With two points, San Jose can clinch the Presidents’ Trophy and home ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And on Thursday night against Phoenix, they’ll most likely have two veterans returning to the lineup: Captain Patrick Marleau
and left wing Ryane Clowe
Marleau and Clowe participated in this morning’s practice at HP Pavilion and both are expected to be in the lineup tomorrow when the Sharks play hosts to the Coyotes. This is great news for the Sharks, who had 12 players out at various times throughout March. In fact, San Jose got right wings Mike Grier (17 games, knee) and Claude Lemieux (18, upper body) back in the lineup for last night’s game against Colorado.
According to Coach Todd McLellan, Marleau and Clowe will most likely rejoin their old lines: Marleau on the first line alongside Joe Thornton
and Devin Setoguchi and Clowe playing on the second line with Joe Pavelski
and Milan Michalek.
“We’re anticipating them playing,” McLellan said. “You never know until the puck drops. We’ve got to evaluate them in the morning, but we’re excited that they’re close.”
Marleau has been sidelined the last five games with a lower body injury and Clowe suffered a lower body injury that has kept him out since March 19. Both players say they’re ready to go now.
“I feel strong and I feel like I’m back to normal,” Marleau said. “It’s time to go out there and get back in the swing of things before playoffs.”
|San Jose Sharks left wing Ryane Clowe celebrates after scoring a goal against the Calgary Flames in the first period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar) |
“I’ll be back tomorrow,” Clowe said. “We should be able to pick up where we left off.”
But will they need a lot of time to reacquaint themselves with their line mates? According to Thornton, the answer is no.
“We have played together all year so it’s going to be really easy for us to get familiar with each other again,” Thornton said.
Now the Sharks are only waiting on center Torrey Mitchell
and defenseman Kent Huskins. Although both skated with the team today, neither knew when they would return to the lineup.
“I feel good, but I honestly have no idea (when I’ll be back),” Mitchell said. The 24-year-old has been sidelined since training camp when he broke his leg and then reinjured it on a training assignment in Worcester.
“They (the trainers) told me to keep working on it and be ready to play, but as far as specific games, I’m not sure when I’ll be playing,” said Huskins, who’s nursing a foot injury. Huskins, who was on Anaheim’s Injured Reserve list when he joined the Sharks, hasn’t played for San Jose since he, along with left wing Travis Moen, joined the team at the trade deadline.
Now onto the race for the Presidents’ Trophy. Although there are other scenarios involving outcomes with Detroit and Boston, the Sharks are the only team that really has control of their own destiny. A win over Phoenix on Thursday or the Kings on Saturday cancels out the Red Wings and the Bruins and will give San Jose the best regular season record for 2008-09.
“If we win, we take care of our own business. We haven’t looked for other teams to help us. We try to help ourselves,” center Jeremy Roenick said.
But winning the Presidents’ Trophy doesn’t guarantee a Stanley Cup. As Roenick pointed out, his Blackhawks won the Presidents’ Trophy in 1991 and then got swept in the first round.
|San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton, left, and Jeremy Roenick celebrate Reonick's goal against the Anaheim Ducks in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 13, 2008. (AP Photo/Mark Avery) |
“It’s a nice accomplishment,” Roenick said. “It says that you really established a high level of play for a long period of time, but it doesn’t mean anything if you’re not ready to produce and play come playoff time.”
His teammates had similar sentiments.
“It’s setting yourself up for a good postseason and if you happen to go to the Finals, you get home ice advantage,” Thornton said.
“It doesn’t mean we’re going to win the Cup, but it’s something to be proud of,” defenseman Dan Boyle
The Presidents’ Trophy is just an award everyone can admire from April 12 when the regular season ends until April 15 when the postseason begins.
One player absent from today’s practice was right wing Jonathan Cheechoo. McLellan explained it was a “maintenance day” for the 28-year-old and that there was a good chance he would be play on Thursday against Phoenix.
“We gave him a day off for maintenance,” McLellan said.
In their last home game of the regular season, the Sharks will play hosts to Fan Appreciation Night when they take on the Phoenix Coyotes at HP Pavilion at 7:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on CSN, 98.5 KFOX FM and SJSHARKS.com.