Barring something bizarre, Patrick Marleau
will soon become a 40-goal scorer for the first time in his career. In the last five seasons, Marleau has made himself into a true sniper, lighting the lamp more than 30 times in four of the five years.
He’ll bring 39 goals into Thursday’s game against Nashville. When Marleau does score 40, he’ll be doing something that isn’t all that common for National Hockey League players. Last year, eight scored 40-plus goals. Two years ago, 10 hit that mark. What does that mean? It means that scoring 40 goals is a very special thing.
Marleau has always been humble and cordial and doesn’t really speak much about his personal goals. But he does acknowledge that this year’s success has been a nice ride.
“It’s feels good,” Marleau said. “If anything, you want to set the bar really high and move as high up there as you can.”
For most of the season, Marleau had been skating on a line with Joe Thornton
and Dany Heatley. Recently, he’s been paired with Ryane Clowe
and Joe Pavelski
, who isn’t surprised over Marleau’s career season.
“I think he’s got a great shot,” said Pavelski about Marleau reaching 40 goals. “I remember when I was younger reading in a hockey magazine that he was in the top-10 players for best wrist shot. His shot is quick and hard.”
Last year, Marleau scored a career-high 38 goals. He also saw another aspect of his game take form.
“His consistency has really taken off,” Pavelski said.
Could it have been because Marleau was skating with Thornton, who’s one of the League’s top passers?
“He has such great vision,” said Marleau of constantly having to look to shoot while playing with Thornton.
Maybe. But now there could be another reason for his success.
“It’s probably confidence,” Marleau said. “I just go into the game knowing I can score and get chances. You might not score every game, but you feel like it. Some nights you’ll get seven or eight shots and not score and some it’s two or three and you get a couple. Some of your better games the puck won’t go in.”
“After he scores, he wants it again,” Pavelski said. “You want to play with somebody like that. When we play together, it makes you stay on top of the attack. You don’t want to stop at one goal.”
Based on his current pace, Marleau will score 49 goals this season. With 17 games remaining, there’s a strong chance he could become the second Shark to score 50, joining Jonathan Cheechoo (56 in 2005-06).
“Everybody talks about 50 being a big milestone and if I could reach that,” Marleau said, “it would be unbelievable.”
Center Scott Nichol participated in today’s practice, but after suffering that upper body injury against Montreal on Thursday, he avoided the contact drills.
“Every day it’s a lot better,” Nichol said. “I just wanted to get the legs under me. There was no body contact this time. It’s not been a week, but my expectations couldn’t be better.”
So will Nichol return within the 7-10 day timeframe as initially mentioned?
“When the strength comes back and the pain goes away,” Nichol said. “I hope this week sometime.”
Then there’s defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic
, who hasn’t played since Jan. 30 with a lower body injury. Vlasic has started skating again.
“He’s been out there on his own, slowly getting back into it,” Coach Todd McLellan said. “Not with us, but on his own.”
BACK TO WORK
After Sunday’s day off, McLellan put his troops through a physical skate on Monday.
“It was a workman-like practice,” he said. “We wanted to work on our board play and net play. This is the last chunk of good practices. Get the fitness level back if you can in a three-day span. The players know what’s ahead of them.”
Sharks forward Ryan Vesce has been reassigned to the Worcester Sharks.
San Jose will play hosts to Nashville on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at HP Pavilion and tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The game will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.