The San Jose Sharks will play their first game against Anaheim this season tonight in Southern California. Last season, any contest involving the Sharks, Ducks or Stars was a head-to-head matchup for Pacific Division supremacy. Early in 2007-08, there seems to be a new world order.
San Jose, Anaheim and Dallas are still major players in the Pacific, currently holding the top three spots, but Los Angeles and Phoenix have shown dramatic improvement in the early going and appear not to be afterthoughts.
All five franchises are separated by two points of each other, with Dallas leading the parade with 16, followed by San Jose and Anaheim (15 each), and then Phoenix and Los Angeles (14).
The big three from last year are still on top, but the margin for error has shrunk dramatically if the early season returns are any indication.
“I think this year, it looks a lot more even,” said Milan Michalek. “Now you have eight really hard games against every team. L.A. and Phoenix are a lot better.”
Two vastly improved clubs ensure more contests where the Sharks and their opponents are a bit more motivated.
“Every game is a four-point game and everyone is good,” said Michalek. “We know the division is better. Mentally, we know every division game is going to be hard.”
A stronger division from top to bottom may result in a Pacific Division winner very ready for the playoff grind of difficult matchups every night, albeit one quite possibly with less points than Anaheim, Dallas or San Jose earned last season. Anaheim won the division with 110 points, closely followed by San Jose and Dallas with 107.
“It’s going to be tough,” said Michalek. “We want as many points as we can get and have to start winning more games.”
While he is obviously still hoping he and his teammates in Teal bring home the high playoff seed that goes with being the Pacific Division Champion, Michalek wouldn’t mind seeing the upstart Coyotes jumping in right behind them. Michalek’s brother Zbynek is a blueliner for the Coyotes.
“It would be good for my brother if Phoenix made the playoffs,” said the Sharks Michalek.
Kyle McLaren has switched to a clear visor for tonight to try a different look and Captain Patrick Marleau
had the morning off.
Also, Douglass Murray worked extensively with a skate manufacturer’s representative to get a new set of custom footbeds for his skates. It involved heat pressing his feet into moldable footbeds and then trimming to fit the skate.
The Sharks contest against Anaheim will begin at 7 p.m. and will be available on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.