Sharks getting healthy bodies back for game vs. Los Angeles Kings – The Mercury News

Defensemen Erik Karlsson and Jaycob Megna and winger Jonathan Dahlen will all be back in the Sharks’ lineup Thursday for their road game with the Los Angeles Kings.

The Sharks (24-25-7) could also have defenseman Jake Middleton back for Thursday’s game after he missed practice on Tuesday and Wednesday due to illness. Middleton was unable to keep food down earlier this week, but skated Thursday morning and will be a game-time decision, Sharks coach Bob Boughner said.

If Middleton is able to play, the Sharks would scratch either Ryan Merkley, Nicolas Meloche, or Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

Karlsson has missed the last 15 games after he had surgery on Jan. 24 to repair a small tear in his left forearm.

His official return is a bit ahead of schedule, as it was initially believed that Karlsson would just be reevaluated by mid-March with a possible return later this month. But Karlsson was a full participant in practice on Tuesday and Wednesday and figures to provide an immediate boost to a team that has averaged just two goals per game and has gone 3-7-5 in his absence.

“A lot of times he can break the puck out on his own, and that just softens up the load for a lot of other guys,” Sharks captain Logan Couture said of Karlsson. “When you control the puck out of your own, you’re usually able to get through a little bit quicker and easier. He brings that element for sure.”

Megna had surgery in early February to repair a fractured foot after he blocked a shot in the Sharks’ Jan. 22 game with the Tampa Bay Lightning, He continued to play on it for the next four games on the road against Eastern Conference opponents, but it was determined after the team returned to San Jose that surgery would be required.

“During that road trip, we didn’t know, and I was doing things just to kind of get through the games,” Megna said. “Then with that two-week break, it just kind of seemed like the right decision to get it fixed and hopefully minimize the number of games that I was going to have to miss.”

Megna was averaging close to 19 minutes of ice time per game in the 13 games he played from Jan. 4 to Feb. 1. Megna said he initially hoped he could come back for the Sharks’ game with the Nashville Predators last Saturday, but doctors urged him to take a few more days.

“A lot of that has to do with him getting a taste full time here and having success. He was playing very well for us,” Boughner said of Megna, who is slated to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. “Let’s be honest, it’s human nature. You don’t want to lose that job. You don’t want to lose that opportunity.

“He’s pushing himself because he wants to be a full-time NHLer and that shows a lot about his character.”

Boughner said if Middleton plays, he would play him with Brent Burns, with those two taking a lot of defensive zone starts. Megna would then be paired with Karlsson, with those two getting more offensive zone starts.

Burns turned 37 on Wednesday and through 56 games, remains second in the NHL in average time on ice at 26:21 per game. Since Karlsson went out of the lineup, that number’s gone up to a league-high 27:32 per game.

“The minutes he plays is astounding some nights, and especially this year with the situations we’ve been in,” Boughner said. “The biggest thing I could say is he’s got a smile on his face every day he walks in the rink. He loves being a hockey player and loves his job. He prepares every day the same way, doesn’t change.”

Dahlen had missed the last four games after he was cross-checked near his head/neck area in the Sharks’ game with the Boston Bruins on Feb. 26.

Dahlen’s ice time had dipped for a few games last month as Boughner felt some of the tenacity and helped him succeed earlier this season was missing from his play. Dahlen will start Thursday’s game on a line with Couture and Timo Meier, the same two players he skated with during the early part of the season.