SAN JOSE - Sharks forward Patrick Marleau missed his third straight practice on Wednesday, suffering from the flu. He was, however, healthy enough to rejoin his teammates at HP Pavilion and rode the bike while the rest of the players took part in a lengthy skate.
He rode the bike and was around the guys, so its a step in the right direction, said coach Todd McLellan. I fully expect him to play this weekend.
McLellan has used the odd break in the schedule as an almost mini-training camp, skating the team for over an hour in each of the last three days. While Marleaus absence isnt ideal, the coach isnt too worried about the 32-year-old veteran of more than 1,000 NHL games.
Im always concerned when a guy misses three days, but hes a fit and mature guy, he said. He takes care of himself. We play three games in four nights, and the rest is probably more important than the workload for him.
On a positive note, goaltender Antti Niemi got the bulk of the work in net at Wednesdays practice. Thats different from Monday and Tuesday when he was mostly a spectator.
Niemi mentioned it was the most action hes had since last Saturday, but was still non-committal on a return date.
From my opinion, I think Niemi is looking better every day, said McLellan. Not only physically, but his game, too. At one point hell be ready to go and hell play a lot of hockey.
Martin Havlat took Marleaus place on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski in practice, but he, too, has not been officially cleared.