Sharks fans will be looking forward to seeing left wing Dany Heatley make his debut tonight against Phoenix in San Jose’s third preseason game.
Head Coach Todd McLellan is looking forward to seeing something that was missing in last night’s 6-2 loss to Vancouver at HP Pavilion.
“I expect our veteran players to lead,” McLellan said. “Somebody needs to step up and lead. Ten days from now, we’re flying to Colorado to play (season opener). If we think we’re going to roll into this and get better and everything will be fine, it’s not going to work that way.
“A lot of the players have gone into their first game not being ready for the pace, the intensity and the board work. But by the end of the night, they’re there,” he continued. “I expect the Heatleys, the (Joe) Thorntons and the (Dan) Boyles to be ready to play and not wait for half the game.”
Part of being ready comes from practice. The usual morning skate is a way for players to get into game mode, physically and mentally. There’s skating, passing and shooting. However, today’s morning skate involved a little of those fundamentals, but also aspects of play such as the breakout, cycling on offense to create opportunities and defensive zone coverage.
“We’re not sharp in a lot of areas,” McLellan said. “There’s an infinite amount of things we could be doing. Instead of just going out and trying to feel good for tonight, we’re working on parts of our game – areas of the game we weren’t sharp in last night. We saw it on video before practice and went out and worked on it. Now, we expect to see it improve.”
As mentioned, Heatley will be on the HP Pavilion at San Jose ice tonight. If the morning skate is an indicator, he’ll be paired with Thornton and right wing Devin Setoguchi.
“I haven’t played a game in a while,” Heatley said. “It’ll take a few shifts to get into it and I can’t wait to get the first one out of the way.”
Heatley has practiced twice with the Sharks. He played against their style of play last year, so he knows what’s expected of him. “It’s a good fast-paced system and I’m excited to be into it,” he said.
Last night, Heatley got a feel for the passion of Sharks fans as he sat with teammates in the press box to watch the game. When asked for his thoughts on fan reaction for an exhibition game, Heatley got right to the point.
“Real good, especially for a preseason game,” he said. “There were a lot of people in there and it was pretty loud. I’m excited to be out there in front of them.”
Heatley’s last organized game was with Ottawa at the end of the 2008-09 season. Since then, he’s been on the ice at the Canadian Olympic orientation camp in August and he skated with his father before coming to San Jose.
And once again, despite the fact that tonight is just a preseason game, Heatley will have some of those butterflies in the stomach.
“The first one,” Heatley said, “always.”
The Phoenix Coyotes will play their second straight game and third in four days tonight. The Coyotes played hosts to Anaheim last night and lost in a 4-3 shootout. Phoenix had a 3-0 lead entering the third before the Ducks rallied to win.
According to the press notes provided for the game, some of the Phoenix skaters for tonight include goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov; defensemen Zbynek Michalek, Vernon Fiddler and Ed Jovanovski; and forwards Viktor Tikhonov, Mikkel Boedker and Kyle Turris.