When it comes to the policing the cheap stuff on the ice, the Sharks are very well equipped. They are far from being league leaders in the fighting category (stats taken from hockeyfights.com), but have displayed the ability to when necessary. San Jose is tied for 11th in the National Hockey League’s fighting major category with 39 scraps.
That is far from Pittsburgh’s 64, but well ahead of Detroit’s nine.
What makes San Jose’s situation unique is they don’t have just one enforcer, the role is shared by many regulars.
There are still a few teams who employ one person to primarily handle all the fisticuffs, but they aren’t always in the lineup. It can depend on the opponent for the evening and often, the person isn’t an option for the playoffs.
“It’s not so much having one tough guy that can’t skate and all he can do is (one thing),” Left wing Ben Eager said. “I think the teams that are successful are team tough.”
The Sharks have three who will drop the gloves when necessary. Right wing Jamal Mayers leads San Jose with 11 fights, followed by left wing Ryane Clowe
’s 10. Newcomer Eager is third with five, three coming when he played for Atlanta.
None of these three play like the stereotypical fighter. Mayers and Eager can skate with speed. They’ll never be as quick as Patrick Marleau
, but they can move and forecheck hard. They don’t hesitate to legally rub out the opponent on the boards and have their teammates backs when necessary. Then there’s Clowe, who’s third on the Sharks with 48 points.
“We can skate pretty well, get in on the forecheck and create some turnovers,” Eager said. “Sometimes those turnovers turn out to be big, especially in the playoffs. When you have a lot of speed on one team, it goes a long ways.”
Of course, their teammates appreciate the efforts from the trio.
“It’s not just that, it’s the physical presence too,” right wing Devin Setoguchi said. “People that can skate that are that big is scary for a defenseman. They aren’t just one dimensional. They can play the game and know how to play it. They can get in on the forecheck and swing the momentum of the game with a big hit or a big shift.”
Eager, who helped Chicago win the Stanley Cup last year, said the physical aspect helps with the bottom line: trying to win the game.
“It’s not always necessarily dropping the gloves and fighting off the opening faceoff,” Eager said. “I think it’s guys that play hard. Look at Patty Marleau, he finishes checks. Heater (Dany Heatley) finishes his checks. Jumbo (Joe Thornton
) does the same. That’s the thing that pays off especially in the playoffs. Just being a tough player to play against takes you a long ways.”INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Both of Eager’s fights for San Jose have come on the road, but he does have one match at HP Pavilion. Back on Oct. 16, he tussled with forward Frazer McLaren.