Sharks

An inch makes all the difference for Dan Boyle

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An inch makes all the difference for Dan Boyle

SAN JOSE For Dan Boyle, one measly inch has made all the difference.

Prior to the Sharks home game against the Dallas Stars on Dec. 8, Boyle shortened all of his sticks by that length, after he noticed they were a bit too long when compared to last season.

I brought a stick from home that I used last year to the rink, and they were about an inch off, he said. Somewhere along the way this year, they got off track. They were all an inch too long.

Since then, Boyle has felt much more confident on the ice, specifically when handling the puck.

Yeah, big time, absolutely. Its made a huge difference, he said. Every hockey player knows. An inch doesnt sound like much to most people, but to us, its a huge difference. Ive certainly felt better handling the puck. Big difference.

Its shown not only in his play, but on the scoresheet, too. Boyle had a goal and an assist in Colorado on Tuesday, and another assist against Chicago on Sunday. He had gone nine straight games without a point from Nov. 12 Dec. 3, but appears to be finding his game after an inconsistent-at-best start for the veteran defenseman.

His shot totals have also risen. Boyle has 18 shots in his last five games since he fixed his sticks, including 13 in the last three games.

I have the puck on my stick a lot, and I get a lot of shots blocked, too. Just trying to find a way though, he said. Its hard. A lot of teams are playing the same way or collapse in front of the net and youre shooting through three or four different bodies. You have to earn your shots.

Without getting into specifics, Boyle mentioned after Tuesdays 4-3 shootout loss to Colorado that hes had a tough start of the season physically, as well tougher than at any time in his career, in fact.

He was asked to elaborate on that after Fridays practice at Sharks Ice.

I dont want to come across as being whiney and stuff, but Ive just gone through a rash of injuries 30 games in that have been pretty bothersome, I guess, he said.

Again, I dont want to come across as a guy thats whining and making excuses because were all playing with injuries, but its been extra hard this year. Through 30 games Ive had a number of things that have bothered me, but Im starting to come out of it now.

What may also be aiding Boyle is that with regular partner Douglas Murray out with a broken hand, Boyle has been paired with Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who has been the clubs steadiest and best defenseman this season.

Its been going really good. Were getting more looks offensively, and hes been playing well all year, said Boyle of his partner.

Still, Boyle senses the biggest improvement has come in his own game.

Ive just been playing a little bit better lately.

Sharks start training camp with familiar face elsewhere: ‘It’s kind of strange’

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AP

Sharks start training camp with familiar face elsewhere: ‘It’s kind of strange’

SAN JOSE — There was something familiar missing in San Jose when the Sharks opened training camp.

For the first time since 1996, the Sharks took the ice for their first training camp practice without Patrick Marleau on the team as the franchise's career leader in games and scoring left as a free agent for Toronto this summer.

"I've spent a lot of years with him. It is kind of strange," said Joe Thornton, who came to San Jose in 2005. "It's his birthday today too. It's a little weird, but he's going to do great up in Toronto."

Marleau had been with San Jose since being picked second overall in 1997 but left the Sharks to sign an $18.75 million, three-year deal with the Maple Leafs in July.

Marleau has 508 goals and 574 assists for 1,082 points. He had 46 points in playing all 82 games last season as he rebounded from a disappointing 2015-16 season by scoring 27 goals, including the 500th of his career. He ranks first in San Jose in career goals, games and points.

Only six players in NHL history have played more games with one team than Marleau's 1,493 in San Jose. The Sharks haven't played a game without him on the ice since April 7, 2009.

"Obviously Patty has meant so much to this organization and this group," captain Joe Pavelski said. "Everyone in this room has pretty much played with him and Patty has done something to help them out. He'll be missed. ... Just by committee somebody will step in and fill that kind of hole. That's what we'll need."

The Sharks made no major additions this offseason so will need to replace Marleau's 27 goals by getting development from younger players like Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Danny O'Regan, as well as bounce-back seasons from veterans like Thornton, Mikkel Boedker and Joonas Donskoi.

Only Pavelski, Logan Couture and Brent Burns are back after scoring more than 12 goals last season.

"When I look back at last year we had key people either have down years or miss significant time with injuries or coming off injuries," coach Peter DeBoer said. "I think if we can stay healthy I think we've got a large group of guys that can really take a step this year and I expect a step out of them."

While the Sharks lost Marleau in free agency, they did manage to keep Thornton by giving him a one-year, $8 million contract despite dwindling production last season and offseason knee surgery.

He scored just seven goals — his fewest in an 82-game season since his rookie year in 1997-98 — and was a key part of a power-play unit that uncharacteristically struggled last season. But he still managed 43 assists, teaming with captain Joe Pavelski on San Jose's top line.

Thornton missed the final week of the regular season and the first two playoff games with a left knee injury before returning for the final four games of a first-round loss to Edmonton. Thornton then underwent surgery to repair his MCL and ACL after the season but was back skating in August and started ramping it up for training camp two weeks ago. Thornton believes the lower-body work he did in rehab this offseason will pay dividends on the ice.

"They feel real strong," he said of his legs. "I feel a lot of pop out there. They're probably as strong as they've ever been just because I had to rehab that knee so much."

Sharks Media Day highlights: Beards, smiles & cup checks

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Sharks Media Day highlights: Beards, smiles & cup checks

The boys were back together in San Jose on Thursday for Sharks Media Day, with plenty of smiles and moments of levity. Check out the highlights...

Hey Jumbo, you dropped something. 👖🤷‍♂️

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Martin Jones is pretty good at photobombs 📸💣

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🤳 Media Day #SJSharks

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New season. New commercials. 🕉🚌📺 #ComingSoon #SharksForLife

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