10.09.2010 / 9:57 AM ET
Even with a 3-2 loss Friday, many of the Blue Jackets players found a lot of good things to take with them from their first game. They all repeated how they felt they had been the better team 5-on-5, and recounted their scoring chances against the Sharks.
"It's the little things and bounces that then tipped it for them," said Anton Stralman. "We had a lot of great chances. I think we had more good chances than they did.
"I think we just have to keep at it, and keep playing the way we did (Friday). Of course, there are always things you can do better. We got a little out of position in the defensive zone last night, and they got a couple of chances, and then, of course, there were the penalties."
The Sharks scored two of their three goals on the power play, the Blue Jackets one of their two.
"The power play has worked well in the preseason. We work well together and now we've got Nikita Filatov to the left point, and he's always a threat there. He made a great pass to Husse (Kristin Huselius) there," Stralman said of the Jackets' power-play goal.
The Blue Jackets' new, hard-skating, hard-working style suits Stralman well.
"I think he likes that he can jump up on the rush," said coach Scott Arniel.
-- Risto Pakarinen
Sharks' 'gangster' goalie ready for first start
10.09.2010 / 9:53 AM ET
During his Philadelphia Flyers days, Antero Niittymaki was dubbed "Nitty," after Al Capone's right-hand man Frank Nitti, and the Finn seems to like it because he's formed it into something of a trademark of his own.
His new San Jose Sharks mask sports a machine-gun toting shark with a big grin, and in his native Finland, Niittymaki writes a blog titled "Gangsteri," and yes, that would be Finnish for "gangster."
And why not embrace it -- as long as the only people he keeps robbing are some poor opposing forwards. Niittymaki will get his first start of the season Saturday, but he was as cool as a cucumber about it.
"Well, I heard about it yesterday, but I can't say it was a huge surprise," he said. "I've been preparing for it, thinking that we'd probably split the games here with Antti (Niemi).
"It's still just a game. Just one game."
Well, Nitty, you saw Friday's game up close -- how much does that help?
"Sometimes it seems that having seen the other team helps, sometimes it doesn't matter how much you know about them, because nothing helps," he said. "(Friday), I was marking faceoffs during the game so that kept me busy."
-- Risto Pakarinen
Mason, Niittymaki in goals tonight
10.09.2010 / 7:40 AM ET
Antero Niittymaki will make his first start as a Shark on Saturday night. He'll be following a solid opening act by Antti Niemi, who made 30 saves in Friday night's 3-2 victory.
It's great. I'm excited. I've got some family here," said Niittymaki, who hails from nearby Turku, Finland. "It's good to get the first win out of the way. Hopefully, I can do the same. (Niemi) played well last night."
While Niittymaki and Niemi are expected to split the playing time this season, Mason is the unquestioned No. 1 with the Jackets right now. He wasn't as sharp as he could be early Friday, but he locked in for the rest of the game and stopped everything he saw.
Unfortunately, he didn't see Logan Couture's game-winner in the third period thanks to a screen set by Devin Setoguchi.
Everybody had a lot of nerves, but once we got past that point, it was business as usual and I started feeling really good," Mason said. "The team played pretty well. We had a lot of good chances and we'll look for a better result tonight."
-- Dave Lozo
Sharks, Jackets thinking outside the box
10.09.2010 / 7:30 AM ET
With so many penalties being called in Friday's opener, much of the play didn't occur at 5-on-5. The Sharks scored two of their three goals on the power play and the Jackets scored once with the extra man.
Both teams said Saturday morning that staying out of the penalty box was the big priority tonight, but the Jackets felt they carried the play at 5-on-5 and will look to do more of the same tonight.
"For us, I think we'd like to keep it 5-on-5 as much as possible," said Jackets defenseman Mike Commodore. "Obviously it's nice to get the odd power play, but we can't give them as many power plays as they had. They have too many world class players over there to give them more time and space on the ice. Hopefully we can tone the penalties down a little bit."
Just like goaltender Steve Mason, Commodore believes the team settled down after a shaky first 7-10 minutes.
"It might've been nerves, getting the first-game jitters out," Commodore said. "After that, I thought 5-on-5 that we did well. I thought we had some really good opportunities to score. We just didn't put them in. I would say we have a way better chance with being 5-on-5."
Sharks captain Joe Thornton seems to be on the same page as Commodore. His response to the question of whether he wants more 5-on-5 gave him away.
"Hopefully," Thornton said. "Well, no. Hopefully not. Hopefully we play a lot at 5-on-4 and they don't. That's the plan. But who knows what type of game it is. We'll adapt when we get there."
-- Dave Lozo
Swedes admit to pregame butterflies
10.08.2010 / 8:06 PM ET
Sharks defensemen Douglas Murray and Niclas Wallin have talked all week about how playing in their home country wasn't going to be a big deal and all they were going to do is focus on getting two points and blah blah blah.
After all, they are professionals so there's no reason not to believe them, but both said after Friday night's game that the nerves started to hit them before the game.
"I was a little nervous today to be honest," said Wallin, who was minus-1 in 18:10 of ice time. "I've got a lot of people down here. But I think it's great for Swedish people that the NHL is bringing the game over here."
Murray said his nervousness hit him when he woke up Friday morning.
"I had been really calm all week and when I woke up this morning, I started to feel it a little bit," said Murray, who saw 20:30 in ice time against the Jackets. "Then pregame skate came about, and I was fairly calm again. I was enjoying the Swedish national anthem. That pumped me up. They should play it in the states more often."
Jackets Swedes Kristian Huselius, Sammy Pahlsson and Anton Stralman had the better showing statistically, with all three picking up a point and Huselius scoring a goal.
-- Dave Lozo
Opener called tightly both ways
10.08.2010 / 8:04 PM ET
Coach Todd McLellan and his players all said they knew things were going to be called tighter by the referees this season, but both teams had a hard time staying out of the penalty box Friday.
The Jackets and Sharks combined for 17 minor penalties with San Jose taking nine.
