 5-1-1 with a 1.84 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage in seven games. The Predators have yet to allow a first-period goal and have scored first in seven of their eight games.

"For our team that's one of the keys," Rinne said. "Come out really fast and with a lot of energy. That's one area that we try to focus on every single night."

Last season the Predators didn't score a goal in their two games at SAP Center. They were shut out 2-0 on Dec. 13 and March 12.

"They're a dangerous team," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "They've got some guys that can create some havoc offensively. They've been together for a while so I think there's that chemistry.

"One of the games I thought we played really well in here [but] we didn't get the results we were looking for. One game we had a hard time getting the puck from them. We're preparing for that game where they're possessing the puck and we got to figure out how to get it back. We were skating pretty good the second time in here. We need to make sure we're skating tonight."

Predators forward Calle Jarnkrok is expected to return to the lineup after missing a game Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins because of an illness. Jarnkrok took part in the morning skate.

Here are the projected lineups:


Filip Forsberg - Mike Fisher - James Neal

Colin Wilson - Mike Ribeiro - Craig Smith

Gabriel Bourque - Cody Hodgson - Calle Jarnkrok

Eric Nystrom - Paul Gaustad - Austin Watson

Roman Josi - Shea Weber

Mattias Ekholm - Ryan Ellis

Barret Jackman - Seth Jones

Pekka Rinne

Carter Hutton

Injured: None

Scratched: Victor Bartley, Miikka Salomaki


Joonas Donskoi - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Patrick Marleau - Tomas Hertl - Joel Ward

Matt Nieto - Chris Tierney - Tommy Wingels

Barclay Goodrow - Ben Smith - Mike Brown

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun

Paul Martin - Brent Burns

Brenden Dillon - Matt Tennyson

Martin Jones

Alex Stalock

Injured: Logan Couture (broken left leg)

Scratched: None

Status report: Nieto moved from the first to the third line, bumping Goodrow to the fourth line. Nieto has one goal and two assists in eight games. ... Jones will make his eighth start for the Sharks. ... Salomaki, who was recalled Monday from Milwaukee of the American Hockey League, is expected to be a healthy scratch.

Who's hot: Neal has six goals in his past five games. He has a five-game point streak. ... Ward, a former Predator, had a hat trick Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes and leads the Sharks in goals (five) and points (eight).

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