Sharks right wing Steve Bernier has been having a solid 2007-08 season, as his 10 goals and 16 points have him tracking for career highs in both categories. However, he is currently riding a three-game point streak in which he has five points (two goals, three assists) and he could be displaying more of what is to come for the 22-year-old right wing.
“I’m just trying to work hard and not worry about (a scoring streak),” said Bernier. “I don’t want to think about it.”
The Quebec native acknowledged that scoring definitely helps his overall game and can lead to more success all over the ice.
“When the puck is going in, you’re confidence goes up and you play better,” said Bernier. “It is definitely more fun (when you score) and your team is winning. That is still the most important part.”
The Sharks coaches were encouraged enough by Bernier’s recent play to reward him with time as Joe Thornton
’s wing against Minnesota on December 31.
“I appreciate that because you don’t hear those things very often,” said Bernier.
Thornton played his first complete game with Bernier on New Year’s Eve and came away impressed.
“He’s big and strong and goes to the net,” said Thornton. “We played well together. We (including Michalek) love his big game.”
“We started one game together in Dallas, but it didn’t last,” said Bernier.
What Bernier truly can do for Michalek and Thornton is create space, either through banging the body, drawing attention in front, or if necessary, sticking up for his teammates.
“When he brings his physicality, he makes room for us and draws a lot of attention,” said Michalek. “It’s great to have him on the line. I know he’ll step up for us.”
It is not just Bernier’s ability to bang and push that makes him a pleasure to play with.
“He has decent speed, works hard and has a great shot. You put it all together and you have a pretty good hockey player,” said Thornton.
For players with passing skills like Thornton and Michalek, having a rugged forward with a scoring touch is a bonus.
“He’s got great hands and a quick shot,” said Michalek.
Bernier is called the “Big Bear” for a reason. On the ice, it is more grizzly bear, but off the ice, he can almost be a teddy bear.
“Both,” said Michalek when posed the question. “Everyone in the room really likes him. He’s a good guy to hang out with and a good guy to be with.”
Michalek and Bernier have been linemates off-and-on for three seasons and there is some familiarity between the two.
“I’ve played with Milan and he makes it easier on you,” said Bernier. “We are on the same page and do the same things.”
As for playing with Thornton, Bernier definitely keeps his head on a swivel.
“He is unbelievable,” said Bernier. “He does so much that you don’t see. He will see you, do a little thing to make people forget and he will know where you’re going.”
The trio hopes to produce some more offense Thursday night at HP Pavilion, having gone 6-9-3 and currently on a four-game home losing streak.HOME COOKING
The Sharks will look to bring their road game home Thursday night when they face the Calgary Flames. The game is the first of a four-game homestand that also includes Columbus, Vancouver and Toronto.
“It’s a big home stand,” said Thornton. “Our confidence is as high as it’s been all year. Tomorrow should be a good one against Calgary.”
The Sharks are as surprised as anyone that they are struggling at HP Pavilion.
“There is no rhyme or reason,” said Thornton. “We’re playing lights out on the road. I think we’ll be fine at home.”
The Sharks know if their home record was even .500, they would be sitting in an ideal spot.
On the flip side, they’re glad the road record (16-3-2, with a club record 10 straight wins) doesn’t match the home mark.
“We’d be on suicide watch,” laughed Jeremy Roenick.
Roenick says it is more of a focus issue to fix the home woes.
“On the road, you have a different frame of mind,” said Roenick. “You don’t prepare the same. Guys have to prepare the same way. You have to do what it takes. Maybe stay in the hotel for pregame naps. Sometimes at home, you’re out running errands.”
When things are going well, the Sharks surge off the HP Pavilion support, but when things aren’t going well, sticks do get gripped a little tighter.
“There is a little more added pressure in front of our fans,” said Roenick. “They want to see great plays, but they also want to see wins.”
This is not the first time Roenick has witnessed such an odd discrepancy between home and road success.
“One year in Chicago, we were deadly (good) on the road, but not very good at home,” said Roenick. “It was the first year of the United Center. Maybe that made a little more of a difference.”
What Roenick truly sees is what will happen when the Sharks start defending HP Pavilion as they traditionally have.
“If we start winning at home, we have a pretty good chance of catching Detroit,” said Roenick.
The Sharks currently sit one point behind Pacific Division leading Dallas, who is second in the Western Conference. Team Teal trails Detroit by 12 points for the Western Conference’s overall lead.
San Jose knows that a strong run in the next four contests will end all the discussions of poor home performances.NABOKOV 3RD STAR
San Jose’s Evgeni Nabokov was named the NHL’s third star for the month of December. Ottawa’s Jason Spezza and Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk were the first and second stars.
Nabokov posted a 10-4-1 record, 1.96 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in 15 games. He allowed two goals or fewer in 11 of 15 games, including shutouts against Phoenix Dec. 7 and St. Louis Dec. 28. The only goaltender to start each of his club's games this season, Nabokov has posted a 22-12-5 record, 1.99 goals-against average, .919 save percentage and five shutouts in 39 games. He leads all goaltenders in victories, ranks third in goals-against average and is tied for third in shutouts. His streak of 46 consecutive regular-season starts, which began March 24, 2007 at Carolina, is a franchise record.ALL-STAR ASSISTANT COACH?
The head coaches for the upcoming NHL All-Star game have already been determined in Mike Babcock of the Detroit Red Wings and John Paddock of the Ottawa Senators. However, there is still a chance the Sharks Ron Wilson could be named an assistant coach.
Under the selection process for All-Star coaches, the head coach and assistant coach for the Eastern and Western Conference All-Stars are the head coaches of the two teams with the top points percentages in the Western Conference through games of Friday, Jan. 4, the halfway point of the 2007-08 regular season.
Wilson (22-12-5, .628), holds a slight lead over the Dallas Stars Dave Tippett (23-13-4, .625) for the All-Star Game assistant coach position in the Western Conference. Tippett, however, can clinch the All-Star coaching berth if the Stars win their games at Detroit tonight and at Minnesota Thursday. The Stars earning fewer than maximum points would open the door for Wilson, whose Sharks host Calgary on Thursday.NEXT GAME
There are still limited tickets available at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com for the Sharks 7:30 p.m. game with Calgary on Thursday night. The contest will be broadcast on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.