The Sharks had won two consecutive games, but Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson saw something he wanted to add to his club. As the organization has always done, they allowed Wilson to make the necessary moves. That’s appreciated by the players who have invested themselves in committing to win in San Jose.
“We’ve been caught by the injury bug lately, so we needed some more bodies, some NHL experience on our forward lines and they (Ben Eager and Kyle Wellwood) bring that to us,” Captain Joe Thornton
said. “That’s very important. Doug sees what we need as a team and when he thinks we need something he normally tries to go grab it and that’s a good sign.”
“Doug wants to win and you want to be in an organization like this that wants to win,” Patrick Marleau
said. “If there is a need, he fills it the best he can. Right now with the injuries, it’s a critical time of year and we needed to fill some spots. If he thinks he can make our team better he will. I think his saying is, ‘Every day is a trade deadline day.’”
The Sharks got their first look at Eager and Wellwood at Wednesday’s practice and the duo skated together for most of the skate. They met the coaching staff before practice for a condensed version of the game plan.
“There were a lot of things to talk about, such as what kind of style we want to play,” Wellwood said of the initial meeting. “What’s being looked upon for me to do and what I can contribute. I’m just going to try and earn a permanent job here.”
At least Wellwood and Eager weren’t alone in trying to figure things out.
“It makes it a little easier, having someone else running the drills (with you),” Wellwood said.
“It was good, it was exciting,” Eager said. “There are a lot of good players here. It’s great to be a part of things. I’m just going to try and keep is simple and be an easy guy to play with.”
Eager already feels his talents will fit well with Team Teal.
“Atlanta didn’t work out for whatever reason, but I’m thrilled to be here,” Eager said. “(In Atlanta) we played a different style than I did the last few years. In Chicago, we were an up-tempo team with a lot of skill guys and we kind of pushed the pace. Just from being out on the ice today, these guys play the same way. They skate and get up in the play and they get back hard too. I’ll do whatever I can to help this team get to the next level.”
Eager and Wellwood left good impressions on their new teammates.
“Benny is a hard working guy who creates a lot of energy and gets in people’s faces, which is nice,” Thornton said. “A good teammate. He’s one of those guys you hate to play against and love for him to be on your team. Kyle is a more skilled guy, can play in the top three lines and produce some points. Two players that are going to be good additions to this team.”
Head Coach Todd McLellan appreciated his first look at the newcomers as members of the Sharks.
“The two different players are here for two different reasons,” McLellan said. “Ben Eager has some size and the ability to skate, has played in big games and can give a team a ton of energy. We’re looking for him to create time and space on the ice for himself and his teammates. Kyle brings a totally different skill set. He’s crafty with the puck and has a very good mind for the game. He sees things happening. He’s good in the faceoff circle and has the ability to play on the power play with some poise and some vision.”
THE FACE IS FAMILIAR
San Jose’s goaltending tandem each has experience playing, and winning, with Eager. Antti Niemi
and Eager won the 2010 Stanley Cup with Chicago.
“He’s an honest hard working player and a good teammate,” Niemi said.
Niittymaki and Eager won the 2005 Calder Cup in the American Hockey League when both were property of the Philadelphia Flyers.
“It’s nice to have him here,” Niittymaki said of Eager. “He’s a hard-nosed player. I like having him here. He gets things going sometimes. He plays hard, fights a little bit and can score goals. One of those guys you like to have on your side. He’s a great guy.”
FROM THE KHL AND BACK TO THE NHL
No question the weather in San Jose on Wednesday was a vast improvement from what Wellwood would’ve been facing if he was still in the KHL.
“It’s quite different than San Jose, it’s pretty cold there now,” Wellwood said when comparing the American climate to Russia.
There was one other minor detail that was difficult to work with.
“My coach didn’t know any English at all,” Wellwood said.
The Sharks traveled to the Pacific Northwest following practice for their Thursday matchup in Vancouver. San Jose seeks revenge following a 4-3 loss on Jan. 3 at HP Pavilion.
“Hopefully we can show them our A game and see how we stack up against them,” Thornton said.
NO MALICE INTENDED
The Sharks may not agree with the length of the suspension handed down to Scott Nichol (four games), but they know Nichol isn’t a dirty player.
“When you talk about this incident, it was reviewable and suspendable. We’re not arguing that,” McLellan said. “He’s been with us for two years now and I haven’t seen anything vicious or dirty. He plays hard and plays on the line, but he doesn’t cross it.”
Nichol won’t be accompanying the team to Vancouver. He’ll be staying in San Jose.
“We’re going to leave him back here,” McLellan said. “He doesn’t play until after the All-Star Break. It’s not what we need as a team, but we’ll try to make the best of it. This will give Scotty a chance to fill up his gas tank and get up into the gym to get stronger for the second half. That way when he does come back after the All-Star Break, which is in February, he should be ready to go.”
With the All-Star Break and spacing between games for San Jose, Nichol will go 12 days without game action.
San Jose may catch a break in filling in for him as rookie John McCarthy has been removed from the injured reserve list and practiced with the team.
Even though tomorrow’s game will be Wellwood’s first game back in Vancouver since last season, he said he hasn’t heard from many of his friends. There’s a good reason.
“I don’t have the same cell phone,” Wellwood said, “so nobody can get a hold of me.”
No doubt about it, the dad’s trip was a rousing success, especially since it coincided with two straight wins.
“Good time,” Niittymaki said. “My dad really enjoyed it. We had three days and golf yesterday in a beautiful place. I want to say they should stay longer, but I don’t know if I should say that.”
The Sharks will visit Vancouver Thursday at 7 p.m. and the game will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.