The Sharks have been without the services of one of their most productive defensemen, Tom Preissing, since Dec. 26 when the team traveled to Los Angeles to take on the Kings. The second-year blueliner is enjoying an outstanding sophomore season in which he leads the team with a plus-13 plus/minus rating.
But a bout with the nasty flu bug traveling around the area has shelved Preissing for the last three games.
The team isn’t sure when Preissing will lace up the skates at HP Pavilion, but they did get some reassurance today when he was present at practice. Although he did not suit up and skate with the team, the Rosemount, Minn. native got a work out at the team’s training facility. It marked the first time Preissing had been around his teammates in over a week.
“It’s nice to see him in here working out and getting back into shape,” Joe Thornton
said. “It’ll be a big boost for our team to get him back on the ice, that’s for sure.”
Preissing has made his presence felt this season, posting 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 31 games, while becoming a mainstay on the Sharks defense.
“He’s been consistent all year both on offense and defense, especially after the trade of Stuart,” Kyle McLaren said. “He’s picked up his game a lot. When you get a guy like him back, it kind of steadies our six a little bit more. Tom’s just a smart player and we’ll be glad to have him back whenever he gets healthy.”
Luckily for the team, rookie defenseman Josh Gorges has stepped in since Preissing has been out and has done an excellent job. Doug Murray has also continued his superb play since his promotion in early December.
“Every time someone goes down, it gives other guys opportunities,” Sharks Coach Ron Wilson said. “In this case, Josh Gorges has filled in and has shown that he can play.”
It may be a couple games before we see No. 42 back in the lineup, but the extra time off between games has helped his cause.
“The idea is to take him on the road trip and then play it by ear,” said Wilson said. “If you get sick or hurt in the middle of the season, you’re more likely to be able to bounce back quicker. You’re not going to lose too much. It’s going to help getting Tommy back. He was playing as well as he’s ever played and he’s really starting to show the potential we have expected from him.”
ONE MORE PRACTICE LEFT
The Sharks have just one more practice left before they return to the ice and play host to the Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday night. It has been four full days since their 5-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche and the Sharks are taking advantage of this time to rest, heal up and get some good practice time.
“We have to remember where we left off before the break and we can’t fall asleep here,” McLaren said. “Especially since we’re going in to January having to climb out of the basement. These next two home games are really crucial before we go on the road for awhile. Hopefully, we can carry the momentum over like we did in the past.”
After facing Columbus, the Sharks will take on the Kings for the third time this season, an important matchup in which they can gain ground on their Pacific Division foes.
“We’ve had a five-or six-game break before and we came out against Washington and had a really strong game, so we’ve proven we can do it,” Thornton said. “As long as you practice hard like we have been, I think it’s no problem because we’ll come in fresh and hungry and ready to win.”
“As a team we’re scoring more than we were,” Wilson said. “What we have to do is continue to work on shutting the other team down and not allow them to score as much and gradually we’re getting there. We’re 13th in goals against and that’s been a long climb to get it up because we were down near the bottom for awhile.”
JAGR EARNS OFFENSIVE POTM HONOR
New York Rangers right wing Jaromir Jagr, who led all scorers with 22 points (four goals, 18 assists) and posted a plus-6 rating in 13 games, has been named the NHL Offensive Player of the Month for December.
Jagr edged Thornton and Minnesota’s Brian Rolston (21 points each) for the award. Thornton had five goals and 16 assists in his 13 December games. He made his Sharks debut on Dec. 2 in Buffalo.
FSN BAY AREA TO AIR TWO WORLD JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIPS GAMES
FSN will air the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship Semifinal game between Team USA and Team Russia on Jan. 4 at 7:30 p.m. The game will be tape delayed from Jan. 3. The USA’s medal game will also air the following day, Jan. 5 at 10 p.m.
The Sharks will play host to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday at HP Pavilion at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are still available at the HP Pavilion box office and all Ticketmaster locations. The game can be seen on FSN Bay Area and heard on the Sharks Radio Network as well as sjsharks.com.