For Niclas Wallin, Tuesday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes will be his first against his former team. This won’t be a homecoming , but Wallin will get to see some familiar faces.
In an era where many players have skated for multiple teams, Wallin is old school. He had never played for anyone else but the Hurricanes. Wallin was traded more than eight months ago, but in hockey terms, it was less than 30 games ago with regards to the regular season. Wallin acknowledged it was a difficult trade the moment it occurred, even thought there were no harsh feelings.
“I was an older guy, but it hurts when it happens,” Wallin said. “The day it happens, it’s tough. But I wasn’t going to sit down and cry about it. I’m not the first and I’m not the last (player who will experience this). It is what it is and I’m just looking forward to this year. It’s a super organization and I wish them well.”
There isn’t a player in the League who can’t separate his feelings for an old organization and won’t do everything to help his old team win. Wallin can be counted among that group.
“I’ve got a lot of memories from there, but we’ve got business here and tomorrow is a great chance for us to go out, have a good game and work on the things we did in practice today,” Wallin said. “We’re going out there to get two points.”
Wallin is still very familiar with many on the Hurricanes roster and will enjoy a brief visit if it can be pulled off.
“There are definitely guys and we’ll talk,” Wallin said of current Hurricane friends. “I went to Tim Gleason’s wedding this summer. We are good friends and we were roommates for two-and-a -half years. Eric Cole has been there since 2000 and that’s the first year I came to the League. Maybe I’ll invite Timmy over for dinner tonight and take him over to my house so he can see my family and my kids.”
When the puck drops, Wallin provided a good example of how National Hockey Leaguers view the games between friends.
“When it comes to playing hockey tomorrow, the first guy who’s going to throw a hit is Tuomo Ruutu,” Wallin said. “He’s got no friends on the ice even though he’s the nicest guy off the ice. That’s what I like about him. You can see him battle a guy the whole night and after the game stand there and talk to him. That’s the fun part about being a hockey player.”
Wallin’s time in North Carolina included being part of Carolina’s magical run to the 2006 Stanley Cup Championship. He was a big part of that, scoring some unexpected, but timely goals. Could the old uniform ignite that scoring past?
“I’m a stay-at-home defenseman so I’m not going to score any fancy goals . . . well maybe,” Wallin said with a smile. “I hope I don’t throw a bad pass out there and forget what jersey (to pass to).”
There isn’t a real concern about that nor is there any concern about the abilities Wallin provides. Wallin himself was upset that an injury limited him during the last postseason, but health isn’t a concern now.
“I had one leg. If you can’t walk on the foot, how are you going to skate on the foot,” Wallin said. “I’m really positive about this year and healthy. I’m not looking back on last year, I’m looking forward. I’m feeling great so it’s just go out there and have fun.”
He’s also more comfortable with being on the Sharks.
“Coaches talk a different language, even if it’s still English,” Wallin, whose native tongue is Swedish, said. “It was good to come in for camp and be around the guys, to help the young guys out. I feel great now and I’m looking forward for tomorrow. I hope to have a good season.”
San Jose’s coaching staff is happy to have Wallin playing as the player the club envisioned they acquired last February.
“It’s interesting for Wally. He didn’t get a lot of work leading up to training camp,” Coach Todd McLellan said. “I think he’s starting to feel a lot more comfortable with how we do things and with his partner. I think he is as comfortable now as he has felt since he got here. After you’ve played in the League as long as Wally, you have a standard you want to live up to. It wasn’t for a lack of will or trying to give us what he had. Now he’s got that health.”
Off-ice this season is much easier as well. During the spring, Wallin’s family stayed in North Carolina to finish out the school year. Now the entire family in ingrained in the Northern California lifestyle.
GETTING CLOSER Center Jamal Mayers skated with his teammates and is closer to joining the lineup.
“I don’t know if he’ll be ready tomorrow,” McLellan said. “We anticipate on the road trip that he’ll be in the lineup.”
NEXT GAME The Sharks will play hosts to Carolina Tuesday night at 7:30. Tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office or at www.ticketmaster.com. The contest will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.