San Jose wrapped up a successful preseason on Saturday with a strong 5-1 victory against the Calgary Flames. The win concluded the exhibition slate with San Jose standing 6-2.
Vesa Toskala went the distance and allowed just one late tally, nearly pulling off back-to-back shutouts.
“I feel good,” said Toskala. “We have a day off tomorrow and I’ll take care of my body. I feel ready and I’m seeing the puck pretty good.”
Mark Bell is slated to skate with the NHL’s defending goal-scoring and point-scoring champions, but he found his niche when he tallied his first goal with Joe Thornton
and Jonathan Cheechoo Saturday night.
“It felt good to get the monkey off my back,” said Bell. “It is a confidence builder.”
Bell has enjoyed what he’s seen of his new line.
“We’ve made some good plays and felt like we’ve had our chances,” said Bell.
Ron Wilson likes that he got Bell one more game with his fellow forwards before the regular season begins.
“Mark is still figuring out where to be and he just needs to keep his stick on the ice,” said Wilson.
TWO TOP LINES
Bell has definitely taken notice of the other top Sharks line that can sometimes get overlooked outside the Bay Area. Bell laughed at the notion that Patrick Marleau
, Milan Michalek and Steve Bernier would be considered just a second line.
“They’ve been unbelievable and are playing great,” said Bell. “I hope they keep it going.”
Bell was brought to Silicon Valley because he has the talent to play with Cheechoo and Thornton, but also because he is physical enough to keep people from taking liberties with the line. Bell has now seen first-hand how Steve Bernier handles the same role with Marleau’s line. Bernier has been involved in three scraps during the preseason.
“Milan has been gaining more attention and Steve is definitely the first guy to take care of it,” said Bell. “You don’t want him to fight all the time, but he will keep people honest.”
Bernier will not shy away from the fisticuffs when necessary.
“It’s part of the game of hockey,” said Bernier. “I want to win, but I want to defend my teammates. That was a cheap shot on Milan. I don’t want to call myself a tough guy, but I want to make sure the cheap shots don’t happen again.”
The reason Michalek has been garnering attention is that the two goals he scored Saturday night, both highlight worthy, took him from a tie for first in the NHL with five preseason goals, to the overall lead with seven. Patrick Marleau
’s assist total of nine, including three Saturday night, makes him the league leader in that category.
“He is so good and he is faster compared to last year,” said Bernier. “This year he has not missed much and his confidence keeps growing. On the first goal, he was even with the defenseman and then was 10 feet in front of him.”
Michalek has always been known for his defensive awareness, but Wilson wants him focused on the offensive side of the puck.
“I just want him to have the mentality that he is a scorer and not a defensive specialist,” said Wilson.
With a five-on-three power play, Wilson took the opportunity to experiment with the power play. He sent Joe Thornton
, Mark Bell, Jonathan Cheechoo, Patrick Marleau
and Steve Bernier on the ice without a defenseman.
“I wanted to experiment with Cheech on the point and having Patty out there with Bernier and Bell down low,” said Wilson. “If we don’t score with those five out there, I’d be disappointed.”
Wilson had a chuckle at the suggestion that the fivesome left out the NHL’s preseason goal-scoring leader.
“Maybe I’ll pull the goalie and put Milan out there,” said Wilson.
Christian Ehrhoff left Saturday’s contest early, but there is nothing to be concerned over.
“He tweaked his side yesterday and it still hurt,” said Wilson. “We decided to keep him out. He’ll be fine for Thursday.”
VLASIC A LOCK
Wilson had all but said Marc-Edouard Vlasic
will make the opening night roster, but he confirmed that after Vlasic’s performance against Calgary.
“He earned a spot in the starting lineup,” said Wilson. “They had their main lineup out there and at times you could think he was our best defenseman. He is a little more focused that most players right now.”