Game 1: SHARKS at KINGS
Western Conference First Round
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, CBC, TVA Sports, FS-W, CSN-CA
LOS ANGELES -- San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic returns to the lineup for Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday at Staples Center.
Vlasic has been out with a sprained right knee since March 17.
"He's a huge piece for us," coach Peter DeBoer said. "There's a reason why he was one of the first guys named to Canada for the World Cup and played in an Olympics. He's that valuable; a guy you can play in all situations, against anybody and always makes the right play."
Vlasic, 29, had eight goals and 31 assists and was plus-15 in 67 games this season.
His return sets the defense back to its preferred order. Paul Martin will play with Brent Burns, and Vlasic with be paired with Justin Braun. Brenden Dillon and Roman Polak form the third pairing.
Los Angeles welcomes back defenseman Alec Martinez to the lineup. He missed the final four games of the regular season with an undisclosed injury. Martinez had 10 goals, 21 assists and a plus-16 rating in 78 games this season.
Martinez was paired with Rob Scuderi during morning skate, but also took rushes with Jake Muzzin. He is likely to see time with each during Game 1.
Here are the projected lineups:
Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Joonas Donskoi - Logan Couture - Joel Ward
Matt Nieto - Patrick Marleau - Melker Karlsson
Nick Spaling - Chris Tierney - Tommy Wingels
Paul Martin - Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon - Roman Polak
Scratched: Dainius Zubrus, Micheal Haley, Dylan DeMelo
Milan Lucic - Anze Kopitar - Tanner Pearson
Dustin Brown - Jeff Carter - Tyler Toffoli
Dwight King - Vincent Lecavalier - Kris Versteeg
Kyle Clifford - Andy Andreoff - Trevor Lewis
Jake Muzzin - Luke Schenn
Brayden McNabb - Drew Doughty
Alec Martinez - Rob Scuderi
Injured: Marian Gaborik (lower body)
Scratched: Jamie McBain, Nick Shore
Status report: Gaborik skated Thursday during morning skate, but did not take part in line rushes. He said Wednesday he was progressing toward a return, but it is unclear when that will happen.
Who's hot: Pavelski had six goals and four assists in five games against Los Angeles this season. … Thornton, who had at least one point in each of the Sharks' final 33 wins of the season, had eight points in the season series against the Kings. … Toffoli and Carter led Los Angeles in the season series with five points each.