"They're calling everything real tight early, and that was the case tonight," said Sharks forward Ryane Clowe, who received a two-minute minor for slashing and five-minute major for fighting at 10:38 of the second period. "There were a couple penalties that were iffy and a couple that were legit. I think a lot had to do with rust and fatigue a little."
Sharks captain Joe Thornton had no trouble with the way the game was called and defenseman Douglas Murray chalked up the abundance in penalties to usual early-season sloppiness. But Niclas Wallin seemed to take one of his penalties personally.
Wallin felt he was tripped by Jackets center Sammy Pahlsson as he came around from behind the net with the puck during the second period. But Wallin was called for diving while Pahlsson was called for tripping.
"It is what it is. If he calls me a diver, I'm a diver," Wallin said. "That's probably the first diving call I had in my whole hockey and soccer careers. I don't know. It's part of the game and it happens. I've got the puck and I've got the advantage behind the net and I'm starting to skate straight up and he pushed my knee forward. If he calls that a dive, it's his call. But I thought it was funny."
With each team having a game under their belts, expect a much cleaner game in Saturday's rematch.
-- Dave Lozo
10.08.2010 / 8:25 AM ET
“How do you like it here in Sweden, Rick?” (Or Ethan, Nikita, Antoine.) “You like it here?”, “How’s the weather been treating you?”
And Rick, Ethan, Nikita, Antoine, and the rest keep answering that they’ve had a good time. And that it’s been good for the team to stick together, to travel together. To be together.
"It’s been exciting. A lot of our young guys have never been in Europe, so to see them experience this has been fun. It’s been a great trip,” Rick Nash said after the game day skate on Friday.
That’s right. The game day morning skate.
Enough with the horse races and the team building exercises, and the pre-season games, and roster cuts. It’s time to get down to business. The game against the San Jose Sharks tonight is for real. The winner gets to keep the two points.
The Blue Jackets know that. They’re focused, they’re ready.
“On a night like tonight, every line has to be aware every time they’re on the ice, our every line has to be in the mentality that they know where the shooters are. Every line has to be a checker tonight,” Ethan Moreau said, talking about the Sharks offense, headed by newly-appointed captain Joe Thornton.
Seven months ago, Thornton and Nash were linemates when Canada won the Olympic gold in Vancouver. So Nash should know Thornton’s weaknesses.
“I wish there were some holes in his games. There aren’t so many gaps, he’s pretty strong all over,” Nash said.
Everything’s ready in Stockholm for the 9 pm puck drop. And that, in itself, is a little bit special, says Rick Nash.
“Usually we’ll be finishing up our game by them,” he said.
“But, we’re just excited to get started. Hopefully we’ll get two wins,” Nash said.-- Risto Pakarinen
Added pressure on Swedes?
10.08.2010 / 8:15 AM ET
Most fans attending a neutral-site game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks would be there to see stars -- Joe Thornton. Rick Nash. Dany Heatley.
That will be the case to an extent Friday night when the Jackets and Sharks open their regular seasons at Globe Arena, but many fans will be there to watch their Swedish countrymen play an NHL game in person for the first time.
Sammy Pahlsson, Kristian Huselius and Anton Stralman of the Blue Jackets along with Douglas Murray and Niclas Wallin of the Sharks aren't used to being the center of attention, but a country's adoring eyes will fixed on them during their 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere contest Friday.
A little more pressure to perform?
"I would say earlier in my career it would've been but definitely not tonight," Murray said. "I got to just keep things simple the way I usually do because every time you do too much, things don't go so well."
If you see Murray firing a few more shots than usual on net tonight, rest assured he's not trying to put on a show in Stockholm -- he's under orders.
"I've been trying to shoot a lot more this year," Murray said, "But if I do that it's because the coaches want us to, not because we're in Sweden."
Huselius, a Stockholm native, said he got tickets for about 50 friends and family for Friday's game, but he's not going to let that change things for him. Stralman has bought 10 tickets for each game for people close to him as well. Both of them said they won't let the location of the game affect them.
"I'm not going to think about it that way," sad Stralman. "Maybe as we're Swedes, we're a little more in the spotlight with the home crowd, I don't think it's something we really think about."
But a goal sure would be nice.
"Obviously I'll be really happy if I score," Stralman conceded, "and maybe the crowd will cheer a little more if one of us Swedes score. It's fun."
-- Dave Lozo
Making wishes come true
10.08.2010 / 8:00 AM ET
During this trip to Europe, players have been acting as ambassadors for the League and the game itself. That continued Friday morning when children from Min Stora Dag (My Big Day, which is Sweden's equivalent to the Make-A-Wish Foundation) came to Globe Arena to watch the Sharks and Jackets practice and meet the players afterward.
Six-year-old Linus and 18-year-old Broderick were joined by their families as they toured the locker rooms of their favorite teams. Linus' favorite team is the Sharks while Broderick roots for the Jackets. Not surprisingly, they were most excited to meet Joe Thornton and Rick Nash, although Broderick said he also liked fellow Swede Anton Stralman.
The Jackets skated first this morning as the "home" team for tonight's game, so that's where they made their first stop. Players, most of them without being asked, came over to the kids before they even took off their skates to sign autographs. Linus was up to about a dozen signatures on his NHL Premiere Stockholm hat before a team representative gave both boys a few pucks to take home.
Next up were the Sharks, and Linus went from stall to stall getting autographs. He wasn't shy at all. The only problem was he had to wait for the swarm of media to get done with Thornton before he could meet his favorite player. Thornton posed for a picture with Linus, who also received a game stick from Devin Setoguchi.
Linus was also thrilled to find out that just like Thornton, he was a left-handed center too.
Douglas Murray said hello to Broderick's brother Eddie, who also happens consider Murray his favorite player. Dany Heatley gave his stick to Linus' brother, Isak.
-- Dave Lozo
10.07.2010 / 12:27 PM ET
Anton Stralman has been all smiles during the Columbus Blue Jackets’ European trip. And why not? It must be wonderful for him to play in his home country, with two dozen friends and family members in the stands watching him quarterback the Blue Jackets power play.
Only, on Thursday, Stralman's smile vanished. You could still see it in his eyes, but the pearly smile just wasn't there when Stralman was interviewed. In its place simply was a grin.
