TORONTO – The San Jose Sharks will be well represented at the Vancouver Olympics, but their players might not be well rested when they get there.
The Sharks are sending a league-high eight players to the Games, but not before San Jose completes a six-game road swing that began in St. Louis Thursday and concludes next Saturday in Buffalo.
With such a hectic schedule in advance of the big event, Sharks sniper Dany Heatley said it’s crucial San Jose’s Olympians treat their bodies right.
“We’ve known it’s coming for a while, so we’re taking care of ourselves and we have a strength coach here on the road, so just try and get workouts in and get some rest,” said Heatley, who will represent Canada along with Sharks teammates Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle.
In addition to the Canuck contingent, San Jose will send American centre Joe Pavelski, Swedish defenceman Douglas Murray, Russian goalie Evgeni Nabokov and backup German stopper Thomas Greiss to the Games. Sharks coach Todd McLellan knows he’ll have two sets of players with two very different sets of needs once play resumes after the tournament.
“We’re going to have a group that’s going to be very well rested and we’ll have to work them and obviously the second group that’s going to the Olympics, our players are no different than anybody else’s,” he said.
“The best players in the world are going there, they’re all going to compete real hard. It’s up to us as a staff and the players as individuals to manage themselves properly before, during and after and we’ll do the best we can.”
One thing working in the Sharks’ favour is the fact the Olympics are being hosted in the same Pacific Time Zone they typically play in, as opposed to 2006, when participants like Heatley had to travel all the way to Turin, Italy.
“As long as it’s in North America I think it’s easier for everybody,” said Heatley, whose team plays five straight home games when the NHL schedule resumes in March. “Guys are used to going one or two times zones, so for us to have it in our own time zone is a bonus.”
These days, the Sharks are racking up wins no matter which time zone they’re in. Monday’s 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs gave San Jose nine straight road victories.
Boyle said the success stems from a variety of sources, noting Nabokov’s strong play was a huge factor in the win over the Leafs.
“We’re finding ways to win,” he said. “Tonight it was our goalie. It wasn’t pretty, we know that. That was an ugly win, but we found a way and that’s been the biggest difference. Sometimes it’s the fourth line, sometimes it’s the power play. Something or somebody shows up on any given night and that’s been the secret to our success lately.”