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Vlasic Returns to Practice

by Alison High / San Jose Sharks

On Friday morning, Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic completed his first full practice with the team since being placed on the Injured Reserve on March 2.

The 22-year-old had missed 12 games from a lower body injury he suffered on January 28 against Chicago and decided to participate in non-contact drills after an impromptu recommendation from Sharks Assistant Coach Trent Yawney.

“I skated before the team photo and it went well so ‘Yawnts’ just asked me if I wanted to go out,” explained Vlasic. “It was an easy practice, but I thought it went well.”

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound defenseman finished the practice with flushed cheeks and a positive outlook.

“I was just a little out of synch, but that will come,” said Vlasic. “I just have to get the cardio back.”

Vlasic’s not used to sitting out. Since making the team as an 18-year-old, he played in 253 consecutive games between Jan. 15, 2007 and Jan. 28, 2010. But due to this injury, the native of Montreal, Quebec watched a dozen games from the press box and missed the last road trip. Now Vlasic is anxious to get back on the ice.

“Hopefully I’ll be back in the lineup this road trip,” Vlasic said; confirming that he will be traveling with the team when they depart for Anaheim on Saturday night. “Even if I won’t play, I will travel and practice with the team. I’d like to come back over the road trip, but we’ll see how things go.”

Maybe Vlasic’s return was partially inspired by teammate Scott Nichol returning to the lineup in Thursday night’s thriller against Nashville.

In an unprecedented move, the 35-year-old was back in the lineup before Maxim Lapierre --- the player who hit Nichol into the boards on Mar. 4 --- had finished serving his four-game suspension. Nichol logged two assists and a +3 plus/minus rating in 13:07 of play on Thursday and credited his quick recovery to the Sharks four-day break between games.

“We had a good break for me to get some-what healthy,” said Nichol following practice on Friday. “It’s good to get going again. We’ve got a lot of games coming up so we’re back in that mode of playing every other night and traveling. We’ve got to get geared up for the last 15 games before the playoffs.”

The fates aligned at 10:42 of the second period on Thursday when Nichol was called for a high-sticking penalty. While he was protesting the call, Nichol was face-to-face with referee Chris Lee --- the same ref that missed the call on Lapierre on Mar. 4.

Nichol argued that he shouldn’t be penalized since Marty Erat lifted the stick into his own face. Then he briefly discussed the hit.

“We talked a little bit about the hit from the other night and he just missed it,” said Nichol. “Like I said before, it’s a fast game and a lot of things happen in a split second. There are no hard feelings for sure.”

Nichol’s attitude is refreshing. If you’re looking for a role model, look no further than the man centering the Sharks fourth line.

While Vlasic and Nichol are easing their way back into the lineup, defenseman Douglas Murray is doing his best to stay on it. After blocking a shot in the first period against Nashville, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound defenseman left the game during the second intermission.

Murray explained that it wasn’t the pain that kept him out of the last period of the game, it was his inability to skate the way he needed to.

“I don’t think it’s too bad, but this is a fast game and I’ve got to be able to react,” explained Murray. “When I was out there, I was letting the team down because I couldn’t really push off.”

In a somber tone, the native of Bromma, Sweden said it wasn’t tough to pull himself out of the game because he wasn’t skating or playing the way he should have. Whether or not he’ll play on Saturday is still up in the air.

“It’s day to day right now,” he said. “And to be honest with you I really don’t know (if I’ll miss a game).”

On a happier note, after four years and 34 games, Sharks defenseman Jay Leach scored his first NHL goal on Thursday night. Unfortunately, his wife --- Sports Broadcaster Kathryn Tappen of NESN Boston --- fell asleep during the second period, but his brother and buddies saw the goal which aired at around 1:00 AM EST.

“I had some time because there was a scrum on the wall and I kinda had my head up so I said, ‘Why not?’” joked Leach. “We’re up two goals and I’ve got to get it out of the way sometime. It’s that big zero in the goal column. You gotta get rid of that as soon as you can.”

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The Sharks will close out their five-game home stand on Saturday afternoon when they play hosts to the Florida Panthers at 1:00 PM. The game will be broadcast on CSN-CA in HD and 98.5 KFOX FM.

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