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Drawing the Line: McLellan's Configurations

by San Jose Sharks Staff / San Jose Sharks

As far as who starts and who comes off the bench in the NHL, it just doesn’t matter in the same way it does for the other major sports.

In the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and MLS, the starters eat up the majority of the playing time. Baseball reserves come in for the final inning or two, or maybe one at bat, if at all. Football reserves normally play on special teams or in the case of an injury. Basketball reserves can see a decent amount of court time, but they typically play fewer minutes than the starters.

That is not the case in hockey. To begin with, every player who dresses plays in a game, with only rare exceptions. Secondly, and more importantly, even the people who start aren’t necessarily going to lead the team in ice time.

Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan has the option of setting any one game’s tone in a number of fashions. He can go offensive with Joe Thornton or Joe Pavelski’s line. He can go gritty with Marcel Goc or Jeremy Roenick’s lines.

When playing at HP Pavilion, McLellan has the advantage of seeing the visitor’s starters before a final decision is made on his end. Away from San Jose, McLellan must play his hand first.

If the opponent has shown their line and is sending out their tough guy, McLellan may want to start a trio featuring Jody Shelley. Nothing is set in stone and with NHL shifts typically lasting under a minute, who starts often won’t affect the final score.

“There are three things to look at,” said McLellan. “First, who you want on the ice. Second, who the other team is starting and if you are at home, how you want to counter that. Third, if you’re trying to see who they are matching up with, you can send out a certain line first. We may start Thornton just to see who they are playing against him. There is no set pattern.”

Thornton’s line leads the way with more than 20 starts and Pavelski’s trio has 18 starts. On the blueline, Vlasic and Blake lead the way with 19 starts and Lukowich and Boyle have 11 on the season. Vlasic has four other starts under his belt.

To the players, who starts really isn’t that big of a deal, but they do enjoy the pumped up atmosphere of the crowd on the first faceoff.

“I think the first shift, you try to set the tone,” said Marleau. “That is part of the excitement, getting off to a good start.”

Marleau however likes that the rotation is mixed up among other groups.

“Everybody gets a shot at it,” said Marleau.

“It doesn’t matter who starts if they set the tone,” said Jonathan Cheechoo. “Then the next line can come in on the heels of the other line and keep the momentum going.”

Dan Boyle will likely take one more game off before returning to the lineup.

“It’s not as good as I want it to be,” said Boyle about his upper body injury. “Tomorrow, I’m not playing. I hate missing games. It’s kind of frustrating, but we have a good hockey team with depth.”

Boyle likely could go if necessary, but San Jose won’t play for five days after the Chicago contest, so that would give the All-Star blueliner 16 days between regular season contests.

“We get four to five days after tomorrow’s game and hopefully the rest will help,” said Boyle.

Torrey Mitchell has taken a bit of time off, but is now prepared to ramp up his return plans.

“He’s in the process of recovering, (getting fit), skating and playing,” said McLellan. “Right now he is in the recovery and fitness mode. It will be a lot quicker than last time.”

Mitchell hopes to be skating in about a week.

Thursday’s win in Phoenix marked the first time in NHL history in a game where more than one goal was scored and every goal was provided by a product from Germany. Christian Ehrhoff and Marcel Goc scored the goals.

San Jose will face off against Chicago Saturday night at HP Pavilion and the contest will be available on CSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and Tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Box Office or at

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