SAN JOSE – Sharks coach Pete DeBoer didn’t expect to be coaching against NHL legend Wayne Gretzky in the All-Star Game’s final round on Sunday in Los Angeles. Gretzky was a late fill-in for John Tortorella, who was unable to coach the Metropolitan Division to tend to his family’s ailing pit bull.
Gretzky’s stars downed DeBoer’s Pacific Division stars, 4-3, to capture the mini-tournament.
“I knew I was in trouble as soon as I saw [Gretzky] and [assistant coach] Paul Coffey back there,” said DeBoer, who was an All-Star coach for the first time in his career as a result of his Sharks being in first place at the midway point. “It was a thrill. It was a great weekend. Real honored to be a part of it.”
It wasn’t the first time DeBoer had met Gretzky, the former head coach of the Coyotes and current Oilers executive.
“I actually played junior hockey with his brother, Keith,” DeBoer said. “It’s always an honor being around him. He’s a classy guy.”
One popular picture that made its way through social media was DeBoer and fellow Sharks Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Martin Jones with rap legend Snoop Dogg, who served as the Staples Center DJ for the event.
While he had some history with Gretzky, DeBoer had never met Tha Doggfather before.
“I hadn’t met Snoop before, no. That was interesting (laughs). I’m a big fan, though. He’s genuinely an athletic guy, his son is a wide receiver [formerly at UCLA], and I think he appreciates athletics, every kind – hockey, football, whatever. It was really cool having him around. He was in the dressing room around our guys. It was interesting.”
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The Sharks resumed practice on Monday without their three All-Star representatives, who presumably had the day off. The Chicago Blackhawks are at SAP Center on Tuesday night.
Joonas Donskoi remains out with an upper body injury and won't play, but Micheal Haley, who has missed the past five games with a lower body injury, could be an option.
“He got through practice today, felt really good, so we’ll see how he feels tomorrow morning,” DeBoer said of Haley, who is no longer listed on injured reserve, according to the official team website.
Rookies Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc were also back from a two-game stint with the AHL Barracuda, who played in Grand Rapids, MI on Friday and Milwaukee, WI on Saturday. Each played in one of the two games.
Labanc, who had a goal and an assist on Saturday in the Barracuda’s 4-2 win, felt it was a valuable experience.
“You just see the pace of the game – it doesn’t compare to the NHL,” he said. ”Definitely a little bit of a confidence booster, holding on to the puck that extra couple seconds feels a lot better.”
After his first 37 NHL games Labanc has seven goals and 14 points, but will bring a 13-game goal drought into Tuesday’s meeting with Chicago.
“Team is winning. That’s what counts,” he said. “The goals will come, you just have to be patient. That’s what I’ve been doing, and it’s going to come sooner or later.”
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Sharks forward Patrick Marleau was named as the NHL’s Second Star of the Week after posting five goals and six points in three games before the All-Star break, including four goals in the third period in Colorado last Monday.
All-Star Game MVP Wayne Simmonds of the Flyers was named as the First Star, while Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen was third.