It had been more than 500 days since a Sharks game had been played at HP Pavilion, and it was just the first exhibition game of the 2005-06 campaign, but there was no question hockey was back on Sunday afternoon. Part of the excitement was from the style of play, due largely to the new NHL rules, along with the fans exuberance for hockey's return.
"The refs did a good job," said Wayne Primeau. "We kept our sticks on the ice. All through camp, Ron (Wilson) and his staff have instilled in us that we can't hook, clutch and hold."
"It was pretty much what we expected them to call," said Captain Patrick Marleau. "The refs were in their first game too and I think they did a really good job."
Sharks players had heard of the 90 percent renewal rate at HP Pavilion, but they were excited to see the strong numbers for the preseason contest.
"I was shocked," said Primeau. "To see all the fans coming out of the Sharks head, it was great to be part of again. The fans were great, we won and it seemed like we didn't miss a beat."
"It was good to see so many of them back," said Marleau. "I didn't know what to expect, but I'm glad they're excited to have us back."
The Sharks bench boss thinks the fans will only enjoy the action more as things go along.
"They had some really good players not in the game, but we didn't have Marco Sturm or Alyn McCauley in either," said Ron Wilson. "Tonight I thought we were excellent about not taking penalties. I've been harping on it. They (the referees) are going to call everything every game."
The threat of the penalties resulted in a very quick contest.
"That was the fastest exhibition game I've seen and it was faster than most regular season and playoff games," said Wilson. "I can't wait for all the regulars to be in the lineup. It's going to be fun."
A few familiar names were making first or second impressions to the HP Pavilion faithful. 2005 first round pick Devin Setoguchi scored a goal along with rookie hopeful Ryane Clowe. Marcel Goc, the 2001 first round pick, who is remembered for his playoff heroics, but has yet to play in a regular season contest, garnered an assist, as did 2004 first round pick Lukas Kaspar.
"Ron is giving me a lot of opportunity to play," said Setoguchi. "I'm not stopping there. I'm going to keep going and see how long I can stay here. Right now my game is stepping up to a higher level, but it has a long way to go. I just want to take it a step higher each time."
Setoguchi plays in a stellar junior hockey city in Saskatoon, but he enjoyed the NHL atmosphere.
"I've never been in front of a crowd like this before," said Setoguchi. "I'm glad we got the win for them and I hope we keep it going."
Clowe, who had a stellar season for Cleveland last year, is hoping to stick around as well. His goal was the game-winner and it came unassisted.
"Last year with the lockout, the quality of players in the AHL helped me," said Clowe. "Tonight I played with Primeau and (Jonathan) Cheechoo and I think we meshed well."
His linemates thought so as well.
"I really enjoyed playing with him," said Primeau. "He is strong on the puck and he gets from A to B. He has a great opportunity to make this team."
Plus another rather important person likes what he's seen during Clowe's training camp.
"He looks like he's ready to play in the NHL," said Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson. "It's going to get harder each game for him. You could say I'm pretty impressed."
Whether the game needs it or not, the shootout will be implemented for all preseason contests. This will allow players an opportunity to experience the shootout prior to the regular season.
"It's good to practice it and to see it," said Evgeni Nabokov. "We need to work harder on that. It's different in games because you don't know the shooters."
Los Angeles won the shootout exhibition.