Sharks players have been back on the ice for the past week and with two days of scrimmages under their belts, they are getting the feelings of most game situations. However, while the ice conditions are NHL quality at Logitech Ice, there is something to be said for playing in front of the HP Pavilion faithful - a fan base annually recognized as one of the NHL's most supportive.
Sunday afternoon, Team Teal returns to HP Pavilion for a double header against the Los Angeles Kings. In the 2 p.m. matinee, the Sharks prospects will battle the Kings prospects. Then for the 5 p.m. main event, the big clubs will face off and the roar of the crowds will once again be heard.
"We've been waiting for this for a long time," said Scott Thornton. "It is the big arena and we want to perform well in front of our fans."
The Sharks players are aware that their fans have returned at one of the better rates in the NHL and they are eager to play for them in 2005-06.
"It's exciting to see the fans back," said Captain Patrick Marleau. "It is just as exciting for us to see them back in the arena. Sharks fans are great!"
The players are not the only ones a little more juiced for a preseason contest.
"It's long overdue," said Assistant Coach Rob Zettler. "The action and tempo in the scrimmages has been good, but I expect that to elevate more on Sunday. Some guys played in Europe, but this is what everyone looks forward to."
Marco Sturm hit the ice for the first time, as his training camp was delayed due to the unfortunate death of his mother. Sturm was in a familiar setting, skating alongside Marleau and Niko Dimitrakos.
Team Gray defeated Team Black in the second scrimmage of the 2005 training camp. The two groups alternated goals until Craig Valette scored the game-winner in the second half (the contests are played in two 35 minutes halves where the clock runs except for the final minute).
Scott Thornton tallied twice for Team Gray's first two scores and Niko Dimitrakos and Marcel Goc helped Team Black tie the game in the first half.
Vesa Toskala stopped 15 of 16 shots in his 35 minutes of action while his opposite number in the final half, Evgeni Nabokov, shut the door on all 18 shots faced to take the victory.
PLAY OF THE GAME
While five goals were scored in the scrimmage the top highlight came when netminding prospect Nolan Schaefer robbed Jonathan Cheechoo on the doorstep during a two-on-one. Josh Holden and Schaefer each stopped eight of 10 first half shots for their teams.