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Just a matter of time for Heatley, Thornton

by Larry Wigge
DENVER -- No goals. No assists, but ...

When you see San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan send Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley over the boards together, the opposition starts wondering when the magic is going to begin.

"Dany's had 50 goals in a season twice, right?" asked new Colorado Avalanche captain Adam Foote. "And now you put him with the best passer in the game. What do you think is going to happen?"

Game 1 of Dany Heatley's career with the Sharks wound up a work in progress as the Avalanche beat San Jose 5-2 Thursday night on Opening Night for both teams. For the night, Heatley, Thornton and linemate Devin Setoguchi each had three shots.

Still, the resume is there for all to see. Heatley was the second pick in the 2000 Entry Draft by the Atlanta Thrashers. He won the Calder Trophy in 2001-02, after putting up 26 goals and 67 points. He emerged as a star the following season, totaling 41 goals and 89 points. Then, Dany racked up 180 goals and 362 points in 317 games with Ottawa, posting 50-goal seasons in his first two years with the Senators before falling off to 41 in 2007-08 and 39 last season.

It doesn't take a super scout to see the 6-foot-4, 211-pound, 28-year-old power forward's stride or his ability to protect the puck and shoot or pass in traffic while on the fly. But in hockey, chemistry is key.

"When I went from Atlanta to Ottawa, there was an adjustment there and there will no doubt be a adjustment here, but I believe in time things will get better and better," Heatley said shortly before his Mile High debut. "Joe had the same kind of adjustments in Boston and here."

With Thornton and Heatley, there is no doubt that Dany will be close to 50 goals again this season. On the ice, Heatley's eyes light with fire like the best of the best goal scorers in the NHL. Off the ice, his words are confident, but measured.

"I guess we'll see," Heatley explained. "Hopefully, Joe and I can push each other. If you want to cast us in roles, he's obviously one of the best passers in the world and  I like to shoot the puck a lot. Should work, but you got to just let it happen."

There are no ifs, ands or buts, however. And Heatley's eyes tell the story as he speaks passionately about his new team.

"The Sharks are a fast team, an attacking team, all the 'D' can move the puck, and for a player who likes to play that style, it fits to what I bring to the ice perfectly," he said. "When you come to a new team, especially one that won the Presidents' Trophy, obviously they did a lot of things right.

"For me, it's learning to play within this system. That's first," Heatley continued. "But what I see with Todd McLellan's style of play is that you do your job both ways and Todd gives you the green light to do the things you do the best. This system rewards you for being you."

Asking for a trade in Atlanta, asking for a trade in Ottawa and then refusing to give his approval to a trade to Edmonton this summer tell us that the heat is on for Heatley to succeed in San Jose, where the Sharks did have the best record in the NHL last season before succumbing to No. 8 seed Anaheim in the first round of the playoffs.

But Sharks GM Doug Wilson says Heatley's reputation as a malcontent couldn't be further from the truth.

"We did our homework on this one, from Wayne Thomas (assistant GM of the Sharks) knowing Dany when he was at the University of Wisconsin to Todd McLellan coaching him with the Canadian National Team, to Bob Nicholson and Steve Yzerman (Canadian Olympic Team Execs), to Peter Chiarelli (former assistant GM in Ottawa). That's a lot of positive input. To add a player of Dany's talent and skills set is a rare thing.

"We're completely comfortable with the type of player Dany is. More important, we're comfortable with the type of person that he is. Some of the best players in this league have been traded to other teams and have gone onto have great success."

Players like Joe Thornton.

"Dany is lights out one of the purest goal-scorers in the game," said Thornton. "And he's already found out that he has a clean slate here."

"Players who play with me know who I am," Heatley said. "It was a long and somewhat lonely summer with this hanging over my head. But when I look back on it, it was worth it to be here."

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