San Jose has three new faces on the 2005-06 opening night roster. One, Josh Langfeld, is only new to the Sharks as he broke in with the Ottawa Senators. Two, right wing Ryane Clowe and defenseman Josh Gorges are rookies all the way through and they are anxiously anticipating the Wednesday night opener in Nashville.
Clowe appears set to not only jump from the AHL to the NHL, but to jump from an AHL first line to an NHL first line. While the Sharks don't categorize first, second and third lines in the traditional sense, the fact that Clowe is expected to man a wing alongside Captain Patrick Marleau, the team's leader point producer, is a testament to his work and skill. Speedy Marco Sturm will man the other side.
"Obviously they have unbelievable speed and when you're playing with guys like that, you just try to get open," said Clowe.
Clowe also extremely aware of Marleau and Sturm's offensive prowess.
"I'll get the puck out of the corners and get it to them in the slot," said Clowe.
Knowing he was likely in the lineup, Clowe's father is flying in, although a direct flight from New Brunswick to Nashville is out of the question.
"My dad is flying in from St. John's," said Clowe. "He may be in for all three games on the trip. I'm excited, but I think my family and friends back home are more excited."
Gorges may or may not enter the lineup on Wednesday, but he is more than ready if called upon, for like most players, the NHL is a lifelong dream.
"It's been on my mind since before I can remember," said Gorges. "To make the team is a good feeling."
There was not much hype about Gorges heading into to camp, but that is not surprising considering he went undrafted in both juniors and in the NHL. The good news for Gorges is that the Sharks look at what happens on the ice versus the draft board.
"It's been that way my entire career," said Gorges. "No one gave me an opportunity. Then the Sharks gave me a chance and I want to prove them right."
Gorges himself was confident of his chances this fall.
"I know playing in the AHL is not the caliber of the NHL, but the players are still men," said Gorges. "In juniors you're still playing boys."
Still Gorges was never the biggest player on the rink, although he is not small at six-foot-one and 190 pounds. Since brute strength was not an option, Gorges did what he did best.
"I learned how to outthink and outsmart opponents and to skate to get done what needed to get done," said Gorges.
Something he and Clowe have both done very well. Well enough to become NHLers.