Over the last three seasons, there’s been one constant on the Sharks penalty kill: right wing Mike Grier. His tenacity and grit have been valuable to San Jose’s special teams.
And according to his teammates, Grier brings more than that to the team.
“He brings leadership. He’s a great penalty kill guy. He’s really reliable,” left wing Ryane Clowe
said. “If we’re up by a goal and it’s late in the game, he’s a guy you want out there because he makes smart plays at the right time.”
“He’s a leader,” left wing Milan Michalek said. “I could learn a lot from him. Every night he works really hard so everyone looks up to him. When he talks, everyone listens.”
In addition to his leadership skills and work ethic, Grier is also known as a jokester.
“He gets guys pretty good with his one-liners and movies or TV quotes,” Clowe said. “From the ‘Chappelle’s Show’ (on Comedy Central), Grier is Silky Johnson. Brian Boucher joins him and they like to do the ‘Player Haters’ skit back and forth to each other a lot.”
Grier said that he likes to joke around with the guys to keep the team loose.
“He picks on everyone and since I sit next to him, I hear it all,” Michalek said with laugh. “He always has jokes in the morning. You’ll come into the locker room in the morning and you’ll hear it from him. It’s all fun.”
But who’s his favorite target?
“He likes to pick on (right wing Devin) Setoguchi,” Clowe said. “He gives it to ‘Seto’ a bit; like when Seto is walking around with an ice bag on his leg, Grier calls him an old 20-year-old. You can’t get much by Mike.”
Nope, you can’t get much by Grier, even on the power play.
San Jose’s penalty kill ranks eighth in the NHL, as they’ve shut down their opponents 85.2 percent of the time.
“Hopefully, we can get up in the top five or three on the penalty kill,” Grier said. “We’re getting better over the past month. It’s just hard work. There’s no secret to penalty killing, just hard work and guys willing to sacrifice, getting into the shooting lane and block shots.”
However, the Sharks have five short-handed goals, with Grier assisting on two, through their first 16 games this year. Last year, the Sharks had seven during the regular season.
“We’ve gotten some scoring chances on the penalty kill, but that’s what you get when you have guys like Patty Marleau, Joe Pavelski
and Milan Michalek that kill penalties,” Grier said. “Sometimes when the other teams get on the power play they kind of go to sleep defensively, relax a bit and then when that team makes mistakes, one of our guys can put it in the back of the net.”
Though Sharks fans might know the right winger as a defensive forward, Grier admits it hasn’t always been that way.
“In college, I scored a lot of goals,” said Grier, who had 55 points (29 goals and 26 assists) in 37 games as a sophomore at Boston University and was second in voting for the Hobey Baker Award. “My first few years, I played more power play than penalty kill. It’s just kind of evolved that way over the years and you just find your niche.
“Being reliable defensively is something I take pride in,” Grier added. “I like to think I could chip in offensively as well.”
Grier has nine points (two goals and seven assists) in 16 games and is also tied for second on the team in plus/minus with a plus-6. The stats reflect how he’s feeling on the ice these days.
“Points are nice, it’s nice for me, but I just feel that I’m playing better hockey right now,” Grier said. “That’s the most important thing.”
The Detroit native attributes his early season offensive numbers to the team’s overall play. San Jose’s 13-3 record represents the best start in their 17-year history.
“Everyone feels better about themselves and everyone feels more confident with the puck,” Grier said. “I’ve got a couple of good bounces this year so hopefully I can keep that going. There’s still a lot of hockey left.”
Confidence has also been a major factor for 33-year-old this season.
“At times last year my confidence is up and down. I was afraid to make mistakes,” Grier said. “This year the coaches have been good and they’ve been behind me and everyone else so I don’t think we’re as uptight as last year.
“There were times last year when I wasn’t really myself and didn’t have the enthusiasm I usually play with,” Grier added. “I just came into this year telling myself to be as consistent as possible and be there every night for my teammates. I feel I can do that.”INJURY UPDATES
Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov and right wing Jonathan Cheechoo participated in this morning’s pregame skate. Both are progressing from their injuries with Cheechoo’s return to probably come before Nabokov’s.
“It feels pretty good,” Cheechoo said of his upper body ailment. “I think I’ll be back soon, probably not tonight.”
“It’s nothing negative,” Nabokov said about his lower body injury. “To play a game, you have to be at full strength.”NEW BABY
Dan and Amber Boyle welcomed a baby girl, Eastin Sky on Tuesday at 10:20 am. Eastin weighs in at six-pounds ten-ounces and 19-1/2-inches long.NEXT GAME
San Jose will play hosts to Nashville at 7:30 tonight and tickets are available at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The game will be available on CSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com