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Sharks Ready To Play At HP Pavilion

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks

San Jose opened their season with three consecutive road games and while Team Teal was more than happy to be playing again, they are even more excited about some home cooking at HP Pavilion.  For the Sharks and Calgary Flames are the only two NHL clubs yet to skate on home ice.  And even to this day, everyone in hockey knows the benefits of playing in the NHL's loudest building.


"I was surprised how good the crowd was for the preseason, but they're always good so I shouldn't have been surprised," said Brad Stuart. 


"We have great fans," said Scott Thornton.  "They are a supportive bunch."


Sharks fans will be officially welcoming back the defending Pacific Division Champs for the first time Wednesday night and the welcome could be greater than normal.


"They are the loudest fans and a home opener is always special," said Captain Patrick Marleau.


The question begs of how much crowds can improve a home club's performance.


"Very much so," said Alyn McCauley.  "Our crowd gets very excited.  They are electric and we feed off them.  They are a big reason we were so good at home in 2003-04.  We had a lot of quick starts as a result of them."


Many players claim to block out the crowds, but that is impossible at HP Pavilion.


"You try to block it out, even in your own building, but you know it when they're behind you," said Evgeni Nabokov.  "They give us more energy.  They definitely are a factor."



The Sharks are still adapting to the new rules like every other NHL club.  The adaptations for all players depend on their positions, but most agree the biggest factor is their mental state.


For the forwards, they know when backchecking, they cannot cheat.


"It definitely is a challenge," said McCauley.  "Every single play you can think about hooking - it is an ingrained reaction.  If a player has a stride advantage, it is tough at times."


For every reaction, there is an equal and opposite reaction.


"On the offensive side, we can create and it opens things up," said McCauley.  "You give up more goals than you did before, but you will have more opportunities than before." 


For goaltenders, it is a brand new world.  In recent times, if a club provided three goals on any night, the netminder was expected to record the victory.  Two of San Jose's three contests have already required four goals to gain the victory.  But that can be taxing on the last line of defense.  The Sharks have surrendered six goals in the past two contests and split the games.  That was a guaranteed 0-2 mark the last time hockey was played.


"There will be more goals, but you still have to get the win," said Nabokov.  "We're not the only team that is going to give up four, five and six goals."


One area where it has been more difficult for netminders is playing the puck.  Not only are they limited in handling the puck in the corners, but smart teams can make it virtually impossible for them to ever reach the puck on dump-ins.


"Smart teams dump it in so the goalie can't get it," said Nabokov.  "I can't go get it so the defenseman has to tail off and get the puck.  We're all playing by the same rules though. (With the pads) the most important part is they didn't change the protection."


The defensemen have also acknowledged the changes, but like everyone else, they are doing what is necessary.


"It hasn't been too bad," said Stuart.  "We're not able to use our stick.  For me, I just keep it on the ice and there is nothing to worry about."


Plus the rules have made the players feel like kids again in many ways.


"I remember one game in junior that was as up and down as the St. Louis game," said Stuart.  "We won that game too.  It's fun when you win.  For fans, you have to like it.  There are a lot of smart coaches out there and they'll figure out a way to tighten up the defense."


"If you have a two-goal lead in the third period, you still have to attack," said Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson.  "Now, maybe with a five-goal lead you could back off.  It is good for the fans and good for the player too."


If San Jose can stay out of the box as they did in the preseason, they should see similar results and have a memorable regular season with the new rules.


"We've been shorthanded five-on-three too much," said Wilson. 



San Jose returned Josh Gorges to Cleveland Tuesday. 


"We know he can play up here at this level, but at 21 years old, you need to play every day," said Ron Wilson.  "For his development, it was best for him to go.  He could be back in a week or a month."



Scott Parker has yet to play a regular season game since taking a puck to the face during the preseason, but he is nearing a return. 


"They told me today to expect him by the end of the week," said Wilson.  



The Sharks game on November 19 has been moved from FSN Plus and put on the main FSN channel. 



OLN issued a statement to fans that had trouble viewing games Monday, October 10:    


"OLN apologizes if you were unable to see the Pittsburgh vs. Buffalo game on OLN last night.  There were technical issues in certain markets and OLN is working to resolve those issues as quickly as possible."



As usual, San Jose's home opener will provide several new additions to the game presentation.  The show is scheduled to being at 7:20 p.m. Wednesday and includes the first look at the 2003-04 Pacific Division Championship banner. 


Plus fans will receive a double bounty with regards to giveaways.  Upon entering the building, everyone will receive a miniature replica of the 2003-04 Pacific Division banner.  Upon exiting HP Pavilion, all fans will receive a miniature replica Stanley Cup.  Please note that fans must leave either the primary North or South exit points at the glass atriums or via the Grill to receive their mini Stanley Cup.


On Saturday, October 15 against Chicago, the always popular magnetic season schedules will be available courtesy of Commonwealth Credit Union.

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