Nineteen games in thirty-two days! The Sharks will start their post season push tonight when they play hosts to the St. Louis Blues in an attempt to crawl back within three points of the eighth and final playoff spot. The game will mark their first of three games in four days for Team Teal before they embark on a five-game road trip that has them playing those five games in seven games.
For Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson, the final 32 days of the regular season isn’t a time to work on new thing. With 19 games left and in such a compressed time because of the Olympic Break, Wilson has taken a step back from all-out practices. He wants to keep his skaters fresh and ready for each game.
“Pregame skates are optional,” Wilson said. “I still think that at times we have to work on things at practice. That’s why the pregame skates are optional. Occasionally, our practices are going to be optional, especially on this next road trip where we’re playing five games in seven days.”
A lot of times if you here a coach say optional, a player will think, “Yeah right!” But Wilson means it.
“It’s an ‘optional optional’,” he said. “Sometimes you say optional and half the team shows up because they feel that if they don’t show up it’ll hurt them. When I say optional, I mean it. Some coaches say optional, knowing that they want to see everyone on the ice.”
Even though today’s pregame skate was optional, there were still more than three quarters of the team on the ice. For many players, it’s either a superstition or a ritual to participate in the pregame skate. That’s OK with Wilson, so long as they’re mentally prepared for the game.
“I don’t see us practicing a whole heck of a lot,” Wilson added. “At this point you don’t really introduce too many new things. A little wrinkle here and there. There’s always a little something. Our power play has been a little stale recently, but I’m not sure that it’s that important for us to practice it right now. It’s more important to be mentally ready and rested for the games.”
In order to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Sharks will be playing one of the fiercest schedules, time wise, in the League. It’s basically the same type of schedule they’ll play when the postseason begins.
“Our minds already switched into playoff mode anyway because we’re playing a schedule that is very similar to a playoff schedule,” Wilson said.