NASHVILLE –- Despite most of the Sharks having plenty of time away from the rink for the NHL All-Star break that only ended last Sunday, coach Pete DeBoer opted for the second time this week to give his team a day off from skating in Nashville on Friday.
The Sharks also had Wednesday off in St. Louis, after not checking into their team hotel until about 5:00 a.m. that morning. They arrived in the Music City at a much more reasonable 11:37 p.m. from St. Louis on Thursday night according to flight logs, but still DeBoer decided to stay away from the ice rather than trek out to the Predators’ practice facility a few miles away.
Instead, the Sharks opted for a team workout in a facility within walking distance to their hotel. They play the Predators on Saturday.
Optional skates or complete days off have been frequent under DeBoer lately, including the days between a four-game-in-six-nights stretch just before the All-Star break. There have certainly been more days free from skating under DeBoer than there used to be under Todd McLellan.
“Throughout the last month we’ve got in a rhythm of kind of not putting the equipment on every single day,” DeBoer said. “I think some guys have really benefited from that.”
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DeBoer has leaned on his experience with the veteran team he used to coach in New Jersey to guide how he’s handling the Sharks. Most of San Jose’s key pieces are advancing in age, including 36-year-olds Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, Joel Ward (35), Paul Martin (34), Joe Pavelski (31) Brent Burns (30).
According to NHLNumbers.com, the Sharks are the seventh-oldest team in the NHL at an average of 27.875 years of age. When DeBoer was in New Jersey, the Devils were the second-oldest team the year they went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012, and the oldest team in the NHL from 2012-13 through last season when DeBoer was fired midway through.
“I think my experience in New Jersey with an older team helped, because despite the fact we didn’t have to travel [as much as a Western Conference team], you had to manage the fact that we had a lot of older guys: [Martin] Brodeur and [Jaromir] Jagr and [Patrik] Elias and [Marek] Zidlicky, and on and on.
“I came to appreciate the benefit of showing up at the rink with as much energy as possible on game day, and not over-coaching on the off days.”
Results suggest that DeBoer has a good handle on his group, as the Sharks are 9-1-2 in their last 12 games ahead of Saturday’s meeting with the Predators. That includes Wednesday’s hard-fought 3-1 win over the Blues, who practiced on Wednesday while the Sharks were getting some extra R and R.
San Jose will conclude its road trip next Tuesday in Chicago, play two games at home, and then is right back on the road again for five straight. The grind is on.
“Obviously being on the road here as much as we are in February, it’s an important time of the year with standings and whatnot,” Patrick Marleau said. “You can’t let anything slide.”