While many NHL clubs returned to the ice on Wednesday, the Sharks laced up their skates Thursday for the first time since their victory in Phoenix on February 12. Despite players coming off an 11 day break, Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson like what he saw.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” said Wilson. “I knew we would have some jump, but we passed the puck very well.”
Wilson wouldn’t mind if teams could have similar breaks every campaign.
“I wish they’d do it every year,” said Wilson. “The season is so draining. Coaches would like the mental break and the players could use the mental and physical break.”
Mentally, players and coaches could force their way through a situation. Physically, there is not much that can be done for many injuries except to rest the area.
“Teams carry around a lot of injuries in January and February,” said Wilson. “This helps us get over the hump.”
All the players came back very refreshed, whether they simply went home to visit family or relaxed on an island.
“I let all the pressure seep out of my body,” said Mark Smith who vacationed in Peru. “I feel rejuvenated. The body and mind feel clear. We should be ready.
Now the work begins.
“It’s nice to get back and see the boys,” said Smith. “We have to get back to work. It will be a grind the next few months. We’ve got to get some business done before the regular season ends, but it should be a lot of fun.”
“It was good to recharge the batteries, but now we’re looking forward to playing again,” said Milan Michalek.
All players in town hit the ice, with the three eliminated Olympians, Joe Thornton
, Marcel Goc and Christian Ehrhoff, flying back today. There is no definite time for them to return to the ice, but sooner is better than later.
“We never really discussed when they are coming back,” said Wilson. “They have to physically catch up with their biological clocks. Still, the last 26 games are huge and it is important to get out and practice.”
Wilson knows his Olympians will be tired.
“It is really hard for those guys,” said Wilson. “They played six games in eight nights and they were going hard.”
Wilson, who has already stated that Vesa Toskala will start Tuesday night against Detroit to allow Nabokov more rest upon his return, is now a fan of Team Russia.
“That win (against Canada) was excellent for Nabby,” said Wilson. “I’m enjoying his success. It is great for his confidence. I’m rooting for Russia right now. I hope he comes home with the gold medal. It would be a great accomplishment.”
Scott Parker skated with his teammates Thursday morning, a sign that he is on the road back.
“We’re going slowly with him,” said Wilson. “He skated 20-25 minutes today and everything was positive. He did some off-ice work and we’ll see how he is tomorrow.”
Parker has not skated with his teammates for well over a month and has played in just a couple of contests all season.
“He’s got to catch up,” said Wilson. “He hasn’t skated in quite some time.”
Nabokov and Russia will have the attention of Sharks fans tomorrow, but there will be some friendly rivalries in the lockerroom as Finland, the native country of Toskala, aims to top Russia.
“I may have to call him,” joked Toskala.
In the other semifinal, Sweden, the home of Nils Ekman and Doug Murray, will attempt to knock off the Czech Republic, Michalek’s home country.
The semifinals will take place on Friday and the schedule is below (times are Pacific Time).
7 a.m. Czech vs. Sweden MSNBC
11:30 a.m. Finland vs. Russia USA Network