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Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Patrick Marleau thriving with revamped Sharks


Early returns for the Todd McLellan regime in San Jose are extremely positive after the Sharks' 5-2 victory over the Blue Jackets Tuesday night gave the team a club-record 4-0 start to the season.

The Sharks have outscored opponents 13-4 on the strength of a balanced attack. Joe Thornton, Jonathan Cheechoo, Milan Michalek, Devin Setoguchi and Patrick Marleau have four points apiece to lead Sharks scorers. The most noticeable beneficiary of rookie coach McLellan's arrival has to be Marleau, who had short-handed and even-strength goals against Columbus.

The new coach, who shares Saskatchewan roots with Marleau and has known his dad from when the Sharks captain played junior hockey in the WHL, has taken a patient approach with Marleau while he adapts to McLellan's new system. So far, at least, McLellan's communication style has been a better motivator than the blunt criticism of former coach Ron Wilson, who was fired after last season's second-round loss to the Stars.

"He just looks so strong and he has a lot of confidence," Thornton told the San Jose Mercury News about Marleau. "You can tell. When you play with confidence the sky is the limit for guys like that."

Not hearing his name mentioned constantly in trade rumors has to help as well, so it's a safe bet that Marleau will improve upon the 19 goals, 48 points and minus-19 he registered last season. McLellan's disciplined, puck possession-oriented system, combined with the chemistry Marleau is showing with Thornton and Setoguchi, 21, on the top line, might even have the 29-year-old threaten the career-best 34 goals and 86 points he achieved in 2005-06.

Marleau is owned in almost all ESPN.com fantasy leagues, but his reputation as an annual scoring tease may make him available for trade. You should also act quickly to get Setoguchi, who is owned in just 27.1 percent of ESPN leagues, as well.

Ice Chips
Jarome Iginla
Jarome Iginla hasn't been shy about dropping the gloves early in the season.

Flames winger Todd Bertuzzi's two goals in Calgary's 5-4 victory over Colorado gives him three in three games, enough for many to overlook his minus-three so far. … Fantasy owners who have Jarome Iginla have to be relieved to see his goal and assist against the Avalanche. But besides the Flames first victory of the season, Iginla earned the Gordie Howe hat trick by getting in a fight for the second consecutive game. … Anyone still have confidence in Avs goalie Peter Budaj? He's 0-3 with a 4.38 goals-against average and .824 save percentage in three appearances. We'll soon see if Andrew Raycroft can do any better… Minnesota's Antti Miettinen had picked up an assist and his second and third goals of the season in a 4-2 victory over Atlanta. He's not going to keep up that pace but he's averaging more than four minutes per game more than he did last season while with the Stars thanks to his hot hand and quick feet. … Atlanta's Bryan Little picked up a goal and an assist against Minnesota to boost his season total to three goals, five points and a plus-three in three games. Little has been bouncing between the top two lines and the 20-year-old's rising confidence will see him get more time alongside left winger Ilya Kovalchuk and center Todd White. … Brooks Orpik, power-play quarterback. Bet you never thought you'd read that. OK, that's a stretch, but Orpik's fifth career goal was also his first with the man advantage in his six-year career. Orpik, who also assisted on Pascal Dupuis' overtime winner against the Flyers, won't make the Penguins forget the injured Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney, but the extra opportunities will be a nice bonus for fantasy owners in custom leagues who have Orpik for his hits, minutes and blocked shots. … Los Angeles center Jarret Stoll looked good manning the point on the power play in the Kings' 6-3 victory over the Ducks. Stoll earned his first points in three games with a power-play goal and an assist.