Why Sharks' Patrick Marleau expects nerves before SAP Center return

Why Sharks' Patrick Marleau expects nerves before SAP Center return

SAN JOSE -- Sure, even a seasoned veteran like Patrick Marleau had some jitters before he took the ice for his first game back with the Sharks on Thursday night in Chicago.

But that's nothing compared to how he's going to feel on Sunday when he takes the ice at SAP Center.

While meeting with the media on Saturday morning following practice, Marleau admitted that the nerves ahead of his first game back home as a Shark will be on another level.

"I expect it to be a lot the same [nerves as the first game on the road], maybe a little bit more with coming back in front of the fan base," Marleau said. "That adrenaline will be going again and they're going to help me out. Just as long as I keep my legs moving and go to the right spots, hopefully it will be fine."

Those pre-homecoming jitters haven't taken away from how happy the 40-year-old winger is to be playing hockey again. Even with one game back in teal under his belt, the delight of once again being in the fold hasn't worn off.

"The smile hasn't come off my face," he said. "To be able to come back here and walk into this locker room and see my name, it feels good to have somewhere to go and have somewhere to play. And to especially be back here."

It isn't just Marleau's teammates who are happy he's back in a Sharks jersey. No. 12 said he's also heard from former teammates who are happy he's found a home after missing the start of the season.

"The amount of text messages and phone calls I got, it was very humbling and overwhelming," he said. "I really appreciate all of the support that I've been getting. Now the work really starts and I'm really looking forward to it."

Marleau has already had a positive impact on the Sharks ahead of his return to the South Bay, registering two goals in San Jose's 5-4 victory over the Blackhawks. But the team will also be looking to him off the ice as a crop of rookie players gets more acclimated to playing in the NHL.

"Just happy to have another solid pro on the ice and in the room," head coach Peter DeBoer said. "He's going to be a great mentor to our young guys. Just the game he played the other night. How he created offense, he did it the right way."

All that's left now is for Marleau to take the SAP Center ice in his first game back with the Sharks.

[RELATED: Sharks encouraged by effort in win, but issues remain]

Speaking of taking the ice -- Marleau traditionally was the last player to skate out of the sharks' head during his previous tenure with the team, a role that was taken over by Marc-Edouard Vlasic after Marleau left for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Will No. 12 take back the honor of being the last Sharks player out on the ice?

"We had a little talk about it," Marleau said with a laugh. "He let me go out last last game, it was very nice of him."

Logan Couture believes Sharks' motivation should be sky-high in long offseason

Logan Couture believes Sharks' motivation should be sky-high in long offseason

The Sharks will miss the NHL playoffs for the first time in five seasons, and just the second time since the 2002-03 campaign.

They struggled so much and things got so bad they didn’t even qualify for a modified 24-team playoff format designed to wrap the season after the coronavirus pandemic forced the NHL to hit pause in mid-March.

Disqualification is an odd feeling for most veteran Sharks, especially after a season that started with promise ended in disaster.

San Jose's path to redemption won’t start for months. It may be well into the winter before next season ramps up, meaning the Sharks have plenty of time on their hands to ponder what went wrong and how to make it right.

They want to find old form at the next available opportunity. Logan Couture believes that should push them through a long and uncertain offseason.

“As a group, we know that every single person needs to be better next year,” the Sharks captain said Thursday on a video conference with Sharks reporters. “I think, with this long break, it adds time for guys to get prepared. Motivation should be at an all-time high for everyone because you want to come back and prove it was just a fluke. We believe that we’re a good team. We have all the pieces in the room to be successful. We just need to go out and do it.”

That’s not outside the realm of possibility, though there are as many -- or more -- question marks surrounding the team than in recent memory.

Those will be answered by management as the Sharks try and build the depth required to weather a long season and, if all goes right, playoff intensity.

[RELATED: Sharks' Hertl promises to be better than before injury]

The current issue is to keep players focused and training on their own so they’re ready to return when the time comes.

“Players are creatures of habit,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports California’s Brodie Brazil. “The cycles of training and preparing of training and getting ready. This will be the longest time off our team and players have ever had.

"And you’ve got to use that time very well. You don’t want players under-training, or over-training. We’ve talked with our strength and medical people, trying to figure out the best way to get the programs in place so when they come into camp, they’re ready to go.”

Sharks' Tomas Hertl vows to be 'better than before' after knee injury

Sharks' Tomas Hertl vows to be 'better than before' after knee injury

Tomas Hertl stood before the media just a few weeks after tearing the ACL and MCL in his right knee and vowed to be ready by Sharks training camp. That seemed like a bold proclamation at the time, a promise his rehab should let him live up to.

The All-Star center provided a progress report on his physical condition during a Thursday video conference with the media, saying he’ll be ready for the 2020-21 campaign even if it starts as scheduled in October.

Dropping the puck on time seems highly unlikely after the NHL hit pause on the 2019-20 season due to the coronavirus pandemic and announced plans to pick it back up with a modified, 24-team playoff format. That could push next season further into the winter, allowing Hertl to downshift his rehab some and focus on getting strong over getting back on the ice.

“I can do almost anything,” Hertl said. “I am able to run, not full speed, but I can do almost everything I was doing before. I was actually surprised about that after not even four months. If we knew the season was starting in October, I would probably start skating in a few weeks. If there’s extra time it might help me, but I think I would be ready for the season even if it starts when it always does. I should be 100 percent ready for next season whenever it happens.”

[RELATED: Sharks' path back to Stanley Cup contention filled with major hurdles]

Well in line to keep his initial promise, Hertl went a step further Thursday by saying he’s not just looking to regain previous form. He wants to improve upon it.

That would be good news for the Sharks and would continue the 26-year old’s steady ascent as a top-shelf player. He has improved considerably in recent seasons while beginning to maximize great talent, becoming a vital component of the Sharks attack.

Hertl considers this latest knee injury as a speedbump, not a permanent roadblock. He has dealt with knee issues before and always comes back strong. This experience, he says, should be no different.

[RELATED: What you need to know as Sharks long season ends]

“I feel like I have proved the past couple years that I can be one of the top players, one of the top centers on the team,” Hertl said. “I want to keep working on that. I have had some setbacks, but I’m not scared about it. I always come back. The experience has made me stronger. I am taking [this rehab] like another challenge.

“I was named an All-Star and it was a great experience for me, and it makes me want to go back. I want to be there for my team, and that’s why I have been working every day for four months even with the season so far away. My next goal is getting back and being better than before. I know I can do it. I have to give it everything I can to get back.”