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Sharks line combo still up in the air

by San Jose Sharks Staff / San Jose Sharks
During the preseason, Sharks head coach Todd McLellan has been consistently running his forward line combination a little bit differently than late last year.

For all of training camp, Joe Thornton has been paired with Devin Setoguchi and Ryane Clowe, while Joe Pavelski centered Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley.

“It’s not a lot different,” said McLellan. “If you look back at last year, until the middle of November, we didn’t have the big boys playing with each other. We had Patty, Pav and Clowe going together. I feel comfortable as a coach putting the three (Thornton, Marleau, Heatley) together, we know them well enough now. I want them to experience other linemates for a little while.”

McLellan noted that simply because the lines are this way now does not mean they will remain the same for the season opener. What he does want is for all of his best players to be familiar with each other.

Some players have played extensively in the past, others a little less so.

Thornton has played with both Setoguchi and Clowe, Marleau and Pavelski have skated together multiple times while Marleau and Heatley have paired up frequently on the nicknamed Heatled-Jumbo-Patty line.

“I’ve spent quite a bit of time with Patty,” said Pavelski. “I think everyone has spent some time with each other. We’re in a good situation.”

The bigger Joe said that because they have played with each other previously, it makes it easier to click with one another.

"Training camp gives you the opportunity to get chemistry with certain guys," Thornton said. "But we’ll mix and match all season long. Good players can always play with good players. Whoever they stick us with, we’ll be fine.”

San Jose has found success with different line combos.

“The more you play with certain guys the more chemistry you get," said Marleau, who plays alongside Pavelski and Heatley. "Last year we played with different guys during the season. In the system, everyone is pretty much interchangeable. Everybody knows what the others are going to do.”

That interchangeablity is what makes the change even easier in McLellan’s system. Players adjust to what's in front of them on every play, not so much as to who's in front of them.

Whether the chemistry is there yet, everyone will be find out during live game action.

“I think maybe we’ll see tonight,” said Pavelski. “We’ve only skated a handful of times so it’s hard to tell. It’s just about staying with our foundation and what makes our team successful.”

“They haven’t had an opportunity to play in a game yet and we’ll give them that chance,” said McLellan of the groupings.

McLellan and the others noted that it may not be just a top six forward group as whoever is playing well could be moved up.

“You could throw Logan and Mitchy (Torrey Mitchell) in that group as well,” said Thornton.

Netminder Antti Niemi will likely skate before Sharks fans tonight and if that’s the case, the crowd will be cheering for him instead of against as they did during last spring’s Western Conference Finals.

“I’m glad (I got) to play in the Teal and White game at least and a couple of times before,” said Niemi. “I remember one game here when I didn’t play and the atmosphere was great.”

While his new Sharks mask isn’t in yet, Niemi has made one adjustment by taping over the Blackhawks logos.

For clarification, the phonetic pronunciation of Antero Niittymaki’s last name is Nity-MACKee.

Logan Couture took a twirl on the ice today and plans on playing with one of the two teams on Saturday in the split squad affair with the Phoenix Coyotes.

“It was nothing serious, just precautionary,” said Couture.

Couture was hit by a teammate in the Teal and White game.

“It’s fine. You can’t play hockey and not expect to get hit,” said Couture. “It’s more my fault. I saw him there, but just didn’t brace myself for the hit.”

The Sharks will host Anaheim Friday night at 7:30 at HP Pavilion and tickets can be found at or at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office.

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