Captain Patrick Marleau
isn’t having just a bounce back year, but a career year. From an individual perspective, he’s appeared in his 800th game and notched his 600th point. He’s only the third player in the National Hockey League this season to score 30 goals and 30 assists.
Marleau’s next goal will equal his career high of 34 in a season and there are still 26 games remaining. He’s tied for fourth in the NHL in goals and is ninth scoring. Marleau has skated in NHL All-Star games and represented Canada at a World Cup of Hockey. But this season is Marleau’s best since he debuted in 1997-98.
“This year he’s Patty again and even better than before,” said Evgeni Nabokov, who’s played longer than any current Shark with Marleau (since 1999-00). “I’m just happy to see he’s doing what he can.”
Marleau has been a strong quiet leader his whole career, but the last couple of games may be the truest sign of his leadership.
With San Jose suffering a rash of injuries, Head Coach Todd McLellan asked Marleau to move from the top line with Joe Thornton
and Devin Setoguchi and center the third line alongside Mike Grier and Jonathan Cheechoo. Marleau not only quietly accepted the assignment, he has relished in it.
“I don’t know who the top line is or who is the third,” McLellan said.
“He’ll do anything to help the team,” Thornton said of his road roommate. “He’s just a great teammate.”
In 2007-08, Marleau had 18 goals and 48 points in 78 games. In 56 games this season, he’s got 33 goals and 63 points.
“He’s just in a space where he’s confident,” Thornton said. “He’s always been a guy to enjoy life. Todd has given him a lot of respect.”
“Obviously he’s enjoying the game,” Joe Pavelski
said. “He brings a lot of confidence to the rink and he’s got a lot of respect in the room.”
“When you see the captain playing like this, others pick it up,” Nabokov said.
Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic
feels last year has served as incentive for Marleau.
“He’s got something to prove,” Vlasic said. “He leads by example and he makes the players on his line better.”
One thing Marleau clearly understands is the team concept. When Marleau knew he could spend some time playing with then-rookie Milan Michalek in 2003-04, Marleau went to watch Michalek play at the preseason rookie tournament.
Michalek hasn’t forgotten Marleau’s support and influence.
“The first year he was great,” Michalek said. “The guys who helped me the most were he and (Mike) Ricci. “I didn’t speak much English and he showed me around. Now it’s awesome. “He’s having a great year and everyone is happy for him. Everybody loves him.”
Marleau may not say much and may not say it loudly. But his presence is felt in the Sharks locker room.
“We know what he’s like,” Nabokov said. “He’s pretty funny. He can cut crack jokes, just maybe not in the center of the room.”
And doing things quietly is just fine with Marleau, even if it means playing on the No. 3 line for a while.
Look for a different lineup from the Sharks on Saturday.
“The morning will dictate things, but there could be two to three guys back in the lineup,” McLellan said. This could mean the return of Jeremy Roenick, Jody Shelley, Tomas Plihal and Brad Lukowich.
McLellan did acknowledge that since Torrey Mitchell
hasn’t been skating, he could be out a while longer, along with Marcel Goc.
San Jose will face Atlanta at 1 p.m. on Saturday and the game will be on CSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com. Tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com.