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DALLAS – The decision to cancel Sharks practice on Wednesday in Dallas was as much for the mental well being of the club as it was physical.
[RELATED: Boyle still hospitalized; surgery for Burish]
Between Tomas Hertl’s electrifying start and ludicrous mini-controversy; Hertl’s hit from Alex Edler that resulted in a suspension and then his injury in the next game; Joe Thornton’s off-color remarks in defense of Hertl in Vancouver; Brad Stuart’s suspension for hitting Rick Nash with an illegal check to the head; and now Dan Boyle’s frightening injury – there’s been a whirlwind of commotion surrounding the club.
Through it all, the Sharks are still a perfect 6-0-0, one of two unbeaten NHL teams after the first two weeks of the season.
“I think that’s a good thing for our team,” head coach Todd McLellan said of the numerous converging storylines. “We’ve been able to stay focused, we’ve been able to come to the rink and play for each other. But, it can be taxing emotionally.”
The Sharks flew to Dallas immediately after the 6-2 win in St. Louis, which was overshadowed by the loss of Boyle, who took a dangerous check from behind into the boards from the Blues’ Maxim Lapierre. San Jose was able to get over the unnerving scene of seeing a teammate and friend not moving for several moments, and won fairly easily against a Blues club that was previously unbeaten and hadn't even trailed through its first four games.
“It was an emotional day,” McLellan said on Wednesday, from the team hotel in downtown Dallas. “It was a taxing night for a lot of players.”
The good news on Boyle is that doctors cleared him to fly back to San Jose on Wednesday, after he spent the night at a local hospital in St. Louis. Although his health status moving forward is still very uncertain, the injury looked like it could have been much more devastating.
For now, the Sharks will try and keep their lineup as similar as possible, which is no surprise with the early success they’ve had. Stuart’s suspension for hitting Nash is now over, so he’ll play the right side with Boyle’s partner Matt Irwin when the Sharks face the Stars on Thursday night.
“Another veteran presence out there for myself,” Irwin said. “I’m sure we’ll be just fine together.”
McLellan said: “We’d like to keep the disruption at a minimum,” pointing out that Stuart has played the right side during long stretches in his career.
[RELATED: Blues react to Lapierre's hit on Boyle]
The head coach also got into a bit more detail about when he found out Boyle was out of extreme danger. McLellan said that Boyle was “numb” immediately after the hit, but shortly after Boyle was wheeled off the ice on a stretcher, the Sharks’ training staff gave the bench a tentative thumbs up. McLellan also praised the Blues’ trainers and doctors for the way they handled the situation.
“As everything got settled out, our staff came back to the bench and said he was functioning and had feeling in his limbs, and that type of stuff,” McLellan said. “You breathe a bit of a sigh of relief, and then from there you begin to play the game again. The best news we got after was that he was in the hospital, alert, and feeling OK.”
The challenge now will be to replace Boyle, one of top minute-getters on the blue line, for an indeterminate amount of time.
“It’s a big piece of the puzzle missing, no doubt,” Irwin said. “Having Dan on the back end there is a veteran presence and calming influence on us all. He’ll be missed, we don’t know for how long, hopefully he’ll be back sooner than later.
“We all have to step up, as we did yesterday with five D, and as a group work together to keep pucks out of our net and keep going forward.”