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900 For Marleau

by San Jose Sharks Staff / San Jose Sharks
Tonight, 30-year-old Patrick Marleau will play his 900th National Hockey League game when he and the San Jose Sharks play hosts to Ottawa. More impressively, all 900 will have come with the Sharks. Playing an entire career, or even the bulk of one’s career with the same team, has become more and more difficult in the era of the salary cap and free agency.


“It’s definitely nice,” Marleau, the second overall pick in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, said. “It would be nice to get 1,000 here as well.”

All of the players who were drafted in the top five with Marleau in 1997 have played for more than one team. No. 1 overall pick Joe Thornton (Boston) is now Marleau’s San Jose teammate. Olli Jokinen was the third choice overall by the Kings. He’s in Calgary. No. 4 selection Roberto Luongo has settled with Vancouver, his third NHL team.

“I pulled Patty aside and congratulated him,” Head Coach Todd McLellan said. “I don’t think you see that a lot in sports and I think it speaks volumes about Patty Marleau.”

Some of the younger Sharks would like to emulate Marleau’s career.

“Ideally you would stay with the team you got drafted with,” defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who debuted in 2006-07, said.

“Nine hundred (games) is a milestone,” defenseman Derek Joslin, who’s played in 26 NHL games (all with San Jose), said. “That’s something every player wants. You always want to play for the same organization. Where you’re drafted, that’s where the heart is.”

Marleau acknowledges there’s something special about wearing one sweater (albeit through three different incarnations) since he scored an NHL preseason goal as a 17-year-old.

“Growing up as a kid, you always recognized the superstars who played with the same team,” Marleau said. “I looked up to (Steve) Yzerman, (Mario) Lemieux and (Joe) Sakic and they played with the same team. That’s something you aspire to as a kid.”

When players are selected on draft day and handed their new sweater for the first time, there’s an idealistic dream of playing in that city for a great team and winning multiple championships. The championship may not have been captured quite yet, but Marleau and the Sharks are once again finding themselves in the position of leading the NHL in points. Quite simply, he’s leading the career most see in front of them on draft day.

“He’s one our best, if not the best player right now,” Vlasic said. “You have to be a great player for it to happen. Most all the fans and the organization appreciate him and he likes playing here.

Marleau appreciates what he’s been given on the ice in San Jose.

“Obviously all the friendships, the teammates and all the playoff rounds we’ve won,” he said.

Plus there’s the personal side as Marleau is very typical of a lot of San Jose residents. He’s from somewhere else (Aneroid, Saskatchewan), but he’s settled down in Silicon Valley.

“I have roots here,” Marleau said. “My wife is from here and I have kids who were born here.”

Thornton notes it’s not surprising Marleau is playing in his 900th game at such a relatively young age.

“He doesn’t miss games,” Thornton said. “It’s incredible. I hope he stays here into his 40s.”

FAMILIAR FACES, FAMILIAR LOOK…ALMOST
Left wing Dany Heatley will play his first game against his former club tonight, but there isn’t a lot of anxiety about the contest.

“After the first shift, it will be all hockey,” Heatley said.

As for the Ottawa ties, Heatley, who came to the Sharks before the season from the Senators in a deal that sent Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek to Ottawa, hooked up with some former teammates the day prior.

“I had dinner with a couple of guys last night,” Heatley said.

Thornton was asked by the Canadian media this morning about his thoughts when Heatley was traded to San Jose and he did not hold back.

“Are you kidding me? A 50-goal scorer? Come on over and give me a hug,” Thornton said with a smile.

The flip side of the Heatley trade is Cheechoo and Michalek will be on the other side of the ice.

“It’s always interesting playing against old teammates,” Marleau said. “Maybe we’ll talk to each other in warmups, but once the puck drops, it’s a hockey game.”

A HOMECOMING OF SORTS
Joslin and fellow rookie Jamie McGinn both played their junior hockey in Ottawa and went to many Senators games when the schedule allowed.

“We’d see quite a few,” Joslin said. “Our owner had tickets, so if we had a day off, all we had to do was ask.”

So it will be a big game for the two as they cheered for the Senators a lot during their formative years.

“I watched them a lot,” Joslin said. “They were always in the limelight in Ottawa. There are always a couple of teams you look forward to playing and this is one for me.”

The two will have a few extra fans staying up late on the East Coast to watch the contest.

“There are still some players with the 67s from when I was there,” Joslin said. “I’m sure they’ll be tuning in.”

PLAYER OF THE MONTH
Thornton has been selected as the Sharks Foundation “Player of the Month” for the month of November. Thornton will be recognized before tonight’s game.

Thornton tallied 20 points in November, including a league-leading 16 assists.

Overall, Thornton is tied for first in the NHL scoring race with 37 points (seven goals and 30 assists) and leads the NHL in assists. He ended the month with an active eight-game point streak (15 points, three goals and 12 assists). On Nov. 20 vs. the Philadelphia Flyers, Thornton tied a franchise-record with four assists in a 6-3 victory and recorded his 600th assist in the game.

FROM THE CREASE
Thomas Greiss will start in goal tonight as Evgeni Nabokov gets a night off.

One topic in the locker room this morning was how Florida’s Tomas Vokoun was hit on the side of the mask by teammate Keith Ballard after Atlanta’s Ilya Kovalchuk scored a goal last night. Ballard was so frustrated that he two-handed his stick on the goal post and clipped Vokoun’s face.

Nabokov noted he had never been on the bad side of such an incident, but did acknowledge slamming his own stick in frustration. But just one time.

“I did it once,” Nabokov said of something that happened to him when he was playing at Kentucky in the American Hockey League.“Then I had a conference in the office (with the late Sharks Goaltending Coach Warren Strelow). He told me if I ever did it again, I wouldn’t play again.”

NEXT GAME
Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. start against Ottawa can be found at www.ticketmaster.com or the HP Pavilion Ticket Office. The contest will be available on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.





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