Why? Because he had chipped his front tooth, losing about a fourth of it somewhere in the Ericsson Globe arena.
"It was such a stupid thing," he said. "We had a 3-on-2 practice and I collided with a forward and hit my mouth on his helmet."
-- Risto Pakarinen
Couture in the middle; Niemi likely to start Friday
10.07.2010 / 9:30 AM ET
Patrick Marleau is just like the rest of us -- he can't wait for the season to start.
"The start of a new season, everyone gets excited for that," Marleau said. "Everyone wants to get off to a good start."
Marleau will start the season on a wing with Dany Heatley on the other side and Logan Couture in the middle. The 21-year-old Couture has just 25 games of experience under his belt at the NHL level, but Marleau likes his line's potential.
"Logan's a real strong player both defensively and offensively. In the playoffs last year, you got a glimpse of what he can do," said Marleau, referring to Couture's 4 goals in 15 postseason games. "On a day-in, day-out basis, he's going to grow that much more. Having Heater on the other side, he frees up a lot of room for myself. We played together last year, so that's the easy part. It might take a while to get used to Couture in the middle, but I think with the way our system is, we're pretty interchangeable."
Some other notes from Thursday's practices.
* It's looking like goaltender Antti Niemi will get the start Friday for the Sharks. Antero Niittymaki said he's not playing the opener, but Niemi and coach Todd McLellan wouldn't confirm the news.
* About a 150 total fans of the Sharks and Blue Jackets who made the trip from the United States to Stockholm were in attendance to watch their teams practice at Globe Arena. After each practice, players signed autographs on the ice for the fans.
* Ryane Clowe has yet to try the reindeer steak here in Stockholm. He said he wound up eating sushi for dinner for Wednesday night. But while I can't confirm this very important news, Jamie McGinn tried the reindeer steak and said it was delicious.
-- Dave Lozo
Thornton named Sharks captain
10.07.2010 / 9:30 AM ET
After Joe Thornton was named the eighth captain in the history of the San Jose Sharks on Thursday afternoon at Globe Arena, it was asked if becoming a father during the offseason helped change his easy-going personality and resulted in him becoming a little more mature.
"I have to look after one kid at home and now I have to look after 22 on the road," Thornton quipped.
Don't expect Thornton to change too much.
Click here to read the full story.
-- Dave Lozo
Off to the races
10.06.2010 / 1:07 PM ET
While nobody would like to get on a high horse and announce that the Columbus Blue Jackets will win the Stanley Cup this season, they don't mind being a dark horse in this season's NHL playoff race. That's why they're focused, and there's no horsing around. They don't want to be a one-trick pony.
Horse-related idioms aside -- surely that would be like beating a dead one -- when it comes to those fine animals, Kristian Huselius is your man. The Stockholm native is the owner or co-owner of seven harness race horses, including Quarcio du Chene, which he co-owns with former Bruin P.J. Axelsson, former Panther Magnus Johansson, and former Duck Tony Martensson.
So when Huselius got a chance to show his NHL teammates around Stockholm on Wednesday, he arranged for them to make a trip to Solvalla, the biggest harness racing venue in the Nordic countries, and the host of Elitloppet, one of trotting's most prestigious international events, which takes place every May.
-- Risto Pakarinen
Murray's family visits locker room
10.06.2010 / 10:00 AM ET
By this point, you're well aware that Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray is from Bromma, Sweden, and this trip to Stockholm is a big deal for him. But it was nice to see him be greeted by his brother, Charlie, and grandfather, Lasse Bjorn, a former captain of the Swedish national team and bronze-medal winner at the 1952 Games. Bjorn is the only player in history to win nine Swedish league championships.
Bjorn sat down with his grandson at his locker after practice at Globe Arena on Wednesday afternoon and outside of age, they had a lot in common. The 78-year-old Bjorn is still an imposing figure, much like the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Murray. Both were defensemen, and Murray said there is a lot of similarity between their games.
"I heard some good stories about him," Murray said. "He was pretty rugged back in his day."
Murray said it was fun to have him around Wednesday.
"It's great. I love having him around," Murray said. "He's meant so much for my hockey career. And I think he enjoys it quite a bit."
Murray has had months to prepare for this trip, but he said he's still not sure what he's going to do with his family tonight.
"I don’t plan ahead very often," Murray said, "but I saw them yesterday and I'll see them tonight. I still don't know about dinner yet, but we'll see."
-- Dave Lozo
Sharks line combinations
10.06.2010 / 10:00 AM ET
Nothing is set in stone, Sharks coach Todd McLellan says, but the team's practice Wednesday featured a potential look at their line combinations for Friday's opener with the Blue Jackets.
With the way things are broken down right now, it's tough to peg a "top line," so here's what was on the Globe Arena ice Wednesday and you can decide what line is best:
Thornton has seen time in the past with Heatley and Marleau, but he's also been told in the past that he needs to shoot more. Perhaps with Setoguchi and McGinn on his wings, that can be a more realistic goal this season.
"They've been trying to get to me shoot, but I said you got to put me with players that don't like to shoot," Thornton said with a laugh. "There's only one puck out there. With Patty scoring 40 and Heater scoring 40, it was pretty tough for me to shoot but now, I might shoot a little more, but I can't guarantee anything."
Separating the Sharks' big three spreads the scoring out and keeps teams from targeting one line. Of course, we're still a couple days away from the start of the season and a lot can change once the games count, but for now there's dangerous scorers up and down the lineup.
"I think right now with the way the lines are, it's pretty good depth," Clowe said.
-- Dave Lozo
Time for some reindeer (steak) games
10.06.2010 / 10:00 AM ET
It's been five days, but players are just now getting adjusted to the time-zone change. Joe Thornton said he got his best night's sleep last night and finally felt right this morning. So there really wasn't much motivation among the Sharks to hit the town last night and sample the Swedish cuisine.
That's likely to change tonight. While Douglas Murray is heading out with his family tonight, he said he'd recommend a place for the players to try. Ryane Clowe is open to trying anything while he's in Stockholm, but he's a little unclear on what he's supposed to eat while he's here.
