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Line Changes Likely For Wednesday

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks
After a six-game winning streak to start the month, Team Teal is now on a three-game losing streak. The wheels haven’t exactly come off as all three were one goal games, but Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson has tweaked his forward lines to alter the current streak.

Joe Thornton will keep Jonathan Cheechoo on his right, but Nils Ekman skated with the newest center at Tuesday’s practice.

Ekman is definitely excited about the possibility of playing with the Sharks top setup man.

“Of course I am,” said Ekman who was on the ice for one goal with the line late in the Los Angeles contest. “I want to play a lot and that line gives me a shot to prove what I can do.”

While this season has not gone according to plan for Ekman, he is still just one NHL season removed from a 20-goal season in which he lead the club in assists and set a new Sharks plus/minus record.

Joe Thornton has no doubts that Ekman will fit in just fine.

“We played with ‘Ek’ a little last night,” said Joe Thornton. “’Ek’ is a great player who will fit in just fine with our line. It’s good to change things up once in a while. It is always a spark when you change lines. Usually it works out pretty good.”

Mark Smith will be joined by Scott Thornton and Milan Michalek, which looks to add more ice time for Smith who just keeps doing what he is asked.

Marcel Goc will join Niko Dimitrakos and Josh Langfeld on another new line.

One line that stayed together was the Patrick Marleau trio which also includes Alyn McCauley and Grant Stevenson. However, that is not even a lock for the near future.

“I like their speed but I’ve been considering them too,” said Wilson. “You have to give them a chance, but if it is not working, you have to intervene.”

Wilson feels the changes will benefit the team.

“We were a little stale,” said Wilson. “We slid into some habits I don’t like. We are skating linear, three across, instead of triangular with guys in support.”

Wilson is not just looking for more offense out of his forward combinations.

“We need the defense to jump into the play and be involved,” said Wilson. “We worked on that today.”

Defenseman Top Preissing, who missed the Los Angeles contest with the flu, is doubtful for Wednesday after missing practice on Tuesday.

“He has a bad case of the flu,” said Wilson. “We thought he was better, but he had a relapse so we sent to the doctor today. He is doubtful right now. He hasn’t really eaten in three days.”

Preissing’s illness, and Christian Ehrhoff being a healthy scratch, played role in Jim Fahey gaining some ice time.

“I didn’t like the way Christian (Ehrhoff) performed,” said Wilson. “It is up to the individuals to get the job done. Whether you’ve played 100 or 1,000 games, you have to be consistent. You have to be prepared every shift.”

San Jose played Phoenix just five days ago and pulled out 2-1 victory in the desert.

“You have to credit them with a conservative game plan,” said Wilson. “They took advantage of (our plan) and we prepared for that today. Now we just have to execute.”

Michalek will have had two of the best dinners he’s had in San Jose recently. On Christmas Day, Dimitrakos’ parents were in town and Michalek and others were invited over for the excellent cooking of Dimitrakos’ mother.

On Tuesday night, Michalek will get to dine with his brother who is in town with Phoenix, although the dinner will cost him a couple of dollars.

“He paid in Phoenix,” laughed Michalek.

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