Tonight, San Jose will finally embark on the 2006-07 season, probably one of the most anticipated in Sharks history. The tools are in place for a potential Stanley Cup run, but even great teams have to walk before they can run. San Jose definitely has big plans for this season, but they need to focus on the task at hand and that is getting off to a strong start.
The past two campaigns have not been kind to Team Teal in the early going, but they hope to change that pattern beginning Thursday night.
“We’re anticipating a good start,” said Captain Patrick Marleau
Opening nights still hold a special place for professional athletes.
“It’s very exciting,” said Marleau. “We have some new guys and it is always a great time of year. Opening night is always fun, especially here at the Shark Tank.”
Curtis Brown is looking forward to his first opening night at HP Pavilion.
“It’s always exciting,” said Brown. “It’s why you’ve been working out all summer and practicing the past month. The next big leap is the season. Everybody is ready.”
Rookie defenseman Matt Carle skated in the craziness of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but he doesn’t expect any less of an atmosphere for opening night.
“I don’t know what to expect, but it will probably be pretty similar to the playoffs,” said Carle. “It is a new year and everyone is out to prove themselves.”
And even those that won’t be in attendance are making plans.
“My dad spent all days hooking up the dish,” said Carle of his father who will watch from Alaska.
Still, it is hard to ignore the Sharks potential and that they will not be sneaking up on anyone.
“It’s good to have those expectations around everybody,” said Marleau. “Everyone knows that is our goal.”
This year, it just seems that a lot more people feel the Sharks can accomplish that goal.
IT'S TOSKALA FOR NOW
San Jose has two number one netminders, but for opening night, Vesa Toskala will get the call.
“It’s a gut feeling,” said Ron Wilson. “It doesn’t mean Toskala is the number one – I could have flipped a coin.”
Fans shouldn’t read too much into the opening night decision.
“Nabby will go the next game,” said Wilson.
The Sharks bench boss may not go with an every other game rotation, but he plans for both to see a lot of action.
“We have two great goaltenders,” said Wilson. “Minnesota did it for years. Carolina played different goaltenders in the playoffs and won the Cup. Both deserve to play and will split the action. People can assume both will play. We might end up where one is not winning his games and the other will play until he loses.”
Or he could go with the option provided by Shark Byte host Jamie Baker. The former Sharks playoff hero had Wilson put into one of two nets with a netminders name in each one. Ironically, the put picked Toskala.
Christian Ehrhoff is still suffering from an upper body injury and his availability for opening night will not be known until Thursday.
“It’s a game time decision,” said Wilson. “He practiced today and we’ll know tomorrow afternoon. We’ll see how he feels.”
VLASIC SURPRISES HIMSELF
Much has been written about Marc-Edouard Vlasic
and he is more than excited about making his NHL debut Thursday night at HP Pavilion. However, when training camp began, not even the talented blueliner had himself penciled into the lineup.
“I’m very excited,” said Vlasic. “It is dream of mine. I was surprised a little.”
He was looking forward to informing his parents, but technology took over.
“They read it online, so I didn’t have to tell them,” said Vlasic.
Vlasic is from a strong hockey background.
“My dad played for McGill University and was pretty good,” said Vlasic. “He was not fortunate enough to make it to the NHL.”
Vlasic will join Carle in beginning his first full NHL season, however, the Sharks only need to look at their blueline last year with rookies Doug Murray and Josh Gorges and know that youth does not mean a player can’t produce.
“They’ll make the same mistakes a ten-year veteran will make,” said Wilson.
SETOGUCHI CHANGES JUNIOR TEAMS
Sharks prospect Devin Setoguchi will have a change of address for the coming season. On Wednesday, he was dealt from Saskatoon to Prince George in the WHL. The positive for Setoguchi is that he will play with a strong team that has acquired in with the hopes of making a run a the WHL title.
“Acquiring Devin Setoguchi at this early juncture in the season makes this a very exciting day for our franchise. Devin will fit in extremely well with the talent and depth on our forward lines”, stated Prince George GM Dallas Thompson. “He will be heavily counted on to help our team achieve our goals”, finishes Thompson.
Blades Head Coach and General Manager Lorne Molleken also commented on the trade of Setoguchi. “With this year of transition here in Saskatoon, we felt that this move was one which allows us to strengthen our hockey club for the future by acquiring a player who we believe will be an elite player in our league for sometime to come. In regards to Devin we feel that this move will give him the opportunity to have a very successful conclusion to his junior career, we wish him the best of the luck and thank him for his outstanding contributions to the Saskatoon Blades Hockey Club on and off the ice.”
San Jose will host St. Louis at HP Pavilion Thursday night and a limited amount of tickets are available through the HP Pavilion Box Office and www.ticketmaster.com. The game will be available on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.