"I don't even know what really the … is it reindeer meat? What do you have to try?" Clowe said, looking to Murray for assistance. "If we do go, I'm going to try some reindeer meat."
Devin Setoguchi said he found the energy to have dinner last night but didn't seem much else. When asked if he had any Swedish delicacies for dinner, Setoguchi laughed and was almost embarrassed to give his answer.
"I had fish and chips," he said with a laugh. "It wasn't Swedish meatballs or anything like that. No reindeer steak. Apparently that's tonight."
Coach Todd McLellan poked a little fun at himself when asked about his eating habits over here. He said he had enjoyed some Swedishi food last night. What has he sampled over here?
"I have no trouble sampling just about anything," McLellan said.
-- Dave Lozo
Niemi or Niittymaki in the opener?
10.06.2010 / 10:00 AM ET
Todd McLellan said he's not ready to announce if Antti Niemi or Antero Niittymaki will get the start Friday night against the Blue Jackets.
"We have talked about it quite a bit," McLellan said, failing to answer the question about his opening-night starter.
"Still don’t know."
Niemi played the team's final exhibition game on Saturday against Adler Mannheim in Germany. Niittymaki has played in two games during the preseason while Niemi has played three. Neither goalie has been very sharp, but Niemi seemed to get comfortable after letting in a soft goal early against Adler Mannheim.
-- Dave Lozo
Sharks close to naming captain
10.05.2010 / 12:45 PM ET
Rob Blake retired nearly four months ago, but the Sharks have yet to name a captain to replace him
On Tuesday in Stockholm, coach Todd McLellan said the team will have a new captain in place before the Sharks drop the puck on their season Oct. 8.
"It's getting real close," McLellan said. "We've had some input from the players themselves, which is the most important. It's their locker room. They have given us a real good indication of who they'd like to be represented by. And once again, it wasn't a clear-cut No. 1 guy, it was a group, and we'll continue to approach it that way. The coaches have an idea of what they'd like to do, management's been involved in it. So we've covered a lot of bases. So when we show up here and play Friday, we'll have a captain."
The two favorites are likely defenseman Dan Boyle and center Joe Thornton, although Joe Pavelski might be receiving some consideration for the job. But as McLellan said, no matter who receives the 'C' on their jersey, it will be a group leadership situation with the team.
-- Dave Lozo
Lilja released from tryout contract
10.05.2010 / 12:30 PM ET
Defenseman Andreas Lilja was released from his tryout contract by the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, just three days before the Helsingborg native was set to play in the team's regular-season opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Globe Arena.
When the news was broken to Lilja is unclear, but he arrived in Stockholm on Tuesday afternoon and traveled to the arena with the team. He conducted a few interviews with Swedish media upon his arrival, but he never joined the Sharks on the ice for practice.
This marks the second season in a row that Lilja came to Stockholm to play in a Compuware NHL Premiere game without ever having the chance to play. As a member of the Detroit Red Wings last season, he was suffering from concussion problems long before he touched down in Sweden, so it wasn't a surprise when he couldn't go against the St. Louis Blues.
But this time around, Lilja was healthy and playing well with the Sharks during the preseason. He always tempered his enthusiasm about getting a chance to play an NHL Premiere game this season since he was on a tryout deal, and it turned out he was right to be cautiously optimistic.
"With the Andreas Lilja situation, we knew him in the past and we knew what he could do," said Sharks coach Todd McLellan, who saw Lilja first-hand as an assistant coach with the Red Wings from 2005-08. "He came in and had a very good camp. He did everything he could to make the hockey club but a couple of our younger players stepped up and played really well throughout training camp.
"In fairness to Lils, if we kept him any longer, he would lose out on some of the other chances he had throughout the National Hockey League and around the world. We tried to do what was right for him and we tried to do what was right for our hockey club."
While McLellan spoke about the business side of the move, defensemen Niclas Wallin and Douglas Murray took the loss of their fellow Swede a little more personally.
Wallin said he planned to talk with Lilja after Tuesday's practice because he was set to fly back to the United States on Wednesday morning. Lilja is in a tough situation with his visa about to expire and a family in Detroit that may need to leave the country if he can't find a job with another NHL team.
"It's just sad because he's here in Stockholm and we have to turn him back to go and pack up," Wallin said. "His options were running out on his status in the country. He only has three more days on his visa or he has to move his family out of the country. The kids are 7 and 4 years old and in school. But it's just business. It's how it is. It's not the first time it's happened and it's not the last.
"He was happy he got a chance to show himself. He's a really good player. It's tough from last year having been out pretty much the whole year with the concussion and coming back from the playoffs."
Murray echoed Wallin's sentiments.
"Personally, it's obviously sad. He's a good friend," Murray said. "It's a business. We lose friends and gain friends every year in this business. For all I know I can get a phone call this afternoon or get a tap on the shoulder and be told I'm gone. You learn to deal with it. I wish he could've played for us, but it is what it is."
There still remains a chance that Lilja could be signed by another team before Oct. 10, the date his visa actually expires. In 478 career games, Lilja has 15 goals and 59 assists but he's known more for his physical and defensive play than his scoring touch. He was part of the Red Wings' championship season of 2007-08, playing in 12 games during the playoffs.
"He showed up in camp and he was in great shape. I'm pretty sure he's going to get a job somewhere," Wallin said. "He's a good stay-at-home defenseman, and there are other teams in other leagues that are definitely interested so I'm not worried about him."
-- Dave Lozo
Sharks arrive in something better than first class
10.05.2010 / 9:35 AM ET
The gang is all here in Stockholm after a quick, uneventful flight. I just paid 50 SEK (whatever that means) for Internet access at Globe Arena because no one at any arena in Europe seems to know the passwords for their own wi-fi. The Sharks are set to practice at some point this afternoon but there's no set time. They'll probably take the ice in about 30 minutes.
Since I'll never get to be on the plane of a professional sports team ever again, I might as well relay how absolutely giddy I was on that flight. It's not even a plane. I sat in the fourth-to-last row and it was easily the most luxurious seat I've ever had on a plane. Just endless space for walking around. There's a shower, a massive bathroom, a dining room. Every seat goes back almost all the way. Every seat has a leg rest that pops up. Free neck pillows for all. Blankets that are made from material that I can only assume were stolen from the wings of angels.
