SAN JOSE – For the first time in nearly 17 months, Sharks forward Raffi Torres will be back on the ice in a competitive game situation when he suits up for San Jose in its preseason home opener vs. Arizona.
Torres, who has endured a horrendous two years ever since he was hurt in a preseason game on Sep. 20, 2013, is ready to move on with his career after multiple surgeries and infections in his right knee.
“I’ve tried to put all that stuff behind me. I feel good right now,” said the 33-year-old, who played in 12 games in 2013-14, and missed all of last season. “It is what it is, but it’s nice to be back in the locker room with the guys. … It’s just a fun day. Looking forward to it, it’s exciting.”
Torres’ teammates seem pretty enthusiastic, too. At one point in the pregame skate, the winger went top shelf over Alex Stalock, eliciting a cheer and some stick banging on the boards.
Torres will likely start on a line with minor leaguer Bryan Lerg and right wing Mike Brown.
Joe Pavelski said: “You know when he’s in the room it definitely adds some energy, and we like seeing him. For him to get back out on the ice now is another step in the whole process and we’re excited for him.”
Torres said he’ll try to keep his shifts short, and won’t be “going out and trying to get 10-15 hits tonight. It’s just about finding the game, the speed of the game, being in the right spots, be good defensively. Hopefully everything else will take care of itself.”
Pete DeBoer said: “I just want to see him get through a game and start to get his timing back. He hasn’t played in a while. He’s worked awfully hard off the ice in order to give himself a chance to get to this point again, and it’ll be a work in progress.”
* * *
Joonas Donskoi, who has burst onto the scene as the most likely prospect to make the opening night roster, will get a chance to skate on the Pavelski-Joe Thornton line in Friday’s game.
Despite spending most of camp as a right wing, he’ll line up on the left side with the two Sharks stars.
“I said I’m sure you’ll make an exception playing with those two guys. He said, ‘Yeah, I think I can do that,’” DeBoer said with a grin. “I think it’s a great opportunity for him.”
The 23-year-old Finland native was asked if he views it as an indication that the coaching staff has liked what it’s seen so far from him.
“I don’t know, I don’t think about that too much. I just try to play and give my best every day,” Donskoi said. “It’s a great opportunity to play with those guys.”
* * *
Stalock will start in net, and will be backed up by Troy Grosenick. On Thursday, DeBoer said that Stalock would “probably” play the entire game.
The Sharks have yet to allow a regulation goal through two preseason games, including starter Martin Jones’ 30-save shutout in Vancouver on Tuesday. Are the goalies pushing one another?
“I think like everything the perfect situation for a coaching staff is competition at every position,” DeBoer said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt what you’re seeing, and that is everybody that’s getting an opportunity is knowing they have to step in and play a good game, because the guy before them did the same thing.”
* * *
Here’s a complete look at the likely forward lines to start the game:
Joonas Donskoi – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Matt Nieto – Chris Tierney – Tommy Wingels
Raffi Torres – Bryan Lerg – Mike Brown
Nikolay Goldobin – Ben Smith – Timo Meier
Along with Thornton and Pavelski, defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic will likely make his preseason debut, paired with Justin Braun. Mirco Mueller, Dylan DeMelo, Brenden Dillon, Matt Tennyson and Gus Young are the other defensemen listed on the roster, with one of them likely to be scratched.
Arizona, by the way, left former Sharks forward John Scott home for this one.