SAN JOSE — For the first time, things were mostly back to normal at Sharks training camp on Tuesday.
Mikkel Boedker, Brent Burns, Logan Couture and Joe Thornton practiced for the first time since returning from the World Cup of Hockey. Marc-Edouard Vlasic also played in Canada’s tournament clincher over Europe last Thursday, and is still traveling according to head coach Pete DeBoer. But with two of his top centers and the team’s highest-scoring defenseman back, the difference was noticeable, DeBoer said.
“[There was] a different energy obviously with those guys back and the level of everything just goes up with them on the ice,” DeBoer said.
Other than free agent signing Mikkel Boedker joining a new team, Logan Couture and Joe Thornton had to make arguably the biggest adjustments of any of their teammates that rejoined the team after the World Cup. The pair played on the wing for Mike Babcock’s World Cup-winning squad, which utilized different strategies than in San Jose according to Couture.
“It’s a much different system [here than Canada’s] as well, so [we] kind of have to go over our systems and play center again,” Couture said. “It’s going to take a bit of time, but I think we’re going to be alright.”
Thornton played with mostly familiar linemates as part of that transition. He played alongside Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl, his linemates down the stretch last season. The trio was among the league’s best lines last season, which is why DeBoer moved Hertl back to the wing after he played center at camp up to this point.
“We know each other. We know how each other plays, and it was so effective last season,” Thornton said. “It’s nice to see us together.”
Couture had some familiarity on his line, too. Joonas Donskoi, who was his most common linemate during the regular season and playoffs last year, skated on the right wing.
But a new face filled out the line. Mikkel Boedker, who the Sharks signed as a free agent this summer, skated on Couture’s left.
“It’s a lot of fun playing with those players. They can make something happen out of nothing,” Boedker said about playing with Couture and Donskoi. “It’s important that I feel good, and I’m excited for the opportunity.”
Couture praised Donskoi and Boedker’s ability to carry the puck, and said he hopes the line will “have the puck all night and generate offense.” Boedker said he’s still working to develop chemistry with Couture, and his coach said he likes the combination on paper.
“When you’re writing things down on a napkin in the summer, and you’re putting combinations together, that should be a group that works,” DeBoer said.
DeBoer is keeping an open mind to how the line plays in camp, and is “reluctant” to commit to any of the lines until they’ve “earned the right to play together,” he said. Thornton, Pavelski, and Hertl seemed to have earned that right.
“I thought they were a dominant line last year,” DeBoer said. “We have that luxury where we can move some people around, but you don’t want to change it if it isn’t broken and move people around unless you have to.”
Thornton said it will take a couple of days for that line to regain its chemistry. Even though the team will be together in full for just eight days prior to start of the season next Wednesday against Los Angeles, Thornton said he’s not concerned about the World Cup having any lingering effects.
“Everybody seems to be healthy. Everybody seems to be rested,” Thornton said. “I expect us to start fast this year.”