Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson’s club is facing an odd stretch where they don’t play for seven days, which is a long layoff in the midst of a season. When Wilson’s Sharks returned to the ice Monday following a day off on Sunday, they had an extended version of pond hockey – with a twist.
Wilson broke his squad down by age and pitted the elder statesmen against the young bucks. The “more mature” players included Sandis Ozolinsh, Jeremy Roenick, Mike Grier, Curtis Brown, Kyle McLaren, Joe Thornton
, Rob Davison, Patrick Marleau
, Patrick Rissmiller and Evgeni Nabokov.
The younger side included Devin Setoguchi, Torrey Mitchell
, Douglas Murray
, Joe Pavelski
, Steve Bernier, Thomas Plihal, Marc-Edouard Vlasic
, Matt Carle, Alexei Semenov, Tomas Greiss and Milan Michalek.
The players appreciated the change-up in routine.
“It’s great any time you can make it competitive and fun,” said Murray. “That’s why we play the game. I love competition.”
Contests included games playing two-on-two, three-on-three and four-on-four, plus a shootout. The final outcome was decided when Michalek buried his shootout shot on Nabokov, creating a celebration at center ice.
“I love the guys and I love their hugs,” laughed Michalek.
One young player the veterans were not joking about was netminder Greiss, who is up for the week while Dimitri Patzold is getting some playing time at San Jose’s top development affiliate in Worcester after playing just two games in relief of Nabokov.
“He was good in the shootout, just like he was in training camp,” said McLaren of Greiss. “He’s a good goalie and it’s a chance to get Dimitri some games under his belt.”
As always, when a younger group overcomes an older group, there is a bit of bragging to be had.
“You could see on the ice. It was 6-0 (in the first contest),” joked Michalek. “You could see where the skill is.”
“Any time you get a chance to take on the veterans, it’s fun to prevail with a win,” said Setoguchi.
The veterans aren’t ceding anything though.
“They’ve got 24 hours,” said McLaren. “Then we practice again.”
One-fourth of the way into the 2007-08 season, the Sharks sit in first place in the Pacific Division. The start (7-7-2 before the current streak of four wins in the last five games) wasn’t what fans envisioned, but things have quickly changed.
“We want to be in first and that’s good,” said McLaren. “We still have a lot more to give. We’ve been more consistent and shown more energy in the last couple of games and it’s shown in our record.”
“Things are a lot better,” said Marleau. “This still is a ways to go, but our best is still to come.”
San Jose may not be lighting up the scoreboard, but they are doing the little things that make the difference.
“We’re one of the best defenses in terms of goals against,” said Thornton. “We’re playing really well defensively.”
Sometimes when individual stats are falling short, players can lose sight of their defensive efforts while trying to pick up the offense. Not in San Jose.
“Everybody is buying into the system and playing good team defense,” said Thornton.
The ultimate defender, Nabokov, was named the NHL’s Second Star of the Week for his .96 GAA in the past four contests.
“’Nabby’ has been great,” said Thornton.
Many years ago, virtually all NHLers used suspenders on their hockey pants. In the Sharks lockerroom, it is down to two. Not surprising, it’s two veterans - Ozolinsh and Brown – who use them and both have their own reasons why.
“They keep my jersey from sliding into the pants when I lean forward,” said Ozolinsh.
Brown actually transferred from being a no-suspenders player to their biggest endorser.
“It doesn’t make sense,” said Brown of not wearing them. “We play a game where we work hard and tightening the pants jeopardizes your breathing. All pants are made with a spot for the suspenders.”
The rookie netminder experienced a surprising first practice format following his recall to the big club.
“It was fun and different,” said Greiss. “I got the call Saturday after our game. I’m just looking forward to practicing with the boys and seeing how they work in the season.”
Craig Rivet (leg), Marcel Goc (back) and Christian Ehrhoff (hand) all had the day off and are listed as day-to-day.
Michalek, who missed the last three games, did skate with the club and is hoping for a weekend return.
“It’s better,” said Michalek. “I think I’m going to play Saturday. I couldn’t even pass (when it happened).”
The Sharks had a post-practice media training meeting session sponsored by the NHL.
The Sharks Foundation will host its Mystery Puck Fundraiser this Saturday, Nov. 24 just prior to the start of the Sharks vs. Kings game at HP Pavilion. The Thanksgiving themed pucks will be sold at The Sharks Foundation booth (outside of Section 124) and at the North and South Entrances. Each puck will be signed by a Sharks player and sold for $20. The pucks will be wrapped so the signature remains a mystery until after purchase. Fans that find a “WINNER” label on the bottom of their puck will receive an additional prize. Net proceeds from this fundraiser will benefit the 2007-08 Sharks Foundation beneficiaries.