For the San Jose Sharks, their Tuesday contest with Toronto is much ado about several things, but the Sharks are downplaying each and every one.
First and foremost, with a victory, the Sharks will tie the Montreal Canadiens for the best start in National Hockey League history through the first 25 games with 43 points. With one-third of the regular season schedule completed, that’s an impressive stat.
“Obviously we’re aware of it, but it’s not the issue at hand,” defenseman Rob Blake said. “Everyone knows what we need to do to accomplish each win.”
The record is a good thing, but not the most important thing.
“Those records are always nice to get, but the thing at the end of the year is what counts,” Captain Patrick Marleau
“It’s good at the time, but what really counts is how we continue playing,” center Joe Pavelski
San Jose has the NHL’s best record (20-3-1). No one else has 20 wins and only Boston, Detroit and the Rangers come close in points (36). However, no one in the Sharks locker room is satisfied.
“There definitely is room to grow,” defenseman Brad Lukowich said. “We look at the record and the guys still talk about the four losses and are bothered by them. We haven’t taken it to the next level. It’s exciting to hear guys talk that way.”
Tonight’s game will have more of a buzz than usual, but not just because of the way San Jose is playing. The Toronto Maple Leafs, hockey’s version of the New York Yankees, are in town. No team in Canada, not even the Montreal Canadiens, gets the attention the Leafs receive on a daily basis.
“It’s special for us,” Blake said. “If you grew up in Ontario, you were a fan and your favorite player was a Toronto guy.”
Finally, former Sharks Coach Ron Wilson will be returning to face his former club for the first time.
“It’s another game for me and he’s coached about 10 million games,” center Joe Thornton
said with a smile. “We want to beat them and they want to beat us.”
“We’ll approach it like any other game,” Marleau said.
Wilson and his staff, which includes former Sharks Assistant Coaches Tim Hunter and Rob Zettler, know San Jose well as they coached them from 2002-03 to 2007-08. Will that be an advantage for the Leafs?
“It’s still decided by the players,” Pavelski said.
Nevertheless, the Sharks – including the new coaching staff – are very appreciative of what the previous staff did to help develop the team.
“It’s a time for the people in San Jose to appreciate what Ron Wilson did for this organization,” Head Coach Todd McLellan said. “As an organization and a coaching staff, we have a ton of respect for him.”
“Ron, ‘Zetts’ and ‘Hunts’ did a good job here,” Mike Grier said.
Lukowich has played against his former coaches in the past. He offered this bit of advice to his younger teammates who haven’t experienced this situation.
“You can’t look at the other bench,” Lukowich said of Wilson and the Leafs, who won in Los Angeles on Monday night, 3-1. “He’ll have them fired up. They played a great game last night.”
Former Sharks goaltender Vesa Toskala will be facing his former teammates for the second time since he was traded to Toronto. Of course, McLellan will definitely get some tips from his players about facing Toskala.
“It would be a great mistake on our end not to talk to them about Vesa,” McLellan said.
The Sharks will host Toronto at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday night and the game will be available on CSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com. Tickets can be purchased at www.ticketmaster.com or at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office.