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Defensemen Step Up In McLaren's Absence

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks

Coming off a six-day layoff, the concern regarding the red hot Sharks was whether the lack of recent games or the lack of Kyle McLaren would affect the club. The answer was a resounding no in both instances in the 4-1 victory.

The Sharks jumped out to an early lead just eight minutes into the contest and were up 2-0 after 20 minutes.

San Jose reached the four goal tally for the sixth consecutive game (and provided all fans in attendance with free pizza from Round Table), but more importantly the Sharks held Washington to a fluke third period tally and kept rookie sensation Alex Ovechkin off the scoreboard.

“Hannan and Murray were great on Ovechkin and Zubrus,” said Wilson. “Tom Preissing has been playing great and his confidence is rising. I was really impressed with Murray. Not just his physical play, but his poise with the puck.”

“Scott Hannan and Doug Murray did a great job on Ovechkin,” said Preissing. “The rest of us jut tried to fill out the rest of McLaren’s minutes.”

Preissing did more than fill in a few minutes as his 27:08 of ice time finished just nine seconds behind Hannan for the game’s highest ice total. The Colorado College product felt the forwards pitched in to assist their blueliners.

“The offense helped us out a lot by working hard down low and making plays,” said Preissing. “It makes the play easier on the back end.”

The ultimate defenseman did his job as well.

“Nabby player very well,” said Preissing.

And the feelings were mutual.

“I think the guys played a great game,” said Evgeni Nabokov. “Jimmy Fahey came in and played well. Doug Murray was solid. The guys killed penalties and played as a unit. We are playing well as a team right now and that is why we are successful.”

Even with the impressive performance without McLaren, the Sharks hope to see their big blueliner back in the next couple of games.

Joe Thornton has been a Shark for six games and he has registered multiple points in every contest, posting an assist and scoring the game-winning goal against the Capitals. The six consecutive multi-point games is a Sharks record.

Joe Thornton is now within three points of the New York Rangers Jaromir Jagr in the league’s scoring race and the Sharks newest center has played in three less games.

His opening assist was impressive when you consider when he first spotted Cheechoo.

“He saw me coming off the bench and then he played like he didn’t see me,” said Cheechoo. “The passes are nice. All you have to do is get open and be ready to shoot. I hope to keep burying them for him.”

The Sharks did not look like a team that had gone six days without a game.

“You lose a little of your game shape, so it is a little more difficult,” said Preissing.

“We had been sharp in practice, but you don’t know if that will translate to the games,” said Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson. “We talked about it before the game.”

4 ON 4
Marleau and Thornton get to sample each others talents on the power play when Marleau takes up a defensive point, but during a minute of four-on-four time against the Capitals, Wilson put out two of the NHL’s top scoring centers.

“We’ll try to do more of that in the future,” said Wilson. “We wanted to see if it would work when we put them together. The way Joe handles the puck and the way Patty skates, he just has to go to holes he hasn’t gone to before.”

Marleau enjoyed the experiment.

“I think we’ll do more of that,” said Marleau. “If you get open, he’ll find you.”

Sharks President and Chief Executive Officer Greg Jamison returned from the Board of Governors meetings and everything is coming up roses around the league.

“The revenue will be more than $2 billion for the league and that is headed in a good direction,” said Jamison. “It is a very nice piece of news that tells us the NHL is back and that the people really like what they are seeing. Attendance is up and there is a good feeling where we are going.”

The head of the NHLPA addressed the top executives of every franchise and Jamison liked what he heard from Ted Saskin.

“It was nice that Saskin came,” said Jamison. “He cares about the players and also about a strong partnership.”

And the more wide open NHL is here is stay and that may be the top news out of the meetings.

“The rules will continue to be enforced through the finals and they said that again and again,” said Jamison. “I know our fans like that.”

Jamison is happier that things have been turning up roses for his own club.

“I’m very please with the team on the ice,” said Jamison. “We’ve always been a team willing to make a move and we will continue to do so when it’s appropriate. We still believe that drafting and development will be our bread and butter.”

If points scored by NHL centers was the determining factor in Wayne Gretzky’s decision to choose his Olympic team, it’s likely both Marleau and Thornton would be in Italy this winter. Thornton leads all Canadian centers in points with 47 and Marleau is fifth among Canadian pivots with 37.

“I’m just playing my best and the rest will take care of itself,” said Marleau.
Joe Thornton has factored into 14 of San Jose’s 29 goals. Marleau has also factored in 14 of 29.

San Jose is now 6-0-0 vs. Eastern Conference foes.

Team Teal increased their home record to 8-3-1. They have played the fewest number of home games so far in the 2005-06 campaign.

Rob Davison played in his 100th career game, all with San Jose.

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