And the food. My god, the food. You know that reheated meal you get on commercial flights? Not here. You board the plane the flight attendant asks you what you want for breakfast. Since that's stunning, you ask what your choices are. She laughs and then reads off every breakfast food you can imagine. French toast. Waffles. Pancakes. Scrambled egg whites. They've got it all.
The Sharks also have four or five huge crates of DVDs the guys can watch on their flights. The collection has everything from Spaceballs to Bride Wars. I didn't see anyone watching Bride Wars, but it was an option.
It's just fantastic. And now I have to go to work. It's good thing I lack integrity or it might have been comprimised today.
-- Dave Lozo
Good morning, Stockholm
10.05.2010 / 12:15 AM ET
As I write this, many of you are probably just winding down for bed on the East Coast or maybe just finishing dinner on the West Coast. Over here in Europe, the place where the history comes from, I am up Aat the crack of dawn to go to the airport and board the Sharks charter flight to Stockholm.
The dress for this flight is business casual. That's for players and myself. It was nice for once to see a message on a white board and have it apply to me. "No track suits," was there for all to see in red marker on Monday morning, which means I can't wear my sweet Teddy KGB track suit to the airport. Oh well.
The Sharks' ETA in Stockholm is about noon local time, but don't hold me to that. They will practice this afternoon, though. So check in later if you're awake because I'm sure there will be some sort of fan swell waiting for guys like Douglas Murray, Niclas Wallin and Andreas Lilja at the airport and/or hotel.
And in case you missed it, here's my story from today (yesterday?) about the Sharks' trip to the military hospital in Landstuhl.
-- Dave Lozo
Lilja, Wallin excited to return to Sweden
10.04.2010 / 2:00 PM ET
It's easy to assume that just because a player is from Sweden that a trip to Stockholm would be no big deal. But for Sharks defensemen Niclas Wallin and Andreas Lilja, the trip is almost as big of a novelty as it is for anyone else who is going for the first time.
Wallin is from Boden, which is in the northern part of Sweden and is about 12 hours away from Stockholm by car. Lilja's hometown of Helsingborg is five hours away, so it's not exactly a day trip for him, either.
Lilja and Wallin have side-by-side lockers here at SAP Arena, and they had no trouble interjecting their thoughts into each other's interview this morning.
"I've got 14 coming from my hometown," Wallin said.
"The whole town is coming -- 14," Lilja responded.
After the jokes concluded, including a particularly sharp zinger from Lilja when he said Wallin might as well be from Finland, Wallin was allowed to talk about his excitement about visiting Stockholm.
"It's going to be a good time," Wallin said. "I know Stockholm a little bit, but every time I go I'm amazed by the city. I'm excited for the boys who've never been there."
Lilja is just as excited as Wallin, but he's in a position where he must temper his enthusiasm a bit. He came to Sharks camp on a tryout contract and has yet to come to terms on an NHL deal. The preseason is over and the regular season is just four days away for the Sharks, but Wallin said he's hopeful something will be worked out before the Sharks face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Oct. 8.
This would've been the second straight year Lilja would've played in Stockholm, but a concussion he suffered while with the Detroit Red Wings in February 2009 knocked him out until February 2010. The Red Wings opened last season against the St. Louis Blues in Stockholm, but Lilja was still feeling the effects of a punch delivered by Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber.
Lilja was able to make the trip with the Red Wings last year, but it was only to act as a tour guide to his teammates.
"It was tough not to play. I got to be honest," Lilja said. "I still had a lot of fun. I was kind of like an ambassador for the team. I was showing the rest of the staff a good time in town. It was fun."
Lilja became a free agent this summer, but the 35-year-old was unable to find any takers. Finally on Sept. 15, the Sharks gave him a chance to join the team as a tryout. He's made the most of it and will likely be part of the team's final pairing if and when a contract gets signed.
It's not a great situation, but for a guy who thought his career might've been over, he's not complaining.
"The first couple months, I was just trying to stay positive and trying to get back," Lilja said. "I thought for sure I was going to get back. When it got to be six, seven months, I started to get really frustrated because I didn't know what was going to happen. I had a couple doctors tell me I wasn't going to play again, and then I was really frustrated."
But a third opinion ended up being the best one. He visited a doctor in Vancouver who got Lilja on the right path.
"When I went to his office, I had headaches for seven months. When I left, I had didn't have a headache for three days," Lilja explained.
Lilja explained that some doctors originally thought a clot that was discovered in his brain was causing the headaches. Wallin, listening to the story the entire time, waited for his opportunity to get Lilja back for his earlier joke about his hometown.
"It was just a bunch of blood vessels clogged, kind of like a big fist," Lilja said while making a fist to explain his situation.
Wallin leaned over Lilja and made a fist of his own. "Now that's a big fist," he joked.
Just a couple of Swedes having a good time before they return home for some NHL hockey. The Sharks' plane departs at 10 a.m. local time Tuesday.
-- Dave Lozo
Sharks holding open practice
10.04.2010 / 7:30 AM ET
The Sharks got back to work today and are holding an open practice at SAP Arena in front of about 300 fans. Afterward, there will be an autograph session. Following that, the team will hop on a bus to visit wounded U.S. soldiers at a military hospital in nearby Landstuhl.
The fans here are really enjoying this practice. A few plays that would roll off the backs of American/Canadian fans are drawing ooohs and aaahs from the fans in attendance. One Shark batted a puck out of mid-air and off the crossbar, and that drew a mild ovation.
This is the team's final full day in Germany before flying to Stockholm tomorrow morning. More to come later.
-- Dave Lozo
My day in Mannheim
10.03.2010 / 1:30 PM ET
With the Sharks spending the day on a golf course in Heidelberg and not having any availability, I was left to my own devices in Mannheim today. I'm basically by myself here because there's no other writers with the team besides the Sharks' Web site guys and my fellow NHL employees are staying in Heidelberg. Basically, I am Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, only instead of a home it's a country where no one speaks my language. And I've never spent any time with Michael Jackson.
