Gomez likely to debut on Saturday

Gomez likely to debut on Saturday
January 25, 2013, 2:00 pm
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Scott Gomez was officially acquired on Wednesday and will likely make his debut in teal Saturday against the Avalanche. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

SAN JOSE – Sharks newcomer Scott Gomez will likely make his debut on Saturday against Colorado, although head coach Todd McLellan wouldn’t completely confirm it.

“A very good chance we’ll see him tomorrow,” the head coach said. “We’ll get a health update tomorrow on the roster. He had a good practice today. We used him in some different situations in practice, so he should feel a little more comfortable. We’d really like to see what he’s going to do.”

One of those situations is the Sharks’ second power play unit. Gomez lined up there as the center with Marty Havlat and Ryane Clowe, with Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun on the points.

The Sharks’ power play has been impressive through three games, to say the least, going 7-for-18 (38.9 percent, third in the league). All seven goals have come from the top unit, however. Gomez has apparently bumped forward Tommy Wingels from the power play.

The 33-year-old center also took line rushes with James Sheppard and Adam Burish, so should he get in the lineup, signs point to Andrew Desjardins sitting out.

One player that looks poised to keep his place in the lineup, even with Gomez dressing, is center Michal Handzus. There was rampant speculation that Gomez would replace Handzus as the third line center, but the stoic and professional 35-year-old vet has impressed McLellan so far.

“I think Zeus has played very well since the season started. Completely different guy,” McLellan said. “Because we have signed Scott Gomez, I don’t think that’s any reason for Michal Handzus to lose his job or his position. They can battle it out, continue to push each other, and obviously different situations allow for different players to use a certain skill set.

“Zeus has been very good on the penalty kill this year so far; very good in the faceoff circle. Scotty might be a little more offensive in power play situations. There is room for both of them, and they can push each other.”

Handzus was an incredible 15-1 in the faceoff circle on Thursday against Phoenix, and along with Brad Stuart and Douglas Murray, nearly killed off a full two-minute two-man advantage for the Coyotes. He was a -1, but that only due to Antti Niemi letting in a bad goal to Lauri Korpikoski.

As for Gomez, Ryane Clowe is looking forward to a different look on his power play unit.

“It’s a pretty good second unit when you put myself, Marty and Gomer on there,” Clowe said. “It’s two pretty solid units out there, especially with the first unit going the way they are. One thing about Gomer, is the ability to pass the puck is a real threat. We have three lefties, and I kind of want to get to the net a bit more.”

Gomez may not be the only player making his Sharks season debut. Goaltender Thomas Greiss will likely make an appearance in one of the two games this weekend, and it looks like it might be on Saturday, as he was the first goalie off of the ice on Friday while Niemi stayed on for some extra work.

Rare afternoon game

The Sharks' 1 p.m. start time on Saturday against Colorado will be the first regular season afternoon game at HP Pavilion since March 21, 2009.

“It’s going to be weird, but we had a little bit of a different start up in Edmonton,” said Joe Thornton, referring to the late 8 p.m. local start against the Oilers. “They’re a good young team. We’ve got to start early, wake up and be ready to go. Whoever gets the early start is probably going to win the game.”

Vancouver visits on Sunday at 5 p.m., so the Sharks will have had five different local start times in each of their first five games. It’s also the first of nine back-to-back situations.

NHL teams have struggled in back-to-backs so far in this shortened season, going 6-11-1, according to the NY Times’ Chris Botta.

What can a head coach do to avoid the potential drop in energy in that second game?

“Not a lot,” McLellan said. “We can manage the players’ ice time the day before, but the game will dictate that. If we’re in a tight game, we play certain players to be successful. We’re not going to worry about tomorrow, we’re playing for today.”