The San Jose Sharks will finally open the 2006 Playoffs presented by Intersil when they and the Nashville Predators tangle at 5 p.m. (FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX, sjsharks.com). For a team that had been playing virtually every other day down the stretch, the wait from Monday to Friday seemed like an eternity.
“Everyone is itching to get going and see what the playoffs have in store for us,” said defenseman Tom Preissing. “It feels weird. We were used to playing every other day.”
The players sat down for a team-only dinner upon arriving in Nashville and then held a team meeting prior to their morning skate in Music City.
“We’ve played them four times, but three of those were early, so we just reacquainted ourselves with them,” said Preissing. “The more work you do studying them early, hopefully it will be easier to do in the game.”
Three of those games happened prior to December 1 and the arrival of Joe Thornton
“They’ve played really well all year, especially at home,” said Thornton. “We want to get the first goal.”
It has been two years since the Sharks, or any NHL club last played in the playoffs, but for Patrick Marleau
, captaining his second Sharks team is not much different that the first time around.
“It is a different style because of the rules, but a bunch of the guys are from the team we had last time,” said Marleau. “We had great team leaders in Ricci and Damphousse, but we still have Scott Thornton, Kyle McLaren, Scott Hannan and we’ve added Joe Thornton
Marleau says captaining this team is not that difficult.
“With everyone else in the room, it is not that much pressure,” said Marleau. “I might be wearing the ‘C’, but we have a lot of leaders.”
The postseason always creates some unlikely heroes. In 2004 for San Jose, Mark Smith scored the series clinching goal against St. Louis and Marcel Goc, who had never skated in an NHL regular season contest, tallied the series clincher against Colorado.
“This year I know what it’s like going into the playoffs,” said Goc. “Two years ago, it was a lot different. I came from Cleveland and they threw me in. It turned out pretty good for me.”
Goc acknowledge pregame jitters in 2004.
“Yes, I was really nervous for that first game,” said Goc. “More so in the afternoon. In warm-ups the nerves went away and they went completely away on the first shift.”
Goc said playing with Mark Smith and Curtis Brown helped calm him down.
“They talked to me a lot on the bench and what to do during certain points,” said Goc.
Goc remembers his first playoff goal vividly.
“We were coming back and Curtis Brown took the puck and created a three-on-two,” said Goc. “I went to the middle with my stick on the ice and he made a half pass, half shot, that I deflected.
Goc picked up the assist on Smith’s series winner against the Blues.
“It was not really a pass,” said Goc. I poked the puck away from their defenseman and Smitty scored. I’ll take it.”
Smith wouldn’t mind if the two had similar success in 2006.
“We’ll definitely look to find that magic wherever it’s hidden and hope to come out with some big goals again,” said Smith. “We’ll keep playing our style and go to the net.”
RULES THE SAME
Count Ron Wilson in the group that is very excited about the new rules staying in effect for the postseason.
“Now Joe Thornton
can play without a third line player neutralizing him under the new rules,” said Wilson.
The new rules should also eliminate any extended overtime play as the scoring opportunities should be as abundant as regulation.
“I’ll be shocked if there are any three overtime games,” said Wilson. “I can see it going deep into one overtime with both teams playing cautious.
Sharks prospect Joe Pavelski
has been ranked by insidecollegehockey as one of the top 10 candidates for the 2007 Hobey Baker Award. To read the full article click to: http://www.insidecollegehockey.com/7Archives/Features/0506/10hobey07_0431.htm