It’s officially crunch time in San Jose in the battle for the final roster spots. The Sharks have compiled a stellar 4-0-2 mark and have earned 12 of 14 possible points, but what is really important is who will make the opening night roster.
Up front, young prospects like Devin Setoguchi, Torrey Mitchell
and Lukas Kaspar, among others, continue to impress, but there is just one more opportunity to make that final impression.
On the blueline, while the competitors may not be as young, players like Rob Davison, Alexei Semenov, Douglas Murray
and Brad Norton still want to make the final statement.
Some need to find the back of the net, some need to show that defensive awareness, but whatever it is, they need to show it Saturday.
Lock-down defender Kyle McLaren is secure with his spot, but is enjoying the intensity and closeness of the position battles.
“I think it’s exciting to know that we’ve got talented kids grown in the farm system,” said McLaren. “It’s incredible how fast they are. Guys are getting better each game and you hate to see anybody go.”
On the battle among scorers like Setoguchi, Mitchell and Kaspar, McLaren has faced them all during practice battles.
“Their games fit us to a T,” said McLaren. “All three can help us win.
With Evgeni Nabokov scheduled to start Saturday, it is likely that Thomas Greiss
and Dimitri Patzold have played their final tune up.
McLaren says that may be the biggest question of all.
“I think that is the biggest fight, who backs up Nabby?” said McLaren. “Both have demonstrated they can become a number one in the league and either will be an excellent backup.”
No matter who gets the nod, it should not be taken as a sign the Worcester bound netminder won’t soon return.
“We may platoon,” said Wilson of the German duo. “We’ll do what’s best for the individual and the team. Nabby will play the bulk of the games. The backup here may not play much and may need to get some time (in Worcester).”
It is one time where no one wants to be the man making the final cuts.
“They have some tough decisions,” said McLaren.
MINK STILL HERE
Forward Graham Mink may not be the first player who comes to mind for the final roster spot, but the Vermont alum is still in San Jose.
“So far so good,” said the 31-goal scorer for Worcester last year. “I’m definitely trying to pay attention to the little details and play the body down low.”
Sandis Ozolinsh, who continues to try and make the club as a tryout player, even though he can’t play in games until October 10, pointed out a Nabokov story that didn’t turn out too well for the Sharks goaltender.
“I split his head with a shot,” said Ozolinsh. “It was weird.”
Nabokov definitely recalled the event.
“He was right in the slot and gave me five stitches,” said Nabokov.
Ozolinsh is wearing 24 in camp as his two other previous NHL numbers were taken. The seven-time All-Star wore six in San Jose and eight in Colorado. Pavelski has eight and Norton has six.
“The number doesn’t matter to me,” said Ozolinsh. “I left it up to Mike Aldrich (Sharks Equipment Manager).”
Ozolinsh is feeling better and better with each session on the ice.
“I feel comfortable figuring out the system,” said Ozolinsh. “Things are different than I’m used to. I remind (the coaches) to remind me. It’s the little things. I always played with one hand on the stick. They want two hands on the stick. It takes away the free hand that tends grab a guy around the waist.”
Despite the “bad blood” from the slot shot years ago, Nabokov likes what he sees from Ozolinsh.
“He’s a great player who can be one of the best,” said Nabokov. “He can still shoot and skate.”
Mitchell and Tomas Plihal both had to leave Wednesday’s contest with injuries and did not skate Thursday.
“We’re not sure about Plihal,” said Wilson. “Tomas hurt his shoulder at the end of last year and he tweaked it. He went to the doctor and we’ll know more tomorrow.”
“Torrey took a shot to the foot and had fluid drained,” said Wilson. “He’ll probably be on the ice tomorrow. If he skates tomorrow, he’ll probably skate on Saturday.”
PRESEASON SCORING MATTERS
While scoring in the preseason helps, it doesn’t mean everything. Setoguchi currently leads the NHL in shots (27), power play goals (5) and it tied for first in total goals (5). Joe Pavleksi leads the league with eight points.
“You don’t look at the scoring statistics in the preseason,” said Wilson. “Joe (Thornton) has just two points and it doesn’t mean he shouldn’t make the team.”
The Sharks will host Calgary Saturday night and tickets are still available at the HP Pavilion Box Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The contest can be heard on 98.5 KFOX and on sjsharks.com.