The San Jose Sharks will look to jump right back to their winning ways when they play Anaheim on Saturday night at HP Pavilion at 7:30 p.m. At the morning skate, Todd McLellan ran a more practice oriented effort instead of the usual light morning practice on the day of a game. That had a lot to do with the Christmas break.
“With three days off, we needed it,” said McLellan. “It’s back to work. To go into battle without experiencing (one-on-one battles) for three days is probably not a good idea.”
The Sharks hope to find their defensive game that has eluded them in recent contests where Evgeni Nabokov has had to be more than his usual stellar self.
“We owe him one,” said Joe Thornton
“He’s been beyond good, probably excellent,” said McLellan.
The Sharks have seen their opponents’ shot total go beyond expectations at times this year and they are looking to corral that as soon as possible.
“Yes, it does concern me,” said McLellan. “I think we are less experienced on the blueline. I think the league is playing different this year. There is more Detroit in the league right now.”
The Sharks players all enjoyed their three days off and think the mental time away from the rink will be beneficial in the long run.
“Fortunately I didn’t have to go to any malls,” said Manny Malhotra. “I just ate non stop, it was good and bad. The mental break helps you going forward. You relax with your family and aren’t worried about the games, standing or the system.”
There was a bit of hockey though.
“Quite a bit of backyard hockey, kitchen hockey, living room hockey,” said Malhotra.
“It was good mental health,” said Scott Nichol. “The kids had fun and Christmas was good. There was a lot of excitement and craziness. Three days is nice and we earned it with the schedule.”
On this day, the Sharks game may not be the biggest Bay Area event in the Malhotra household. Malhotra’s wife is NBA star Steve Nash’s sister and with the Warriors hosting the Phoenix Suns today, there is some attention on that game as well.
“She’s not going, but got to have a quick visit with him,” said Malhotra.
The timing for such a visit has worked out previously only once.
“When I was in Columbus, we went to Cleveland one time, but that was the only game we were able to get to,” said Malhotra.
The Sharks have not been as dominant at HP Pavilion this season and McLellan is hoping to put things in the right direction in San Jose.
“We haven’t played as well at home, so I’d like to establish that,” said McLellan.
READY FOR THE OLYMPICS
With the Russian Olympic team now selected, and Nabokov an obvious selection, there will still be a little debate about who will be Russia’s starter in the pipes. Nabokov is not presuming anything.
“My view is you’ve got to prove you can be the number one and that’s what I’m going to try and do,” said Nabokov. “Nothing is a given. I’ll have to earn it.”
The Russian team is a close knit group and that could be very beneficial this February.
“We know each other and care a lot about each other,” said Nabokov.
Even thought he’s donned the sweater before, being chosen is still a privilege for Nabokov.
“Anybody would love to play for his own country,” said Nabokov. “It’s an awesome group and we want to come out and prove it.”
With the 2014 games in Russia, there is almost as much excitement back home as there is for the Canadians playing on their home ice this year.
“We know how hard it is going to be to win,” said Nabokov.
On the flip said, Thornton said Olympic hockey will be a different matter and noted it’s a very real possibility that Canada and Russia will hook up at some point.
“I played against him in Torino,” said Thornton. “If I’m lucky enough to make the roster, I’d love to score on him.”
The annual World Junior Hockey Tournament is up and running with Canada looking for their sixth straight title. There is a lot pressure on the club as they are playing on home ice in Saskatchewan. Representing the country is Marek Viedensky
, a center from Prince George who the Sharks tabbed with a seventh round pick in 2009.
Another Sharks prospect, Dominik Bielke, a defenseman in the German League, played a strong tournament in helping Germany pull themselves back to the main tournament in 2011 after they were relegated down last year.
The Worcester Sharks recently auctioned off special goalie mask that received some love from Sports Illustrated.