Marleau and others missed camp but haven’t missed a beat

Peter DeBoer should have known better.

He heard the stories of how Patrick Marleau and longtime Sharks teammate Joe Thornton trained in the offseason well before he got to San Jose. Still, he was amazed at how the 40-year-old Marleau jumped back on to the ice after no training camp and scored twice in his first game.

”I know what an athlete he is and how great of shape he keeps himself in,” DeBoer said. ”It still is an amazing feat.”

Marleau is one of a handful of NHL players who missed camp and exhibition games but haven’t missed a beat early in the season. Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine, Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point and Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen were restricted free agents who didn’t sign until late September and they are also off to hot starts.

Laine has 12 points in 10 games for the Jets, and Point is a point-a-game guy in his first five games this season with the Lightning. Rantanen was tied with Avalanche linemate Nathan MacKinnon for the team lead with 12 points in nine games, a big reason Colorado won seven of its first nine. Rantanen left Monday’s game against St. Louis with a lower-body injury.

Rantanen practiced with a team in his native Finland in the weeks before signing a $55.5 million, six-year contract with Colorado. That intensity of training gave coach Jared Bednar confidence to hand Rantanen big minutes right away.

”(Getting) a couple weeks with a team and skating and do practices drills and 5-on-5 drills, I think that kept him sharp and he was able to come back in and pick up right where he left off,” Bednar said.

Laine followed a similar path, skating with a Swiss team to stay in shape before negotiations culminated with a $13.5 million, two-year contract. The Finn has nine assists to go along with three goals as he rounds out his offensive game.

Rantanen has five goals and seven assists and looked like his old self before the scary injury in St. Louis.

Things clicked right away for Marleau, who after two seasons in Toronto returned to the place he played his first 19 years in the NHL. He has three points in four games, and the Sharks are 3-1 since Marleau came back.

”I’m focusing on trying to get up to speed and help my teammates out, help my linemates out as much as possible,” Marleau said. ”I got off to a good start, got a good couple wins. There’s still a lot of room for improvement.”

The Sharks needed a boost after a handful of injuries compounded the problem of rushing young players into big roles. Marleau isn’t in his prime, but he is a familiar face and a skilled forward who knows DeBoer’s system.

”It allowed you to plug a guy in in your top six that the players in your top six are happy to play with,” DeBoer said. ”Good players want to play with good players, and good players want to play with guys that they know they can rely on and trust and understand where they’re supposed to be on the ice at what time of the game. It’s made a big difference.”

Marleau still isn’t sure he’s in a regular-season rhythm yet, but it’s no accident he was able to make a difference right away. Despite not having a contract after being traded from Toronto to Carolina and bought out, Marleau skated at the Sharks’ practice facility and a rink in San Mateo, California, and worked with Sharks strength coach Mike Potenza in case a team came calling for his services.

If Marleau plays in 77 games this season, he will pass Jaromir Jagr for the most in league history.

Unlike Laine, Point and Rantanen, who were going to sign eventually, Marleau had no way of knowing if his career was over, making the strong start to his 22nd season all the more impressive.

”It was a battle, for sure,” Marleau said. ”I haven’t missed a training camp in I don’t know how long. It was uncharted territory for myself, so I have to thank my family, my wife and kids for putting up with me. There’s a lot of highs and lows. Going through that, you’re just trying to focus on what I can control and one of the things I could do was work out and stay in shape and just mentally try and be ready for when that call does come.”

As the Sharks try again for their first Stanley Cup championship, DeBoer isn’t easing Marleau in and expects the veteran forward to be a substantial piece for San Jose yet again.

”He’s got a great brain for the game, he’s right on top of things,” DeBoer said. ”I think the expectation is he comes in and what he told me is he’s going to give us whatever he’s got in whatever role we give him. Early that’s been a pretty big role. I don’t see that probably changing.”

Rangers’ Kreider fractures foot vs. Flyers

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New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider suffered a fractured foot against the Philadelphia Flyers Friday.

