SAN JOSE – Any player that’s had a chance to suit up in the Western Conference for any period of time knows how difficult the schedule can be.
The Sharks’ first 13 games are a perfect example.
San Jose has played just four times at home and nine on the road, including two lengthy trips. Perhaps even more difficult than that imbalance, though, is that the Sharks have had a dearth of practice time while trying to integrate several young players onto their club.
Head coach Todd McLellan has indicated more than once that he’s not a fan of the Sharks’ early slate, which features another seven-game road trip beginning Saturday in Dallas. Now, though, he’ll welcome the next three days of practice time before San Jose hosts Pacific Division rival Vancouver on Thursday.
“It’s huge. We need that time,” McLellan said on Saturday morning. “We were trying to figure out the number of practices we’ve had over the last 15-to-17 days, and we’re at about two-and-a-half. We’ve had one 20-minute skate. That’s not a healthy thing for a young hockey club at the beginning of the year.
“We’ll combine rest and practice time next week with a four-day break, and then we get right back into another segment of a lot of hockey. But, we’ve got to be prepared for it.”
There have been a few practices on the road, such as a skate in Washington on Oct. 15 and another in St. Paul on Oct. 29, but road practices never have the same feel as a comfortable, familiar home facility.
McLellan and staff canceled schedules practices in New Jersey on Oct. 17 and Boston on Oct. 20, likely due to input from the leadership group, which preferred to rest while traveling up and down the East Coast.
Sunday was a day off, but they’ll get back to work on Monday at noon at Sharks Ice, and continue working on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“We’re going to welcome that practice time,” Tommy Wingels said. “You can only learn so much from watching film and playing the games, you have to go out there sometimes and work on things in practice. That’s why we practice.”
They’ll also have the benefit of feeling good about themselves during the week. The 7-4-2 Sharks have gained seven of a possible eight points in their last four games, including a 3-1 win over the Islanders on Saturday at SAP Center.
It’s always nice to be playing well when the schedule-makers offer some momentary relief.
“Any time you’ve got a stretch of days with no games you want to win that last one. It makes everything a little bit better,” Joe Pavelski said. “You take some good habits into that break and just build off of that.”