SAN JOSE — Defenseman Paul Martin isn’t a kid anymore, and he found out the hard way roughly three weeks ago that he has some limitations when it comes to how far he can push himself in his off-ice workouts.
Martin, 36, was getting close to a return from an ankle injury to the Sharks lineup last month when he said he suffered an unrelated injury while weight-training in the gym.
“Any time you’re trying to get that strength up and get ready and make sure you’re in tip-top shape, you live and you learn of what you can do and not do,” Martin said, “and you find out there’s some other parts of the body that you didn’t know you could get sore.”
Now, after a full practice Wednesday, all signs point to Martin being able to come off injured reserve and return to the Sharks’ lineup for Thursday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes at SAP Center.
Martin, who hasn’t played since Oct. 8, was with the Sharks on their recently completed four-game road trip and skated nearly every day to regain his conditioning. Wednesday, he was paired with longtime defense partner Brent Burns as the Sharks’ went through a roughly 45-minute practice.
Martin initial injury in the second week of October had to do with his ankle that he had surgically repaired in the offseason.
“The good thing is I’m ready, I’m healthy, I feel good,” Martin said. “Three weeks ago when I was maybe ready to come back, we had a little setback in the gym. So that’s always tough when you’re getting close to coming back and you go through something like that.
“Otherwise, I feel good. You can only do so many bag skates before you’re begging to get back in there. Looking forward to it. Hopefully it ends up being tomorrow.”
Martin’s probable return comes at a good time for the Sharks and their depleted blue line.
Tim Heed is on injured reserve with an upper body ailment and remains day-to-day. Brenden Dillon, meanwhile, will serve his one game suspension for a slash on Madison Bowey in the late stages of Monday’s testy affair against the Washington Capitals.
In Wednesday’s practice, Dylan DeMelo and Joakim Ryan skated together for what appeared to be the Sharks’ third defense pair.
“That is one area that we do feel comfortable with,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said of his team’s defensive depth. “We feel we have a good eight defensemen in here and we’ve had to use them.”
Even with Martin out, the Sharks have evolved into one of the stingiest teams in the NHL in terms of goals allowed at 2.31 per game. Joakim Ryan capably filled in for Martin alongside Burns and the Sharks arguably have the NHL’s best goaltending tandem in Martin Jones and Aaron Dell.
Martin praised Ryan and Heed for the way they’ve played and for taking advantage of their opportunities. But Martin feels there remains room for him to make a contribution.
“You always need (defenseman) no matter what with injuries and pieces. It just depends what you’re looking for,” Martin said. “I’d like to think that it’s good to have some experienced, older (defensemen) by the end of the year.”
? Dillon said his slash on Bowey happened in the heat of the moment. His suspension, handed down Tuesday by the NHL Department of Player Safety, is his first in 392 games.
“Being in my sixth year now and never to have a run-in like that, where I’ve had to deal with any sort of safety things,” Dillon said. “I try to play the game as hard as I can and I’m pretty honest. I pride myself on that and I’m just glad he’s OK. It won’t happen again.”
? Wednesday’s practice also saw Joonas Donskoi skate for the first time since he suffered an injury to his midsection in last Monday’s game against the Flyers when he was cross checked by Michael Raffl.
Donskoi was placed on injured reserve Saturday, retroactive to Nov. 28, but went through practice on the Sharks’ fifth line with Danny O’Regan and Ryan Carpenter. Donskoi is eligible to come off IR in time for Thursday’s game, but DeBoer said the team will take a cautious approach in hopes of preventing a setback.
? Mikkel Boedker has been ruled out of Thursday’s game. He skated briefly Wednesday morning but left the ice before the start of the Sharks practice.