Still with Sharks, Zubrus never lost will to keep playing


Still with Sharks, Zubrus never lost will to keep playing

PHILADELPHIA – Dainius Zubrus remains with the Sharks, although he’s still not technically on the Sharks.

The 37-year-old veteran forward was one of 10 skaters on Thursday during the team’s optional practice at the University of Pennsylvania. He's still with the club on a tryout, and it’s still uncertain if he has a future with the organization.

Of course he'd like to be a part of the Sharks, officially, at some point. After the skate, Zubrus opened up a bit about his situation over the summer, when the New Jersey Devils bought him out of the final year of a three-year contract in which he was due $3.1 million in late July.

“It wasn’t expected when it happened, the timing of it,” he said. “I was training, I didn’t think that was going to happen. I started training before June, and I was a couple months into it when I got the news.”

He apparently never considered retiring.

[KURZ: Mailbag: Why did Sharks bring in Zubrus for tryout?]

“I didn’t feel like stopping. I felt like I could still keep going. I was excited about a new season. My training, my wanting to play never stopped. I was just kind of hoping I would get a call to go somewhere and try out at least. Better late than never I guess, and here I am.”

Zubrus got a call first from Sharks coach Pete DeBoer, who was his coach in New Jersey for three-and-a-half seasons, including in 2012 when they advanced to the Stanley Cup Final. He’s also familiar with Johan Hedberg, a former teammate with the Devils from 2010-13.

He considers his relationship with the Sharks coach a “good” one.

“I think I’ve understood what he asks players to do,” Zubrus said of DeBoer. “I don’t question much, I just go about my business. I’ve played for a lot of different coaches over my career. Usually whatever they say, there is no reason to question it or anything else. You just do it. Once the whole team buys into it, that’s when you can get to places.

“I feel like I can talk to him. I’ve always felt I can walk into his room and talk about things or whatever. I think he feels the same way.”

Although Zubrus is unlikely be in the Sharks’ lineup on Thursday against the Flyers, the Wells Fargo Center has special meaning to him. In 1996, in his first game in the NHL, Zubrus scored the first-ever goal in the history of the building as an 18-year-old Flyers rookie.

In 1243 career games with the Flyers, Canadiens, Capitals, Sabres and Devils, Zubrus has 225 goals and 584 points. In 74 games with New Jersey last year, he posted 4 goals and 10 points.

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DeBoer was not at practice on Thursday, instead spending time with his family, which still resides in New Jersey.

Along with Zubrus, the Sharks that skated at the Class of 1923 rink included Alex Stalock, Mirco Mueller, Matt Tennyson, Nikolay Goldobin, Micheal Haley, Mike Brown, Chris Tierney, Matt Nieto and Brenden Dillon.

Joe Thornton scores 400th career goal, joins Hall of Fame company

Joe Thornton scores 400th career goal, joins Hall of Fame company

SAN JOSE -- There was a plethora of storylines coming out of the Sharks’ crazy 5-4 victory over the Nashville Predators Tuesday night. Almost all of them were eclipsed by Joe Thornton scoring his 400th career goal.

With the score tied up 4-4 in the waning minutes of regulation, the towering forward receiving a magnificent cross-ice pass from linemate Marcus Sorensen before sending the puck past Nashville goalie Juuse Saros into the back of the net

The energy at the Tank after the goal was electric. As his teammates swarmed him in celebration, Thornton was full of emotion as his 400th marker put the Sharks on top 5-4.

“I was on the ice, it was awesome,” Joe Pavelski said with a smile after the game. “It’s hard to put in perspective at times just what he’s been able to accomplish.”

The only thing making the goal even more impressive was that it put him on an exclusive list of seven players in NHL history who have scored 400 goals, tallied 1,000 assists, and played in over 1,500 games. Not surprisingly, though, Thornton told the media he was more focused on helping the team win than notching the milestone goal.

“Just trying to improve my game right now,” he said, a reminder to everyone he’s still battling back from those knee issues that sidelined him at the start of the season.

Wait, so he doesn’t know what highly-touted company he’s joined after scoring his 400th goal?

“No idea,” he admitted. “I haven’t checked to be honest with you.”

His teammates have been paying closer attention.

“It’s like every other night, there’s some kind of stat getting thrown out there,” Pavelski said of following his teammates' accomplishments. “They’re fun to look at, they really are.”

Defenseman Erik Karlsson has only been Thornton’s teammate for a little over a month. But since he has experience playing against No.19, he offered some perspective on what it was like for the Predators’ defense when Thornton came barreling down the ice.

“He’s one of those guys that you always have to be aware of,” Karlsson explained. “You always have to be aware of where he is because he’s such a good hockey player and if he gets the opportunities, you know he’s going to make you pay.”

Of course, the goal couldn’t have been made possible without the beautiful set-up from Sorensen, who Thornton has had a lot of success playing with as of late. 

“Marcus made a great play,” Thornton complimented. “I love playing with him. It seems like we’ve got some chemistry together now.”

When asked what it was like contributing to the milestone goal, Sorensen kept his answer straight-forward.

“It was pretty cool,” he said. “I’m happy for him.”

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in wild 5-4 win over Predators


Sharks takeaways: What we learned in wild 5-4 win over Predators


SAN JOSE -– There was no denying that Tuesday night’s rematch between the Sharks and the Nashville Predators would be a good game. But it’s likely that nobody expected just how lopsided this eventual nail-biter could get.

The Sharks jumped out to a convincing three-goal lead in the first period while the Predators looked tired and unable to create any offense. Then, the visitors rallied in the second stanza to notch three unanswered goals of their own, tying the score heading into the second intermission.

It looked as though Nashville would skate away to a one-goal victory halfway through the third, but Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton put two big goals on the board to give the home team the 5-4 victory.

To top everything off, the game-winner was Thornton’s 400th career goal.

Here are three takeaways from Tuesday’s topsy-turvy game.

The Sharks' first period was amazing

The Sharks opened the game with the most dominant period of hockey they’ve played all season. It embodied everything the team has been saying it wants: Great puck possession, a strong defensive presence and contributions from all four lines.

The strong start was important, given the Predators were playing on the tail end of a back-to-back on the road and had just lost to the Anaheim Ducks in a shootout the previous night. Nashville was visibly tired in the first frame, and San Jose took advantage.

That being said …

The second period was the opposite of amazing

It was like a completely different Sharks team took the ice in the second period. They played a looser game and gave the Predators an opportunity to get back into the contest – not something a team wants to do against a squad with an 8-0-1 road record.

San Jose’s biggest problem in those 20 minutes was not being able to capitalize on any power-play opportunities. The Sharks even had a five-on-three opportunity after the Predators were called for having too many men on the ice. But through 3:40 on the man advantage, San Jose didn’t register a single shot on goal.

The third-period push is alive and well

If there’s one thing the Sharks are good at, it’s making that big third-period push when they’re on their heels. Sometimes it’s too little too late. It came at just the right time Tuesday. 

Goaltender Martin Jones made his best saves at the end of the game. He was particularly impressive when Nashville pulled its goalie with less than two minutes left in the game, and the Predators' forwards swarmed into San Jose’s zone.

Of course, the highlight of the game came on the final goal, when Thornton seemed to skate up to Nashville’s net in slow motion after getting a spectacular feed from Marcus Sorensen. Predators netminder Juuse Saros appeared to not even see Thornton’s milestone marker float past him stick side.