In the interest of full disclosure, my day in Mannheim didn't start till 2 p.m. My body's internal clock is absolutely wrecked right now. I fell asleep Friday at 9 p.m. and woke up at 6 a.m. the next day. Then last night I was up until 3 a.m. because I was unable to wind down when I got back to the hotel. The players said Saturday after their game with Adler Mannheim that a lot of them felt the same way, but players like Douglas Murray of Sweden and Antti Niemi of Finland said by the time the team gets to Stockholm, everyone should be adjusted. So what does a 32-year-old American on his own in a foreign land do on an NFL Sunday? Why go to a museum, of course. There isn't much to do in Mannheim. I mean, I guess there isn't. There's no amusement park or main attraction everyone who comes here needs to see. The population of Mannheim is about 300,000, which means it has about 50,000 fewer people than Wichita. So it's not big, but I've been told size doesn't matter so I went out and about to soak in some culture.
My first stop was the museum, which I believe is called Kunsthalle. It was two floors with a lot of different types of art. There was your basic portraits and drawings of old stuff, especially a lot of stuff from Italy. There was a map of Italy on the floor. I didn't get it, but when in Rome. Or Mannheim. Whatever. A lot of it was good. I'm not art connoisseur but I enjoy looking at people's interpretations of reality. I enjoy a nice portrait or landscape. I'm not big into art that's not really art.
For instance, remember that episode of The Simpsons where Homer becomes an artist after he tries throwing away his grill? I hate that stuff. There was something like that at Kunsthalle and I just wasn't having it. Welding together random things doesn't make you an artist. It makes you deranged. Also, if you're painting is titled "Grey" because you just took some grey paint and ran it all over your canvas, you're not an artist. You're lazy.
Otherwise it was a nice time. There was one room that was just this huge wall of mirrors that vibrated. It was freaky yet cool. You would stand in front of the mirror and all of a sudden you get all blurry when they mirrors shook. It was like something out of a horror movie. Between that and the life-size praying mantis sculpture, I'm pretty sure I won't be able to sleep tonight.
After that, it was basically like the first Lord of the Rings movie -- lots of walking around with not much happening. I'm not George Costanza or the kid from 500 Days of Summer, so I'm not a big architecture guy. But I can appreciate the buildings here and how they are so much different than what I see back home. There's plenty of pictures on my Twitter account you check out. They'll tell the story better than I can.
Besides that, I don't know what else there is to say. The city is very pretty. I don't mind spending a day on my own, but this is the kind of place you'd like to have someone else with you. I'm no Ryan Bingham. Company would've been nice today. If someone isn't there for me to laugh with about all the words that end in -fahrt here, what's the point?
The Sharks are scheduled to practice at 1 p.m. tomorrow. I can't wait.
-- Dave Lozo
Weary Sharks getting a rest
10.02.2010 / 7:15 PM ET
I just spent 15 minutes updating this portion of the blog and now it's gone forever. Instead of trying to remember it all, I will give you the Princess Bride-esque short-short version.
The Sharks have tomorrow off. Most of them will golf or sleep late. They expect their bodies to be adjusted by the time they leave for Stockholm on Tuesday morning. They have one more practice Monday and will visit a nearby U.S. military hospital afterward.
The Addler Mannheim people were great. They went out of their way to track down Lukas Lang after the game. He was getting treatment, but Lang then tracked me down to talk about his effort. It was nice of him and the team.
I am hungry for I did not eat at the rink. I need to see if my hotel has food available at 1:27 a.m. I've shaken my David Puddy 8-Ball jacket, and all signs point to no.
At least I remembered the Puddy joke.
-- Dave Lozo
Adler takes 1-0 lead into break
10.02.2010 / 1:45 PM ET
Adler Mannheim had the better of play during the first 20 minutes and hold a 1-0 lead on the San Joes Sharks through one period. Nathan Robinson's goal has held up so far.
It's not that the Sharks looked sluggish or out of it. It's that Adler was just that much better. There are no shots posted anywhere in the building, but it wouldn't surprise if the Sharks were outshot by a 2-to-1 margin.
Dan Boyle had the best chance during a power play, but Adler goaltender Fred Brathwaite was there to stop the blast from the point. Antti Niemi rebounded from his shaky goal allowed and made two or three tough saves to keep the score 1-0.
Brathwaite is scheduled to leave the game at the halfway point of the second period, but if Adler still leads 1-0, will he still come out? Stay tuned.
-- Dave Lozo
Adler Mannheim grabs early lead
10.02.2010 / 1:00 PM ET
With a raucous crowd at SAP Arena chanting, cheering and banging what must be a drum somewhere, Adler Mannheim whipped the home fans into an even bigger frenzy by scoring in the first four minutes to grab a 1-0 lead against the San Jose Sharks.
A long dump-in by Nathan Robinson bounced and flipped and handcuffed Sharks goalie Antti Niemi, who fumbled the puck a few feet in front of him. Defenseman Mike Moore and Niclas Wallin couldn't clear, and the puck found its way onto the stick of Manuel Klinge, who buried it into a gaping net.
-- Dave Lozo
Premiere vet Niemi gets start
10.02.2010 / 6:30 AM ET
This is Antti Niemi's second straight year of overseas travel on his way to an NHL Premiere event. He was with the Chicago Blackhawks last season when they went to Prague. Now he's here in Mannheim with the Shark, and he said last year's trip was a great way for the Blackhawks to come together at the start of their Stanley Cup season.
"I think it was great for all the players to get together and be in a small group and doing stuff and getting to know each other early in the season," said Niemi, who will start Saturday night's exhibition game against Adler Mannheim. "It's kind of similar for me (this year). Different place, different team, so it's a new experience."
The plan is for Niemi to play all of Saturday's game, but coach Todd McLellan left the door open a crack for the chance of Antero Niittymaki seeing the ice tonight. The Sharks will have six days between tonight's game and their regular-season opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Stockholm on Oct. 8.
