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SAN JOSE – Nikolay Goldobin may be just 18 years old, but he exudes the confidence of a seasoned veteran.
When the 2014 first round pick was asked if he expected to be in his first NHL training camp this late, with just eight days to go before the start of the regular season, he simply replied: “Yeah, of course.”
It sure seems like he’s got a chance to stick, too. Goldobin, who has one goal and three assists in three preseason games, will begin Tuesday’s tilt against Los Angeles on Joe Thornton’s right wing with Tomas Hertl on the left. There are just three preseason games remaining, so it’s probably fair to say that Goldobin could potentially be playing the Kings again in that spot next Wednesday, Oct. 8 at Staples Center.
“Anything is possible. We want to see him play another game or two,” Todd McLellan said.
Thornton likes what he’s seen from Goldobin so far, including the preseason opener one week ago in Stockton, when Goldobin got a look on his line late in that game.
“Good player. He has really good skill. So far he’s having a good camp,” Thornton said.
Along with the 20-year-old Hertl, Thornton could be playing with two guys that aren’t legally allowed to have a postgame beer. It’s not exactly new territory for the former captain, since Hertl played mostly on Thornton’s wing last season as a rookie and was leading all NHL first year players in scoring at the time of his Dustin Brown-induced knee injury on Dec. 19.
How does Thornton help the young Europeans along?
“Just lots of talk,” he said. “With Tomas, it was just lots of talk last year. I think Goldy will be the same thing, the more you communicate the more they feel comfortable, and that’s all you want to make them.”
The game is about more than Goldobin, of course, as he’s just one of a pack of youngsters trying to make the team out of camp. It looks like McLellan will start Chris Tierney between Barclay Goodrow and Tommy Wingels as the third line against the Kings.
“I’ve liked the Tierney-Goodrow-Wingels line, so we’d like to keep that together,” McLellan said. “The [Logan] Couture line (with Patrick Marleau and Matt Nieto) is going to play together, and we have pieces of what potentially could be a third or a fourth line playing, as well.”
Goodrow and Tierney, who have known each other since childhood, could be getting as much of a look as Goldobin.
“They seem to have a chemistry,” McLellan said. “They move the puck well, they’ve supported each other, they’ve been quick, they’ve found the back of the net, and they haven’t been a liability defensively. It’s been a pretty good recipe to this point.”
Tuesday marks the Sharks' final home preseason game. They wrap up Friday in Arizona and Saturday in Anaheim.
The opening night roster is still much too difficult to predict with 25 healthy skaters still in camp, but it seems more and more likely that some veteran players will be pushed out of the opening night lineup and perhaps off the team altogether.
McLellan said: “Our players aren’t dumb. They can count. They know there’s way too many people here right now, so they have to compete and play.”