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After 223 Days, It All Comes Down To Tonight

by San Jose Sharks Staff / San Jose Sharks
“We’ve been together 223 days. We’ve worked all year to play for a game like this. We should be prepared. We need to relax and concentrate on a better start to our game. If we do that, we’ll be fine.”

Coach Ron Wilson started his post-morning skate presser with those 40 words. He also said something similar to his team on the ice after they finished their skate. And that pretty much sums up what the San Jose Sharks have to do in tonight’s Game Seven of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against Calgary.

One very important thing Wilson mentioned in those 40 words was the need to be relaxed, which is something center and Captain Patrick Marleau also said.

“If you’re tense, that’s usually when you make mistakes and bad plays,” he said. “There’s a fine line between those two things and we have to find it.”

“In games like this,” left wing Ryane Clowe said, “you have to keep things simple.”

Wilson wasn’t the only one with something to say after the skate. Center Jeremy Roenick skated around his teammates as they were stretching and had a few words.

“We have to be confident,” Roenick said to the other players. “We have to throw the kitchen sink at them tonight instead of them throwing it at us. We have to use our building to help our adrenaline and help our energy.”

Roenick was a healthy scratch in Game Six. He was able to see what didn’t go right in San Jose’s 2-0 loss at the Pengrowth Saddledome on Sunday.

“We have to come out and play the Sharks Hockey that’s made us successful instead of being tentative like we did last game, watching to see how they were going to play,” Roenick said. “We can’t wait to watch anyone else. We have to do it ourselves.”

“We have to come out and play strong right from the start,” Marleau said. “We have to get our forecheck going. If our legs are moving and everyone’s into it, it should be good.”

San Jose’s performance in Game Six was something to forget. They were outhit, 32-14, and won just 35 percent of their faceoffs – a tangible that had been to San Jose’s advantage in the first five games.

“You have to be embarrassed about the performance in Game Six,” Roenick said. “Anybody with pride or self-esteem can’t come out of that game embarrassed.”

Roenick also said the Sharks can use their Game Six to propel them to play better.

“Absolutely,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s a good thing for teams to have to go through something like that to wake them up. Montreal lost Game Six (in their recently concluded quarterfinal series against Boston), won Game Seven and played a great game. Hopefully, we can repeat that performance.”

All of the clichés tied into a Game Seven apply tonight. While Marleau used more than his share in describing the team’s approach to this game, what else can be said?

“We’re approaching this like it’s a must-win,” Marleau said. “We have to come out and be focused that way and be ready. We have to block out anything else that can distract us.”

Many representatives from the Fourth Estate were present at the morning skate. One in particular has experienced his share of deciding games.

Los Angeles Kings Television Analyst Jim Fox is providing his skills to NHL Radio’s nationwide broadcast of tonight’s game.

Fox, who’s seventh on the Kings all-time scoring list, has played in a few series-deciding games. Back in 1982, Fox was part of the “Miracle on Manchester,” named after the street where the Fabulous Forum (the former home of the Kings) was located.

In a division semifinal series against Edmonton, the Kings rallied from a 5-0 deficit in Game Three and went on to win in overtime, 6-5. Los Angeles also won the series in five games (that’s how the division series were played back then).

Fox, who’s been the Kings television analyst for nearly two decades, said San Jose shouldn’t be feeling too much pressure in this decisive game.

“When it comes to the seventh game and you’re the favorite,” he said, “I think the pressure lessens a little bit. When you’re the favorite going into a series, there’s always that anxiety. Everyone’s saying you have to win.

“Now, you get to the seventh game. It’s on the table now. It’s going to be decided tonight,” Fox added. “From that standpoint, it may help the Sharks.”

So, what could this veteran from the “Miracle on Manchester” give as advice to the Sharks for tonight’s game?

“The advice everyone always gives is to have fun,” Fox said. “To be honest, when I was playing, I can’t remember a situation where you could make that happen. Going out and having fun is easier said than done. It’s about execution. Everyone talks about that. You’re just trying to get that balance to try to open up your mind and be free enough so you can execute.”

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