In the midst of their second five-game winning streak of the season, the San Jose Sharks are playing their best hockey of the season. In every aspect of the game, the team is performing at the highest level.
Team Teal, thanks to the NHL schedule makers, have been given six days off between games (Dec. 10-16). Six days off is a luxury few teams can look forward to during their 82-game season, so on one hand the Sharks should be very fortunate. But the questions have been asked: Does this come at a bad time for the Sharks? Does being in the middle of their most successful run of the season and taking a significant amount of time off hurt them in any way? The overall consensus, no.
“With all the little bumps and bruises you get and with how the schedule is going to be up until the Olympic break, I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” said Sharks coach Ron Wilson. “It gives you a chance to work on some things. We’ll try to build some scrimmage time into our practices to stay sharp, but personally I don’t mind it. It gets so tiring playing ever other day with some back to backs in there, we need a little break.”
The Sharks have been putting up points at an uncanny rate since the arrival of center Joe Thornton
. Part of the reason for the production is Thornton himself. The London, Ontario native was named NHL Offensive Player of the Week on Monday after posting eight points (two goals, six assists) in three games. That same honor was bestowed on Sharks Captain Patrick Marleau
the previous week.
“I think for bodies to heal up it’s really good,” said Marleau of the time off. “Time will tell when we get back how we’ll be on the ice, but as far as staying game ready, I’m sure practices are going to be really tough. I think it comes at a good time for us, though.”
Thornton echoed his new teammate’s comments.
“It all depends how you practice,” he said. “If you practice sharp, it’s going to be no problem. We’ve been playing a lot of games so far this year and it’s been pretty much every other day, so I think this rest is much needed.”
The Sharks, currently sitting one point out of fourth place in the Pacific Division, are in for a battle the rest of the season. Competing in the Pacific, the only division where all five teams currently have 30 or more points, San Jose will have their hands full. Out of their final eight games in December, five of them are against division rivals, making them all the more important. This current break could play a big factor in their push for the playoffs.
“It’s going to give us a lot of rest,” said goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. “But is it a good rest or a bad rest? I guess we’ll find out, but we can’t let this time go to waste. I think we’re playing pretty well so we need to keep it going that way. We’ve been going at it hard for two or three weeks and the schedule was pretty busy so it’s nice to have some time and rest.”
The team enjoyed their second day off Tuesday, after taking Sunday off. They had a tough practice on Monday and will get back to work Wednesday and Thursday before playing host to rookie superstar Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals Friday night at HP Pavilion at 7:30 p.m.
It will be interesting to see how Team Teal responds to their long layoff, but knowing Wilson and the rest of his staff, they will undoubtedly be prepared.