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Training Camp

Marleau working to fit in with Maple Leafs

38-year-old shows off speed in on-ice debut after 19 seasons with Sharks

by Dave McCarthy / Correspondent

NIAGARA FALLS, Ontario -- Patrick Marleau spent his 38th birthday Friday making his on-ice debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

After 19 seasons with the San Jose Sharks, Marleau found himself a little more dialed in to the details as the Maple Leafs opened training camp after signing a three-year, $18.75 million contract with Toronto on July 2.

"I'm definitely paying a lot more closer attention to things that are put up on the whiteboards, giving two or three looks and asking a lot of questions just to see what is expected in certain situations," Marleau said. "I'm just trying to make sure I know what I'm doing and doing it the right way."

It's the first time since Marleau began his NHL career in 1997 that he's attending training camp with a team other than the Sharks. He admitted it's been an adjustment getting used to wearing a Maple Leafs jersey, though joining his new teammates for informal skates earlier this month has helped.

"I've had a couple of weeks putting it on, so it's getting normal to me. It wasn't too bad today," Marleau said. "It's a little different, but it's exciting and it's a great bunch of guys, so I'm having fun with it."

Marleau skated Friday on a line with center Frederik Gauthier and Leo Komarov, who played right wing after playing last season as a left wing. Nazem Kadri would have centered the line if he had not been held out of the practice with a minor upper-body injury.

Komarov had no issues with switching sides to accommodate Marleau, who had 46 points (27 goals, 19 assists) last season and has 1,082 NHL points (508 goals, 574 assists).

"He's a legend, he's a great player, and it's nice to be around him to just see what he's doing," Komarov said. "He's going to help us a lot. He is fast, he's surprising fast, but he's got so much skill."

Video: Patrick Marleau speaks with members of the media

Defenseman Jake Gardiner, known for his speed, worked out in the same group as Marleau and was impressed by how fast he was.

"Even skating with Marleau last week, I couldn't believe how fast he still is, it's crazy," Gardiner said. "He's sneaky fast too; all of a sudden he'll just be flying up the ice and there he goes, so it's good to add some more speed to our team and obviously a veteran presence."

Marleau brings 1,493 regular-season games and 177 games of Stanley Cup Playoff experience to the Maple Leafs. That should be invaluable to a team that featured eight or more rookies in the lineup in most games last season.

Coach Mike Babcock cautioned to not necessarily read too much into line combinations at this point but seemed hopeful that a line of Marleau, Kadri and Komarov could find some traction.

"It's just basically getting him in here and getting him going and not worrying about that too much. We have all of September to get that figured out," Babcock said. "I told Patty as soon as he got here in the scrimmages; he's been with those guys basically the whole time, if that can work for us, that would be really good. I'm not saying that's going to, we'll talk about those things and we'll see what's best for the team."

Now that he's the new guy for the first time in 20 years, Marleau is hoping his natural instincts take over as he finds a fit with a new team.

"Probably just turning the brain off and just playing sometimes, not over thinking things systemwise," Marleau said of adjusting to a new team. "We're learning the system right now so there's a lot of similarities, and probably just not second-guessing myself and just playing [is best]."

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