Sports

Do Sharks really have bite?

SAN JOSE -- When Jeremy Roenick scans the nameplates above the lockers in the San Jose Sharks' dressing room, a superlative springs wherever his eyes land.

From Joe Thornton's peerless playmaking and captain Patrick Marleau's leadership to rookie Torrey Mitchell's eye-popping speed, Roenick sees 23 reasons why the Sharks can live down their recent playoff failures -- and live up to their hype as a fashionable pick to win their first Stanley Cup. ESPN NHL analyst Barry Melrose is among those who think so.

"Just knowing these guys and watching them skate every day, I don't see how we can't be the odds-on favorite," Roenick said Tuesday. "But with that comes a lot of responsibility, a lot of pressure. We have to make sure that we don't sit on those accolades. We have to go out there and make sure they come true."

After making few changes to a roster that posted a franchise-record 107 points last spring, the Sharks are so loaded with largely homegrown talent that Roenick -- the 495-goal scorer who signed 10 days before training camp -- probably will be a healthy scratch when San Jose opens its season in Edmonton on Thursday night.

Though the Sharks are skating in striking new uniforms designed as a modern riff on the franchise's original teal jerseys, general manager Doug Wilson's club is built on consistency -- even though last season's second-round playoff loss to Detroit fairly screamed for change.

Defenseman Scott Hannan and goalie Vesa Toskala are gone, but the core of last season's club is back. Instead of diving recklessly into the free-agent market, San Jose re-signed defenseman Craig Rivet and handed out contract extensions to Thornton, Marleau and Milan Michalek while preserving plenty of salary cap space for midseason additions.

Though the Sharks operate on a budget, they insist they aren't cheap. Wilson thinks experience and patience can produce a Cup contender more reliably than slapdash overspending.

The Sharks are also betting that a club built mostly on remarkable speed and skill can thrive in the regular-season grind while preserving enough energy and toughness for playoff success.

That bet hasn't yet paid off: San Jose has been among the NHL's elite clubs in the two seasons since the lockout, but has only two first-round series victories over Nashville to show for it.

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