If Niemi chooses to, he can play the puck as if it's 2004. Tonight's Sharks-Adler Mannheim game will played using NHL rules, but there is no trapezoid on the SAP Arena ice. But don't expect Niemi to wander too far, as McLellan said he wants his team to stick to their usual game while on foreign, Olympic-sized ice.
The Sharks are allowed to dress an extra player tonight, and it will be a defenseman and not goaltender Thomas Greiss, a native of Germany. McLellan wants to run his defensemen out there as evenly as possible, so he said there won't really be pairings tonight. Andreas Lilja remains on his tryout contract, so tonight will be another chance to show he's worth signing before the regular season.
-- Dave Lozo
Sharks make one kid's day
10.01.2010 / 1:30 PM ET
I showed up to SAP Arena at about 1 p.m. for the Sharks' 1:30 practice. Unfortunately, I was the only one there. The Sharks' got caught in traffic between their hotel and the rink, causing them to be delayed for an hour.
Sure, I wasn't happy about this, considering I was operating on about 2 hours of plane sleep and the sitting in a hallway surrounded by people I couldn't communicate with was draining my computer's battery and my own battery.
But it turned out I wasn't alone. Twelve-year-old Jonny was seated rinkside in a home Joe Thornton Sharks jersey just waiting for the team to arrive. So you can imagine his disappointment when he saw me. He asked me if I was with the Sharks. I said no. The disappointment grew. I told him the team was running late but they'd get there eventually.
Johnny was able to get into the building because his mother was an employee there. But why was he such a big Sharks fan living in Germany? His father was from Sacramento, so he instilled the Sharks fandom into him. Jonny's dad couldn't be there, but he assured me his dad would be "so jealous" about what eventually happened when the players arrived.
First, Joe Thornton himself signed the jersey. Other players followed suit, including Antti Niemi, Scott Nichol and Dany Heatley. Jonny asked for my autograph -- twice -- but I assured him that if I signed that jersey, it would be the biggest regret of his life 10 years from now.
It was pretty nice to see so many guys who had every right to be crabby and miserable after a 12-hour flight and 90 minutes sitting in traffic to not take the initiative with a shy kid who was clearly the biggest Sharks fan in a 100-mile radius at the moment. They gave Jonny a day he'll never forget.
-- Dave Lozo
No dice for Greiss
10.01.2010 / 1:15 PM ET
For two months this summer, Thomas Greiss had every reason in the world to be optimistic. The 24-year-old goaltender wasn't exactly getting his big break when the San Jose Sharks parted ways with incumbent starter Evgeni Nabokov in early July, but a window of opportunity had opened.
Sure, team signed Antero Niittymaki to be the starter, but he wasn't a proven commodity like Nabokov, who appeared in 71 games last season and was showing no signs of slowing. But with the perennial Vezina contender out of the way, there was certainly a chance for Greiss to see more action this season after playing in just 16 games last season.
That all changed on Sept. 3 when the Sharks signed free-agent goaltender Antti Niemi, who backstopped the Chicago Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup last season. Suddenly Greiss went from a valuable backup goaltender with potential to steal playing time to the organization's No. 3 goaltender who was likely to start the season in the AHL or find himself in a trade.
"Sure, I was hoping I'd get some more ice time," Greiss said about the signing of Niittymaki and departure of Nabokov. "But the situation is what it is. I just show up every day and see what happens."
Now, when the Sharks take on Adler Mannheim on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. local time, the German-born Greiss will be relegated to third goalie duty instead of getting a meaningful start on home soil. Niemi is expected to start with Niittymaki possibly playing the second half of the game.
"It's a little bittersweet," Greiss said. "I'm just happy to be here, see my family, see a couple of friends. It's nice to be back in Germany."
Coach Todd McLellan, who said he's not sure if the Sharks will carry three goaltenders when they return from Europe, said Greiss has done his best to handle the situation.
"There's no beating around the bush. It has (been tough on Greiss)," said McLellan. "He's given us everything he's had for a couple years in the development phase and all of a sudden, two goaltenders get signed. So it's a tough thing for him. But Thomas is a very, high-end, quality individual who handles himself extremely well. The one thing he's done is put his nose to the grindstone and worked extremely hard throughout camp. That should open up some opportunities for him."
McLellan sounded as if it's only a matter of what team grabs Greiss, who will most likely not pass through waivers unclaimed. Greiss posted a very respectable 7-4-1 record with a 2.69 goals-against average and .912 save percentage last season and has stopped 28 of 30 shots during this preseason. He turns 25 in January.
-- Dave Lozo
Sharks arrive, better late than never
10.01.2010 / 1:00 PM ET
The Sharks just flew in to Germany, and boy, are their arms, legs and everything else tired.
As if a 12-hour flight from San Jose to Germany wasn't enough, a half-hour ride to the SAP Arena turned into a 90-minute drive due to heavy traffic. Even worse, the Sharks' equipment truck was stuck further back in traffic thanks to an accident.
The players were tentatively scheduled to practice at SAP Arena at 1:30, but they didn't get here until 2. When it looked like their equipment wasn't going to get to the arena in time -- Adler Mannheim is facing Iserlohn at 7:30, putting a limit on the Sharks' ice time -- players planned to just work out before heading back to their hotel in Heidelberg.
But the truck finally arrived at about 3:30, allowing coach Todd McLellan to get in a brisk, hour-long practice. The goal was just to get his players doing something, anything after the marathon travel session they endured.
"It was just to get our bodies moving again after the flight," McLellan said. "We played the night before, flew all night, three-hour delay with the equipment, traffic and whatnot. So it was more important for us just to sweat, feel a little bit better, set us up for a good night's rest and hopefully a good effort tomorrow."
Sharks star Dany Heatley was exhausted after staying on the ice longer than most. There was plenty of laughs to be had as the players showered and changed before boarding their 5 p.m. bus back to the hotel, but there were looks of exhaustion throughout the room.
One player who seemed to be basking in his element was defenseman Douglas Murray, who is familiar with the 12-hour flight to Europe. He is a native of Sweden, so he didn't see what all the fuss was about.