The alternate captain blocked a shot from Philippe Myers with 7:40 remaining in the opening period. He played one more shift for 10 seconds before heading to the locker room. The Rangers have not provided a timeline for the injury.

New York signed Chris Kreider to a $45.5 million, seven-year extension prior to the trade deadline. The 28-year-old power forward has 24 goals and 21 assists in 63 games this season.


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Robin Lehner to make Golden Knights debut; Mark Stone injured

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The Vegas Golden Knights have been one of the league’s hottest teams over the past month and will be looking to extend their current winning streak to eight games on Friday night when they host the Buffalo Sabres.

Coach Pete DeBoer had some significant lineup news ahead of the game on Friday afternoon, including a potentially significant injury.

First, is the news that big trade deadline acquisition Robin Lehner will be making his first start in goal for the team. The Golden Knights acquired Lehner from the Chicago Blackhawks just ahead of the NHL trade deadline on Monday for a draft pick and a prospect. Lehner has been one of the league’s best goalies for the past two years and alongside Marc-Andre Fleury should give them one of the league’s best goaltending duos.

The far more serious news, though, was the announcement that forward Mark Stone will not play on Friday due to a lower-body injury.

DeBoer had no immediate information on how long Stone could be out, only to say that he is still being evaluated.

When asked if it could potentially be a long-term injury DeBoer said “There’s always fear. We don’t know, but we’ll see,” via NHL.com.

Stone is one of the league’s best all-around forwards and has not only been a point-per-game player for the past three seasons, he is also one of the best defensive forwards in the league. He finished the 2018-19 season as the top runner-up for the Selke Trophy, something that has become almost unheard of for a winger.

The Golden Knights enter Friday’s game in first place in the Pacific Division, four points ahead of the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks.

Related: Blackhawks trade Robin Lehner to Golden Knights

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

 

Oilers’ Mike Green to miss 3-4 weeks with sprained MCL

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Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland was busy at the NHL trade deadline adding Mike Green, Andreas Athanasiou, and Tyler Ennis to his roster in an effort to improve its depth. But just two games later his team has already lost one of those new players to injury.

The Oilers announced on Friday that Green, acquired from the Detroit Red Wings for Kyle Brodziak and a draft pick, will be sidelined for the next 3-4 weeks due to an MCL sprain.

That is the way things seem to be going for the Oilers right now as injuries keep adding up throughout their roster.

Green joins an injury list that already includes the team’s top defenseman (Oscar Klefbom), as well as James Neal, Kailer Yamamoto, and Kris Russell.

Green played 19 minutes in the Oilers’ 3-0 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday.

Athanasiou was also injured in that game, but is expected to play on Saturday when the Oilers host the Winnipeg Jets.

The Oilers enter the weekend in third place in the Pacific Division with 74 points, four points back of Vegas and only two points ahead of the non-playoff teams in the Western Conference.

Related: Red Wings send Mike Green to Oilers

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Report: Islanders will play all home games at Nassau Coliseum in 2020-21

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March 22 will be the final Islanders’ game at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, according to Newsday.

Randi Marshall reports that New York governor Andrew Cuomo will announce on Saturday that the Islanders will play any home playoff games this season and all of their 2020-21 home schedule at Nassau Coliseum.

The Islanders are currently building a new arena by Belmont Park race track which is expected to be ready in time for the 2021-22 NHL season. The franchise played all of its home games at the Coliseum from 1972-2015 before moving to Brooklyn full-time in 2015. That lasted until 2018 when they split home games at both arenas, with Nassau Coliseum playing host to their Round 1 matchup against the Penguins and Barclays for their second round series against the Hurricanes.

While Barclays Center helped keep the Islanders in New York, it has not been the easiest arena to travel to for fans. The ability to get there via mass transit was a positive that the Coliseum doesn’t have. Yet when the Islanders returned back to Long Island last season, there was plenty nostalgia over the building that was home for the franchise’s glory days.

In September the Islanders broke ground on the new 19,000-seat arena by Belmont Park which is less than 10 miles from Nassau Coliseum.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.