The National Hockey League is always mindful during the playoffs to stagger practices, in this case so that media can cover San Jose's 10:30 a.m. morning skate at their practice rink southeast of downtown, and then make it to the SAP Center for the Edmonton practice at 11:30 a.m.
But the Sharks appear to be using that mandate to mess with Edmonton's playoff routine.
The Oilers, like every team (including the Sharks), would normally trickle out of their dressing room any time after 11 a.m. to conduct some early individual practice — shooting pucks, tipping pucks in the slot, practising faceoffs, etc. But at the SAP Center, the lights are out and there are no nets on the ice until exactly 11:30.
Over at Solar4America Ice, where the Sharks practice, Joe Thornton had already skated and was off the ice at 10:10 a.m. Tuesday morning. Meanwhile Joe Pavelski is usually out 30 minutes before practice diligently working on drills.
For some reason however, the SAP Center was dark and net-less until exactly 11:30 a.m. for Edmonton prior to the morning skates before Games 3 and 4, and also before its off-day practice on Monday.
"This is the first I've heard of it," Sharks GM Doug Wilson said. "Hopefully the ice was ready for them when they were scheduled to skate at 11:30."
Todd McLellan, would you care to comment on that? "No."
This sounds like the same playoff subterfuge that saw the Detroit Red Wings paint the visitors dressing room every series, so the smell lingered. Or Oilers GM Glen Sather making sure the coffee available to visiting teams was decaffeinated. Or the time Colorado GM Pierre Lacroix had the visitor's bench at old McNichols Arena pushed so close to the boards that it was almost impossible to hop in and out while changing on the fly.
"Practices at different rinks in the same market are supposed to be staggered, so media can get to both if they wish," confirmed the NHL's vice-president of communications, John Dellapina, in an email. "What we don't want is teams jumping on so early that media miss covering a practice.
"That said, I've never heard of us being in charge of lighting at an arena until the Final. And when nets are put on the ice normally has more to do with the ice crew and their need to flood or make required adjustments before teams jump on."
Frankly, if the Sharks are resorting to these kinds of tricks, they're halfway beaten already. This is really minor league stuff, though we'll admit, it makes for a fun story.
Oilers winger Zack Kassian took it in stride.
"It's a little different," he said. "I don't mind it, because we have a couple of ugly guys on the team so we don't have to look at them."
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