After a brief morning practice at Sharks Ice, the Sharks departed for their second of three six-game road trips of the season. These six-game trips are the longest of the season. This version has the Sharks going to St. Louis, Nashville, Toronto, Columbus, Detroit and Buffalo.
The travel will be compacted. The first two games (tomorrow in St. Louis and Saturday at Nashville) are in the Central Time Zone with the balance played in the Eastern Time Zone. And although six games will be played in 10 days, there’s only one set of consecutive games (next Wednesday in Columbus and Thursday at Detroit).
This long road trip comes after San Jose had played 12 of their last 15 at home and all 15 no further east than Phoenix. The main reason for the truncated schedule: to make room for the two-week Olympic Break that starts on Valentine’s Day.
“It’s all condensed,” captain Rob Blake said of the schedule. “Everyone has games squeezed in before the break.”
“We’ve had it pretty good and now it’s back to the road,” defenseman Dan Boyle
said. “A lot of the teams we’ll play are fighting for playoff spots and we’ll see their best hockey.”
Being away from wives and kids can be hard on those who are fathers, but it’s part of the game. However, this long road trip will help the team bond, which is always a good thing.
“We love playing at HP in front of the home fans,” defenseman Douglas Murray
said. “We’re a tight team, but it gives the guys a chance to get together. Usually we’ll take a team dinner. One night you’ll have dinner with a couple of guys and the other night it will be a couple of other guys.
“We’ll play some cards, relax at the hotel and pretty much relax,” he added. “For me, the road doesn’t faze me.”
The road trip is long and packed, but to the Sharks, it’s just part of doing business.
“We had some good rest,” said Blake. “We’ve been home (a lot) and a week and a half of work on the road doesn’t seem as bad with the break coming up.”
“Nothing changes, it is a simple trip,” forward Torrey Mitchell
said. “Hopefully we’ll win a lot of games.”
The Olympic Break will provide 12 of the Sharks 20 players time to refresh their minds and get a little rest and relaxation. They return to work on Feb. 24 and will practice a few days without the Olympians.
For the Olympians, their road trip is another matter. Following the final road game in Buffalo next Saturday, the group of eight (Murray, Boyle, Evgeni Nabokov, Joe Thornton
, Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau
, Thomas Greiss
and Joe Pavelski
) will fly home to San Jose with the team, gather what they need for Vancouver and then depart for the Olympics. They will be AWOL from San Jose, with the exception of a few hours, for nearly a month.
While the Olympics will be time consuming and intense for these eight players, the time spent will forever be a memory.
“It’s going to be a great experience,” Murray said.
There’s just one thing these eight have done before today: pack.
“I was packing last night,” Boyle said.
ALL ABOUT THE ROSTER
Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic
wasn’t on the plane for today’s trip to St. Louis, but could join the Sharks at some point during the trip. He’s missed the last two games with a lower body injury.
“He’s not making the trip initially and we’ll see if he joins us later on,” Head Coach Todd McLellan said.
Boyle, who’s been out for five games with an upper body ailment, was on the plane and might begin playing soon.
The Sharks assigned forward Jamie McGinn and defenseman Derek Joslin to Worcester and further recalls may not be needed if Boyle and forward Jody Shelley rejoin the lineup.
CATCHING A BREAK
San Jose will get a night off in St. Louis tonight while the Blues are in Chicago to resume their rivalry. As play begins tonight, St. Louis is 13th in the Western Conference and the Hawks are second, trailing San Jose by three points for the top spot.
San Jose will visit St. Louis Thursday at 5 p.m. and the game will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.