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Marleau Leading Again

by San Jose Sharks Staff / San Jose Sharks
San Jose Sharks center Patrick Marleau, far left, is congratulated by teammates after scoring the winning goal against the Nashville Predators in overtime in an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Tuesday, March 8, 2011. The San Jose Sharks defeated the Nashville Predators 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Beginning with the 2000-01 season through now, there have been 10 National Hockey League seasons played. For five of the past nine years, forward Patrick Marleau has led or tied for the Sharks team lead in goals.


So it should really come as no surprise that with 15 regular season games remaining, Marleau is once again pacing the Sharks in goals. His overtime winner against Nashville put Marleau ahead of rookie Logan Couture with 27 tallies.

Plenty could change in the next month as Couture (26) and Dany Heatley (22) are close to Marleau and have the ability to catch up very quickly.

“Watching him skate and shoot is fun,” Couture said. “There are only so many players in the League that can skate and shoot like him. When he’s playing well, he’s one of the top players in the world. When he can shoot in stride like he did last night, the goalie is not going to be set.”

Goaltender Antti Niemi saw Marleau score five of the Sharks seven goals (he assisted on another) against him and Chicago in last year’s Western Conference Finals. These days, he gets to stop Marleau’s shots every practice. After last year’s playoffs and being his teammate this year, Niemi now knows why Marleau is a dangerous shooter.

San Jose Sharks' Patrick Marleau (12) celebrates with Devin Setoguchi (16) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, center, after scoring the game-winning goal with four seconds remaining in overtime of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011. The Sharks won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
“He’s one of the toughest guys to face. It’s not a surprise,” Niemi said. “He can shoot it so quick and it’s hard to read when it’s coming. It seems like he is skating and he’s not going to shoot and then it’s already (there).”

“He shoots in stride. Patty doesn’t have to load the puck to shoot it,” Coach Todd McLellan said. “You look last night, he was in stride when he released it, so you never know when it’s coming. There are some players around the League who are like that (like Johan Franzen in Detroit). When he does shoot it, it’s coming at a high velocity and he knows where it’s going. Those shooters are deceiving and it makes it hard on a goalie.

“He goes to the net. He scores on the power play,” McLellan added. “He scores shorthanded. He has the ability to play the game any way you want to play it.”

Still Marleau’s consistency on what has been a talented playoff team for all but one of the last 10 years has been incredible. The goal totals have ranged from 25 (2000-01) to 44 (2009-10), but some how Marleau keeps rising to the top. The players during the stretch to have scored more than Marleau are Teemu Selanne (2001-02), Jonathan Cheechoo (2005-06, 2006-07) and Joe Thornton (2007-08).

“Patty has a set of tools a lot of players don’t have,” McLellan said. “The size and strength with a lightning fast stride, combined with a heck of shot. If you’re committed and playing hard, you’re going to score goals. In our (the coaching staff’s) three years here, Patty has produced on a very consistent basis. He goes through a few spells every now and then, but he works his way out of it. He understands what he needs to do and I really feel he has grown as a player.”

San Jose Sharks center Patrick Marleau celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal against the Nashville Predators in the overtime period of an NHL hockey game on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn. The Sharks won 2-1. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
THE CLOSER
Marleau is now just one of four players in NHL overtime history (since its regular season debut in 1983-84) with three or more overtime goals in a 10-game span. He joins Josef Stumpel (March 2000), Markus Naslund (Nov.-Dec. 2003) and Andrew Cogliano (March 2008).

Marleau is the first Shark to have three overtime goals in a season and is the sixth active player to have OT goals in two straight meetings with the same opponent (meaning the Sharks last two games vs. Nashville have been decided by Marleau’s overtime-winning goals).

GETTING CLOSE
While most of the club had a light workout, defenseman Dan Boyle had an extended skate as he creeps closer to returning. There’s still no set time and he remains day-to-day.

“I’ve got to keep in shape as best as possible,” Boyle said. “I’m definitely happy with the last two practices. I’m trying to do a little bit more every day. It’a day-to-day thing, but the guys are doing a great job, so there’s no reason to get in there and get stupid and aggravate it. Just keep getting better and better.”

“He skated today and looked pretty good,” McLellan said. “As soon as he’s ready we’ll play him. We’ll see how he is tomorrow.”

Boyle did enjoy seeing his replacements, particularly rookie Justin Braun, perform well in Tuesday’s win. In fact, Braun scored his second NHL goal last night.

“It was a huge goal last night and he was the one who stepped in and has played well,” Boyle said. “I like what I’m seeing from him and he’s doing a good job.”

THREE ON MATCH IS VERY GOOD LUCK

Defenseman Ian White’s overtime assist on Marleau's game-winner gave him an overtime point with three different teams this year. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, White is the first player in NHL history to record overtime points with three different teams in the same season. Oddly enough, two of his extra helpers have come against Nashville. Here are his overtime assists in 2010-11:

Oct. 19, 2010 with Calgary at Nashville
Jan. 9, 2011 with Carolina vs. Atlanta
March 8, 2011 with San Jose vs. Nashville

TOP DOGS IN THE HOUSE ON THURSDAY
San Jose hosts NHL-leading Vancouver on Thursday. Of course, this will be a statement game for both clubs.

“Vancouver is clearly established themselves as the go-to team right now,” McLellan said. “Their specialty teams are at the top in both categories. They have incredible depth. For any team to play them is a test and we’ll look at it that way.”

AMICI’S FUNDRAISER
About the entire Sharks roster turned out for a fundraiser at the Amici’s in Cupertino recently where the pizzeria donated the day’s proceeds to the Sharks Foundation. When all was said and done, $14,400 went to the Sharks Foundation.

NEXT GAME
San Jose will play hosts to Vancouver Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The game will be on CSN California, KFOX 98.5/102.1 FM and www.sjsharks.com.
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