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Michalek Leads Sharks To 3rd

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks
Michalek Goes To The Net
San Jose scored early and often in taking third place in the "Pacific Division Shootout" rookie tournament with a 5-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes in the Consolation Game on Sunday at Logitech Ice at San Jose. Leading the way was Milan Michalek with a goal and two assists and Josh Prudden with two goals and a helper.

Less than four minutes into the contest, Team Teal already possessed a 2-0 lead behind tallies from Michalek and Prudden, who took turns setting each other up on the goals.

Phoenix responded with two second period goals to tie the contest, but less than two minutes after Phoenix's second goal, Tim Conboy, a defenseman who skated as a center for the afternoon, scored the game-winner with help from Evan Haw and Lukas Kasper. The play was an example of what to expect in the new NHL as the outlet pass from Haw game came from behind the far blueline and hit the open Conboy for the breakaway just in front of the far blueline. Under the old NHL rules, the linesman would have called it a two-line pass. This year, it resulted in a breakaway opportunity that Conboy converted.

Midway through the third, Michalek single-handedly set up an insurance power play goal. He first carried the puck behind the Coyotes net, only to find an awaiting blueliner. The Czech native then reversed directions and maneuvered back behind the net and all the way to the point before turning to the middle. By that point, Michalek had garnered enough attention and he was able to find Josh Hennessy open in the slot. Then the Quebec league alumni ripped a shot that deflected off a defender into the net.

Prudden would add his second tally with the goalie pulled to close out the scoring.

Jason Churchill went the distance in net and stopped 26 of 28 shots to earn the victory. While the primary focus of the tournament is player development and evaluation, the third place victory was a nice closing touch for the future Sharks.

"We're happy to get the win," said Sharks Assistant Coach Tim Hunter. "It was not the most important thing here, but it makes the kids feel better and gives them confidence heading into training camp."

Hunter noticed improvement throughout the week from the entire group.

"Every game, the group got better," said Hunter. "They learned how we want them to play and how to play with each other. Some guys are from the East, some from the West, some from Europe and some from college. We saw a lot of good things and now we'll see the group at the next level."

Back in 2003, Michalek became the first Sharks rookie to make the team in his draft year since Patrick Marleau in 1997. Then, in his first NHL game, he scored his first goal. Unfortunately in his second NHL game, he suffered a knee injury which ultimately, would end up sidelining him for the majority of the 2003-04 season.

Michalek focused on rehabbing the injury throughout the 2004-05 campaign and based on the two games he played in the Pacific Division Shootout, the rest and rehab was a complete success. Michalek, along with Ryan Getzlaf of Anaheim, clearly looked like the class of the tournament. The Sharks former first round pick posted four points (two goals, 2 assists) in two games and made several head-turning plays.

"Obviously, Milan was head and shoulders above everyone," said Hunter. "Setoguchi, Bernier and Kaspar played well and the young defensemen played strong too."

Michalek was happy with his performance as he scored in both contests he played.

"It was a good two games," said Michalek. "It has been almost two years. It's exciting and I've missed the guys a lot. I was a little nervous at first, but not after the first shift."

Fellow 2003 first round pick Steve Bernier was knocked to the ice by an elbow and carried off for precautionary reasons on a stretcher to be examined further.

"Bernier was playing really well and the early word is he is going to be all right," said Hunter, noting that Bernier suffered a "burner".

The tournament was the first look at the new rules for not only the prospects, but also for the AHL
General Action
referees calling the came.

"Our guys were getting used to it and they weren't hooking or slashing," said Hunter. "They kept both hands on the stick and moved their feet. We don't want to go into the regular season worrying about killing penalties. We want to have our power play ready to take advantage."

Conboy, a defenseman who played 61 games with Cleveland last season, not only played forward in the Consolation game, but played the pivot position. While Conboy has skated as a winger in the past, the center slot was new to him.

"He has a lot of attributes," said Hunter. "They used him as forward in Cleveland a little bit. We look for versatility, not for lefts or rights."

"Last year in Cleveland, I played four or five games (up front)," said Conboy. "Today, I played center and it was totally different."

Conboy, known for his physical play, and he had one of the biggest hits of the tournament, said he was trying to let the game come to him a bit more.

"The last two years, I was running around looking for the big hit," said Conboy. "Now I'm letting the hits
Hennesy Face Off
come to me."

Anaheim won the tournament with a 4-3 final victory against the Kings. Ryan Getzlaf was the tournament MVP, leading all players in goals (4), assists (5) and points (9). Sharks forwards Josh Prudden and Mike Iggulden (in camp on a tryout contract) tied several others for second in goals with three.
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