SAN JOSE -- Midway through the San Jose Sharks' 2-1 shootout win over Calgary on Tuesday night, rookie forward Tommy Wingels jumped from the third line to the first, joining Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski.
That's where it looks like Wingels will be skating Thursday night when the Sharks face Ottawa at HP Pavilion.
"You prepare for moments like this," Wingels said after the morning skate. "When you think about playing up, this ultimately is the spot you want. You're always dreaming about playing with guys like that in this situation. I don't' think there's too much pressure. I'll just stick to my game. You can't change the way you play. I'm sure they'll do the same thing."
Thornton said Wingels "seemed to be calm" Tuesday night, and he expects him to remain that way in what could be seen as a pressure-filled assignment for a rookie.
"He's a pretty calm guy in general," Thornton said. "It didn't really faze him. Hopefully we get some chemistry and get it going."
"Chemistry isn't made overnight, but they're great players, and I'm just going to try to help them continue being great players," Wingels said.
Fourth-line center Andrew Desjardins will return to the lineup after missing two games with a head injury. He took a shoulder-to-head hit Saturday against Columbus from Dane Byers, who was suspended three games by the League.
Desjardins passed his baseline concussion test and was cleared on Wednesday to play.
"We expect him to be ready to go," coach Todd McLellan said.
Niittymaki hasn't played in or even dressed for a game this season with the Sharks since his recall. On Thursday, he headed back to Worcester for another conditioning assignment. He's expected to play two games for Worcester over the weekend, general manager Doug Wilson said.
Niittymaki's trip to Worcester coincides with the start of top goalie prospect Alex Stalock's stint at Stockton of the ECHL. Stalock suffered a season-ending injury during a game for Worcester last Feb. 4. He had a nerve behind his left knee severed when he was accidently stepped on by an opponent. He's expected to play his first game since that injury on Saturday.
Thursday night's game will be a reunion of sorts for McLellan and Ottawa Senators first-year coach Paul MacLean, who spent three seasons together as Detroit Red Wings assistants under Mike Babcock. They'll face each other for the first time as coaches in the NHL.
The Senators went 32-40-10 last season under Cory Clouston, who was let go and replaced by MacLean. This season, they're 26-16-6 and have gone 8-1-1 in their past 10 games.
"I think that Paul MacLean has done a tremendous job," McLellan said. "He's done such a good job instilling his system and getting the players to believe in it. I think when you watch them and do the pre-scout, it's pretty evident.
"Obviously spending time with him and Mike, I have a good idea of how they want to play, and you can see it. And I think that's a sign of a coach doing a tremendous job. … It looks like they're having fun playing the game. It looks like they have an identity. They're a very dynamic offensive team when they're on the entries. Their defense is up in the rush, very much like a Red Wing team."
And very much like a Sharks team, too, for that matter.
"I think there's similarities," MacLean said. "You don't work together with people and have success and not share ideas and have an idea of how to play, so there's really a lot of similarities among the three teams, I would say. But each person also brings their own little tweak, a thing that they might think is a little bit more important, but also the rest of the league mimics whatever's successful, so there's an awful lot of similarity throughout the league, too."
McLellan said he's probably "further into the evolution" away from his Red Wings days than MacLean because this is his fourth season at San Jose.
"You bring a lot of the principles with you, but if you're not changing and you're not evolving with your players and the tools you have, you're going to be left behind," McLellan said. "The game has changed a lot in our four years here."
Borowiecki got the news Thursday morning before the Senators skated at HP Pavilion.
"The first few strides around the rink I was a little wobbly, but I'm feeling good now," said Borowiecki, the first Ottawa native ever drafted by the Senators. "I'm definitely very excited. It's something you work all your life to get to. It's just nice to get a chance now."
Borowiecki said his father, Tom, mother, Cynthia, and sister, Diana, are flying to San Jose for the game and then will travel to Los Angeles, where the Senators play the Kings on Saturday. His father made the plans before Borowiecki learned that he would be in the lineup against San Jose.
"They made a little holiday of it. So it worked out well, eh?" said Borowiecki, a fifth-round pick in the 2008 NHL Draft.
When he was recalled, Borowiecki had 15 points for Binghamton - three goals and 12 assists - tops among defensemen, and led the team with a plus-3 rating. He'll take Matt Carkner's spot in the lineup against San Jose.
"We thought he had a real good season last year when Binghamton won the Calder Cup," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "He was a big part of it. He's had a good training camp with us and exhibition season. He's played real well for them down there. We really want to see him play here in the National Hockey League and give him that opportunity, and we're pretty excited to see him play."
While Borowiecki makes his NHL debut, veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar will play in his 1,100th NHL game Thursday night.
"It's actually amazing," Gonchar said after the morning skate. "I never thought I'd play in the NHL when I was growing up. Back then in Russia, not that many players played in the NHL. The biggest dream to accomplish was to play for the local team. … Then I was drafted, and I started playing in the NHL, and I never dreamed I'd play that long. Playing 1,100 games is something special. Not that many players have done it and especially not that many Russians have done it. It's a good accomplishment for me."
Gonchar, 37, is playing in his 17th NHL season, a fact that also amazes him.
"The thing is the time is flying by," he said. "It seems like I just started playing in the NHL a little while ago - then it's 1,100. Time is flying by, season after season."
Gonchar, who has 24 points this season in 41 games, said he's not sure how many more years he'll play.
"I'm still enjoying the game and I'm having fun," he said. "If I'm going to still have that feeling, I'm going to continue playing."
Thursday night's game will be a homecoming for Senators forward Milan Michalek. The Sharks drafted him with the No. 6 pick in 2003, and he played 317 games for San Jose before being traded to Ottawa on Sept. 12, 2009, as part of the Dany Heatley deal.
"I had some good years here, and I started my career here," Michalek said. "I'm excited to play here. The fans are great here every time. It's going to be a lot of fun tonight."
This will be Michalek's second game at the Shark Tank as a Senator. On Dec. 1, 2009, he had a pair of assists in a 5-2 loss to the Sharks in San Jose. This time he's returning as an NHL All-Star. He has 23 goals, three off his career single-season high set in 2006-07 with San Jose, a team he first played for when he was still a teenager.
"It flies by," Michalek, now 27, said of the time. "I was 18, and I really couldn't speak English. It was tough times, but it was also fun, too, those years. I have great memories."
Michalek said he was "surprised" when the Sharks traded him to Ottawa.
"I didn't see it at all coming. I wasn't disappointed or anything. It's the NHL and trades can happen at any time, and it happens to everybody almost," he said. "So I just took it as another opportunity and wanted to play."
Now, Michalek said, he's happy that's he's rewarding the Senators for their faith in him.
"Yeah, I feel good. They wanted me. It was good for me and I was confident coming there."
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We think that Randy is a very good coach. Our players think that Randy is a very good coach. We think that he's going to get the most out of this group. With the addition of the two assistants, a bit of a different dynamic, we're very comfortable that this is a quality coaching staff that's going to maximize the potential of this team.