SAN JOSE – Three days may not seem like a long enough period of time to kick back, relax, and tune out any work-related thoughts. But for an NHL player, that stretch of time – the precise length of the league-mandated Christmas break – doesn't seem so short.
"When you're in this lifestyle, a three-day break feels like two weeks," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer explained to the media when the team reconvened after the holiday break.
Not that any player is going to complain about getting some much-needed time off.
"Any break you get, it's nice," captain Joe Pavelski said.
But that break is over. Now, Team Teal starts a stretch of games against division competition, kicking things off Thursday evening with a contest against the Anaheim Ducks – a team who plays San Jose tough. The key to beating the SoCal foe after the holiday break, DeBoer said, is to be the more patient and mentally sound squad.
"My history with these types of games is that the smarter team usually wins," he explained. "The team that manages the puck and defends well and waits for opportunities. The impatient, overly-aggressive teams usually get burned in these (kinds) of games."
This doesn't mean, however, that San Jose isn't going to have some level of aggression against Anaheim. "We want to be competitive – we're going to have to be," DeBoer continued. "They're a big, physical, hard team. They always play hard. But we've got to be the smarter team here tonight."
[RELATED: Projected lines for Sharks vs. Ducks]
The Sharks' lines were sliced, diced, and otherwise mixed at Thursday's morning skate. One notable difference was that defenseman Joakim Ryan will be pencilled into the lineup Thursday evening alongside Brenden Dillon. The Rumson, New Jersey product hasn't seen game action since Dec. 1, when he tallied an assist against the Ottawa Senators. He has, however, played in the Sharks previous two contests against the Ducks – and he agrees San Jose has to play smart against Anaheim in their first game back from the break.
"They play their best when they're playing in the o-zone," the defenseman said. "They've got some big bodies and they do a good job of protecting the puck and hanging onto it, kind of cycling you down low in the o-zone. We've just got to try to eliminate that as quick as possible. Get the first guy off balance, have another guy get in there, grab the puck and head the other way.
"Obviously coming off the break here, we might not be the sharpest off the start," Ryan continued. "I think it's going to be about the team that makes the least mistakes."