"I feel how you're supposed to feel I guess," Murray said. "I've done this trip back and forth plenty of times. Now I just try to stay up and try to go to sleep as late possible so you can get into the rhythm because the first couple of days are the most important ones for getting into a rhythm."
-- Dave Lozo
It's Mannheim time: My journey begins
09.30.2010 / 4:45 PM ET
I'm off to the airport for what I am hoping will be a 7:30 p.m. flight that gets me into Frankfurt by 9:30 a.m. local time. I'm taking off from Newark, where the weather has been absolutely brutal all day. It's been monsooning (I've decided that's a word, despite what the red squiggly line under it says) since this morning and it's supposed to be same through tomorrow morning, making me wonder if my flight will take off on time. Anyone who has ever been in Terminal C at EWR knows that's the last place in the world you want to spend a lengthy weather delay. I'm going to be like Tom Hanks in The Terminal only without Catherine Zeta-Jones flirting with me.
The Sharks are planning to practice in Mannheim at 1:30 p.m. local time, which means any sort of delay is going throw off my timetable. It's my first time in Europe so there's no doubt I'm getting lost somewhere between Frankfurt and my hotel in Mannheim. I really want to use this practice as a day to fill up my recorder and catch up with these guys, seeing as how I'm not a Sharks beat reporter and haven't been around the team since the West Finals.
There's plenty of stuff happening that's worth writing about while they are in Germany -- Greiss, Heatley, Lilja's situation, the eventual naming of a captain -- so I really don't want to miss this practice.
What can you expect from this blog with the goofy title? First of all, it was either "Taking Stockholm" or "Stockholm: Lozo Never Sleeps" and the first one seemed more appropriate. This blog will have all the usual news and notes from the Sharks in Germany and Jackets in Sweden (Risto Pakarinen is with Columbus while I'm in Germany), but with so much down time for the Sharks while they are in Mannheim, I'll also try to provide a look at what the city is like, that sort of thing.
The Sharks are in Mannheim for four days but play just one game, so you'll get to read about any adventures I may have in my spare time. Perhaps I'll meet a beautiful yet cold blond woman who talks me into searching for the Holy Grail, only to see her turned to dust when she chooses....poorly.
That's it for now. I'm little upset I couldn't work a Top Secret reference into this post, but it's early still.
-- Dave Lozo
Report: Lilja will sign with Sharks
09.30.2010 / 4:00 PM ET
Although the Sharks have yet to confirm the news, Swedish Web site Expressen is reporting that defenseman Andreas Lilja has made the team. Lilja was in camp with the Sharks on a tryout contract, but it seems he has done enough to make the team as either a sixth or seventh defenseman.
Lilja had a goal and an assist in San Jose's 6-2 win against Vancouver on Thursday night. He missed a full calendar year between February 2009 and February 2010 due to concussion-related problems. The 35-year-old native of Helsinborg, Sweden, told Expressen his agent was working out a deal with the Sharks and that he'd be on Thursday's flight to Germany.
Lilja was a member of the Detroit Red Wings last season for their trip to Stockholm, but concussion problems kept him from playing in his home country.
-- Dave Lozo
Sharks leave for Germany today
09.30.2010 / 11:30 AM ET
After closing the North American leg of their preseason schedule with a 6-2 win against the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night, the San Jose Sharks will spend Thursday flying to Germany. The flight from Northern California will take off at about 2 p.m. PDT and land in Germany at about 11 a.m. the next day. It's a 12-hour flight with a nine-hour time difference.
The adjustment will need to be a quick one as the Sharks are set to practice at the SAP Arena in Mannheim at 1:30 p.m on Friday. The Sharks will then face the Mannheim Eagles of the DEL on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. local time, 10:30 a.m. PDT.
The Sharks are 2-4 in the preseason after Wednesday's win against the Canucks, who were without many of the big stars. The Sedin twins and goaltender Roberto Luongo didn't make the trip, but Sharks coach Todd McLellan said getting the win before leaving for Europe was key.
"We needed to win a game before we left, so this was a big win for us," McLellan told the San Jose Mercury News.
Forward Jamal Mayers and defenseman Jason Demers didn't play due to minor upper-body injuries, but they are expected to be ready to go Saturday night in Mannheim. -- Dave Lozo
Sharks exhibition game in Germany online
09.28.2010 / 3:00 PM ET
The San Jose Sharks announced Tuesday that their Oct. 2 exhibition game with the Mannheim Eagles of the DEL will be available online. The radio webcast will be available on the team's Web site starting at 10:30 a.m. PDT.
The tune-up game will be the final preseason game for the Sharks before flying to Stockholm to face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Oct. 8-9 as part of the 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere series.
-- Dave Lozo
Pahlsson ready for homecoming
09.27.2010 / 1:30 PM ET
When the San Jose Sharks and Columbus Blue Jackets take the ice at Globe Arena in Stockholm on Oct. 8 as part of the Compuware NHL Premiere Series, a combined five Swedes will be playing their first NHL game on home soil.
Three Jackets (Sammy Pahlsson of Ange, Kristian Huselius of Osterhaninge, Anton Stralman of Tibro) and three Sharks (Douglas Murray of Bromma, Niclas Wallin of Boden and Andreas Lilja of Helsinborg) will receive the special honor of playing in the country where they grew up. Pahlsson, who is entering his second year with the Blue Jackets, is hoping the fan support lands with his team.
"I hope so," Pahlsson said. "I don't know who they're going to cheer on but I hope at least my family and my friends are going to cheer for us."
Pahlsson is just like any other Swede who has received the chance to play in Stockholm the last few years. He has to rein in the excitement of getting to play in front of friends and family who otherwise don't get to see him play in the NHL. With most NHL games starting between 7 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. in the United States, the time difference makes it hard for Pahlsson's fellow Swedes to watch him play in North America.
"It's a big honor for me to get a chance to play in my home country," Pahlsson said. "I played my whole NHL career in North America far away from friends and family at bad times, usually in the middle of the night back in Sweden. So it's fun for me to get a chance to play when everyone can watch.
"I'm getting tickets, but I don't think I'll have time to hang out with anyone. Maybe I can at least say hi to all those people." -- Dave Lozo