Practice. Yes, we're talking about practice. Very few professional athletes enjoy it every time out, but hockey players know that good practices in October can lead to a Stanley Cup in May.
San Jose has been taking advantage of four strong practice days around the Wednesday's 4-1 victory against Columbus. Team Teal needs the extra ice time for they won't have a true practice again until Tuesday following the Detroit contest at Joe Louis Arena.
"We skated at a high tempo and tried to talk over some things," said winger Nils Ekman. "I think we have a good recipe, we just have to keep improving on it."
"We've had good practices," said Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson. "We've got that good feeling going again and you could see it in practice Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and today. We maintained high tempo practices and our success the last two games reinforced what we were teaching in practice."
There was not one primary focus, but Wilson and his staff worked on all areas trying to tweak the recipe that took San Jose to the Pacific Division title and the Western Conference Finals the last time hockey was played.
"We worked on stuff in our own end, puck movement, the speed of our puck movement and a lot of special teams," said Wilson.
On the special teams side, Wilson knows the penalty killing percentage will improve if the club stays away from five-on-three situations and the power play is not that far off either.
"You're looking to get chances on the power play and the last two games, we got our chances," said Wilson.
When there are chances, at worst, the attacking club can control play for two minutes at a time.
"It can shift the momentum of a game, even if you don't score," said the Sharks bench boss. "If you keep possession, the other team is on their heels. We had a great five-on-three the other night, we just didn't score. We needed a power play goal in St. Louis and we got it. The (timeliness) is more important than anything else."
And a highly rated power play doesn't guarantee complete success.
"The best year this franchise ever had on the power play, it didn't make the playoffs," said Wilson, referring to the 2002-03 season when the Sharks converted on 18.1 percent of their chances.
Still, San Jose knows that an improved power play will benefit them during the 82-game season.
"Our power play will be there, we just have to continue doing the right things," said Wilson.
4 GAME STREAK
Marco Sturm is off to a hot start for San Jose, registering a point in all four contests. He's registered two goals and two helpers in the four games for one of his quickest starts ever.
"Too many times I've not had a good start, so that's what I've tried to do," said Sturm. "I'm older now and I've looser. I'm starting out having fun."
Sturm has been manning his usual spot on Patrick Marleau's wing, but they have seen three different players man the other wing: Ryane Clowe, Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek. For now, the rookie Michalek is prepping for his third consecutive contest with the young veterans.
"He's doing well," said Sturm. "We click together and right now we are playing pretty good."
Where Sturm has always clicked is playing alongside Marleau, as the two are roommates and friends in addition to linemates.
"I know where Patty wants the puck and where he is going and he is the same with me," said Sturm.
Marleau had the longest scoring streak for San Jose last season (nine games), but he wouldn't mind passing the baton to Sturm on this streak.
"We want to keep playing hard and to keep the streak alive," said Marleau. "If we play well, he'll get his points."
Sturm has shown absolutely no rust from the injured ankle he suffered late in the 2003-04 campaign.
"My first practice in training camp before the World Cup was not good and that was seven months later," said Sturm. "The first time I skated, I felt like I was on rollerblades. It was tough to even crossover. After a week it started to get better and then I was more confident."
HURRICANE RELIEF FUND
Twelve San Jose fire fighters will be collecting funds via the "fill the boot" method at the North and South entrances prior to the game on Saturday. The fire fighters will be dressed in full gear and will be holding an actual fire fighter boot for Sharks fans to make their donations in. All money raised will be distributed through the fire fighters hurricane relief fund. During the game, the Sharks will host the fire fighters in a luxury suite so they can enjoy the contest.
The Sharks will play host to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday, Oct. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at HP Pavilion. A limited number of tickets are available at the HP Pavilion box office and all Ticketmaster locations. The game can be viewed on FSN Bay Area and heard on 98.5 KFOX (pregame at 7 p.m.) and on sjsharks.com.