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Ekman Energizes Team, Fans, Himself

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks
Perhaps it was one single event that shifted the momentum of the game Saturday night in the favor of Team Teal. The huge hit that Nils Ekman laid on Carolina right wing Justin Williams sparked a San Jose team who was struggling offensively in the game up to that point.

The open ice hit sent Williams flying, igniting the crowd of 17, 241, and ultimately sending San Jose on a three goal run that lead to them defeating Carolina by the score of 4-3.

“Anytime you throw a big time hit like that it’s going to pump the team up and get the momentum going our way,” said Jonathan Cheechoo, who did his fair share of contributing tonight with two goals.

Ekman, who has struggled this season finding the back of the net, was noticeably energized from the hit he laid, as evident by the two points he notched just minutes after it.

“It was a nice hit,” he said. “I think it was hard not to hit him there because he stepped in on the blue line and didn’t see me coming, so it was kind of a gimme. I can’t speak for the whole team, but it energized me and I felt good all night.”

When the replay of the hit played throughout the Tank, Sharks fans collectively cheered, catching the attention of Ekman and putting a huge smile on the Swede’s face.

“You’ve got to watch,” said Ron Wilson. “You worry about a guy smiling after he’s pasted a guy, but that’s just Ek. He’s struggled, but tonight that hit along with a couple others got him going.”

Ekman’s struggles on the season have been noted, as the winger has found himself in the press box on a couple occasions in favor of other skaters. But it looks as if those times are behind him, as Ekman has begun to perform up to the level he did in 2003-04.

“It’s time for me to step up and try to improve,” said Ekman. “I haven’t played good so far this year and obviously the trade scared me a bit because I love it here. I want to be a part of this team and I do everything I can every day to help the team. Finally I think things are starting to come together and I feel good out there.”

Wilson went to Ekman shortly after his hit to replace Scott Thornton who needed to get his skates sharpened, showing that the bench boss has faith in him.

“Scotty needed to get his skate sharpened so I got Ek out and we scored two goals. One obviously he scored and the other he was driving to the net and he distracted Gerber.”

It’s getting a bit repetitive isn’t it? But the fact of the matter is, ever since his arrival in San Jose, Joe Thornton has made a huge impact both on and off the ice. His four points tonight gives the center 12 in five games in teal. Even his early success in San Jose has caught him off guard.

“I just came in hoping to win some games and help out the team as much as I can,” he said. “All 20 guys have pitched in, not just me.”

The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder doesn’t take anything for granted however, crediting all of his teammates for the Sharks five-game win streak.

“I think our power play has been clicking pretty good,” he added. “Obviously playing with Cheech and Scotty, they’re two good players so they make my job a lot easier. They’re making me feel real comfortable right now.”

Thornton posted his second goal as a Shark in the second period while setting up Cheechoo twice as well as Ekman.

“Cheech is just shooting the puck so well right now,” said Thornton. “He really makes my job easy.”

For Cheechoo, playing on the same line as Thornton is a dream come true.

“He’s a gifted passer,” said Cheechoo. “He always gives it to you flat. You just have to tee it up and luckily I found the back of the net twice tonight.”

- The Sharks scored a power play goal for the 5th consecutive game. They have currently scored a power play goal in 10 out of the last 11 games.
- Joe Thornton is on an 11-game point streak (4-14=18) with San Jose and Boston. He has now posted multiple points in the past five games with San Jose, a franchise record (2-10=12).
- With his four points tonight, Joe Thornton, is now second in the NHL in scoring (11-34=45 points).
- Jonathan Cheechoo scored his second two-goal game of the season.
- Defenseman Tom Pressing has registered at least one point in 8 out of the last 11 games. He leads the entire team in plus/minus (+9).
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