SAN JOSE -- Their best days are probably in the rear view mirror, but veterans Patrick Marleau and Vincent Lecavalier figure to play prominent roles in the postseason.
Each will begin Game 1 on Thursday as his team’s respective third line center. Depth is always vital in a long playoff series, which is what Sharks-Kings figures to be, and the two will likely see plenty of one another head-to-head.
The 35-year-old Marleau posted a respectable 25 goals and 48 points this season while suiting up for all 82 games. Digging deeper into his even-strength stats, though, exposes some red flags. Of his 25 goals, 11 came on the power play. He went one stretch of just one even-strength goal over a 44-game span, and finished with a team-worst minus-22 rating.
Still, DeBoer has had nothing but positive things to say about Marleau throughout the season, even though he bumped him to the third line wing for a five-game stretch in late March.
“Patty’s been good all year,” DeBoer said. “Like anybody, you have ups-and-downs through the season. When I look back at the big picture of this season, we’ve asked him to do a lot – move to center and play a different role than he’s played recently. I think he’s been excellent.”
Marleau spent the majority of the past few seasons on Logan Couture’s left wing on the second line, but the Sharks have been a more successful club this year when they dress Joe Thornton, Couture and Marleau down the middle.
Marleau said: “I’ve been playing [center] pretty much all season, on and off. I feel comfortable there, and it will be a good first series to jump right into it.”
Lecavalier, 35, unable to crack the lineup in Philadelphia, was reinvigorated almost as soon as he got to the Kings after a trade in early January. In 49 games, he posted 10 goals and 18 points, with six of his scores coming on the power play. Whether he can withstand the rigors of a physical series, though, remains to be seen, and he simply doesn’t have the legs to charge up and down the ice anymore.
“He fits their system well,” Joe Pavelski said of Lecavalier. “They take the puck, they move it forward, and they shoot at the net. It’s a fairly simple game, but they’re effective at it and they play it hard.”
Marleau said: “I think he’s been rejuvenated. There’s some confidence put back in his game, and he’s played hard and played well. And, he’s getting the ice time.”
Although DeBoer has continued to tinker with his third and fourth lines down the stretch, he’s still been able to roll four lines for much of the second half of the year. That only happened after he and team management realized that some of the players they tried –- like Ben Smith, Barclay Goodrow and Nikolay Goldobin -– simply weren’t a good fit in Smith’s case, or weren’t ready for the league, like the other two.
In came Nick Spaling and Dainius Zubrus, while Micheal Haley replaced Mike Brown, who was claimed off of waivers by Montreal.
Zubrus and Haley look to be the odd men out for Game 1 as the Sharks are enjoying a remarkably healthy lineup for April, but DeBoer will not hesitate to make mid-series changes, if necessary. Marleau will start between Matt Nieto and Melker Karlsson, while Chris Tierney centers Spaling and Tommy Wingels on the fourth line.
“I like the four lines we’re able to roll out,” he said. “I like the guys that we’re going to have to make decisions on, who are sitting on the sidelines and potentially can go in and offer a different look if the guys that are in there don’t get the job done.
“We’ve been working since day one of camp of having that four-line depth that these types of teams have. I think we have that.”