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Shaping the Olympic Squad

by San Jose Sharks Staff / San Jose Sharks
When Team Canada Executive Director Steve Yzerman was in San Jose to watch last week’s Sharks vs. Philadelphia game, he was continuing his never-ending search to fill Canada’s 2010 Olympic team.


Of course, when Yzerman is seen in a National Hockey League arena these days, there’s always a buzz among those in the hockey community.

The Sharks put on a show from top to bottom, making impressions on everyone watching, with hopefully the biggest impression left on Yzerman. When it comes to Dan Boyle, Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and even Marc-Edouard Vlasic, they did everything possible to increase their to making Team Canada’s squad.

There are even reports of Canadian icon Don Cherry touting Marleau, Thornton and Heatley as Canada’s top line.

“We have a lot of guys who can be there, especially with Canada,” Heatley said. “We want everyone to be there. We don’t talk about it. People have been talking about it for the last four years (in Canada).”

That’s what happens when the National Hockey League’s top club performs as everyone in Canada watches intently. On offense, Marleau, Thornton and Heatley constitute three of the NHL’s top-five point producers. In short, the Sharks players have been auditioning strong all year, not just on the one night.

In the NHL points race, Thornton currently sits second (32), followed by Heatley (28) with Marleau close behind in fifth (27). The odd thing about this trio: they haven’t skated as a line, except recently due to injuries.

More importantly, they rank one, two and three in points among Canadians and Marleau’s goal scoring is tied for fourth among Canadian players.

Thornton’s 25 helpers lead the NHL and Heatley’s 18 goals top the League with Marleau tied for sixth with 14 goals.

Who else is trying to close in on a roster spot for Canada? Look no further than the blueline and Boyle as there could easily be four Sharks playing in front of the home crowd in Vancouver. Boyle’s credentials are right on par with his teammates up front as he has 21 points to rank second in the entire NHL among defensemen. Boyle also ranks fourth in the League in time on ice (26:24). The Sharks strong defense also leads credence to Vlasic as an outside possibility.

Team Canada won’t be the only place where the Sharks are represented. The most forgone conclusion might be Thomas Greiss as the goaltender for Germany. As the only NHL netminder for the country, his skill set will be tough to beat. Plus, he has performed well when called upon by San Jose.

Defenseman Douglas Murray could get a call from Team Sweden. His plus-5 plus/minus rating is sixth among Swedish-eligible defensemen and his physical presence would likely be a necessity when Sweden plays some of the bigger countries.

Playing for Team USA would be an excellent fit for Joe Pavelski. He has played in just 10 games this year, but he’s back, healthy and performing admirably. If his nine points in 10 contests were prorated out to 20 games, he would be in the top five of U.S. scorers with 18 points.

“You definitely want to be there,” Pavelski said.

Some are more understated about it, but every NHLer wants to represent his country at the Olympics.

“You want to play well and hope you’re on the right side when they select the team,” Marleau said.

What could be unique for a player like Pavelski if he’s chosen, he will have a different role than what he does on the Sharks.

“They’re picking to create a team,” Pavelski said. “They’re not picking a team based on superstars. If you do make it, maybe you’re a bottom-six forward.”

While the Olympics are important, the Winter Games aren’t something that’s foremost on their minds.

“It’s really not a thing you worry about,” Thornton said.

They do know that if they go, they would like to see a lot of familiar faces.

“You want as many teammates as you can,” Thornton said. “Nabby (Evgeni Nabokov), Cranky (Murray), Boyle, Patty and Heater.”

In the end, the better the Sharks players perform to better the Sharks, the better they will improve their own chances at the Olympics.

“If you play well here, you have a better shot at the team,” Pavelski said.

“You do what you can to help this team win,” Heatley said.

For each of the 12 teams at the Olympics, the announcement dates are below. It’s still a month away, but there will be a lot of speculating until everything is announced.

Belarus -- Dec. 23
Canada -- Dec. 31
Czech Republic -- Dec. 30
Finland -- Dec. 30
Germany -- Dec. 30
Latvia -- Dec. 29
Russia -- Dec. 25
Slovakia -- Dec. 29
Sweden -- Dec. 27
Switzerland -- Dec. 30
United States -- Jan. 1

EXTRA SKATER
Forward Brad Staubitz returned to practice with the team and was wearing a full face shield to protect where he took a puck in the face.

“In Bantam, I played with a cage,” Staubitz said. “I worked out yesterday and there was no pain. You don’t want to be out too long.”

MORE MAINTENANCE
Head Coach Todd McLellan gave Boyle another day away from the ice, but hinted he could be back in the lineup on Wednesday against Chicago.

MISS MASS
Lacey Wilson, the daughter of Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson, recently won the Miss Massachusetts title and will compete for the title of Miss USA.

IN CANADA
McLellan noted forward Torrey Mitchell will likely not see game action on Wednesday, but that the contests in Edmonton and Vancouver over the weekend were better guesses for his return.

“We’ll need two,” said McLellan about likely returnees from Worcester.

NEXT GAME
The Sharks will play hosts to Chicago on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. and tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The contest will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.

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