The Mercury News

Sharks back at full strength

Thornton, Couture, others from World Cup return to practice

- By Curtis Pashelka cpashelka@bayareanew­ Follow Curtis Pashelka on Twitter at CurtisPash­elka.

SAN JOSE — The star power and energy level at Sharks training camp was ramped up a notch Tuesday morning as Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Brent Burns and Mikkel Boedker all returned to practice after the World Cup of Hockey ended last week.

While Thornton was back with Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl to form a familiar top trio, Boedker, the Sharks’ prized free-agent acquisitio­n in July, skated with Couture and Joonas Donskoi to offer a tantalizin­g second-line combinatio­n.

Chris Tierney centered a line with Patrick Marleau and Joel Ward, and Tommy Wingels skated between Melker Karlsson and Matt Nieto.

It was just the first day with nearly everyone back, but it did provide the first on-ice glimpse at what kind of forward depth the Sharks employ.

“The level of everything goes up when they’re on the ice,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said of the World Cup players. “It was nice to be a part of that.”

Certainly Boedker is thought to be an important piece of the puzzle.

Boedker, 26, matched a career high with 51 points in 80 games split between the Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche last season. Other teams offered more money, but Boedker inked a four-year, $16 million contract with the Sharks just hours after the unrestrict­ed free agency period began.

Part of it was his familiarit­y with DeBoer, having played for him in 200708 in junior hockey when Kitchener won the Ontario Hockey League championsh­ip. The other part was his desire to be part of a Stanley Cup contender.

Boedker’s been to the playoffs twice in eight years but has not been to the postseason since the Coyotes made the conference finals in 2012.

“We know him, we’ve been around him, and we thought he’d fit in seamlessly with this group,” DeBoer said. “On the ice, I think he really is going to be benefited by some of the guys we can put him with.”

Such as playing with Couture, who led the Sharks in playoff scoring with 30 points in 24 games, and Donskoi, who evolved into a reliable top-six forward in his rookie season.

“They can make something happen out of nothing,” said Boedker of Couture and Donskoi. “So it’s important to get a feel for things. I’m excited for the future here.”

“Fast, skilled,” Couture said of Boedker. “He’s going to be a good player for us.”

Boedker said he watched the Cup final between the Sharks and Penguins, saying “both teams played really well and obviously the little bit faster team won. But the guys here can be proud of what they did.”

Along with the addition of defenseman David Schlemko, Thornton had little doubt the Sharks will be a faster team.

“They both can move, and Mikkel, he flies up and down the wing,” Thornton said. “He creates a lot of pace, and Dave on the back end, he moves pucks real well and skates really well.”

Speaking of the team’s year-end meeting, Couture said the team wants more. “(Sharks general manager) Doug Wilson, said we had an unbelievab­le year, but we’re not satisfied,” Couture said. “We want to get back there, and we want to win it. We believe in this room that we’re capable of doing that this year. Adding players like that only helps us.”

DeBoer said defenseman n Marc-Edouard Vlasic, also part of Canada’s World Cup winning team with Thornton, Couture and Burns, was traveling back to the Bay Area on Tuesday.

Goalie Troy Grosenick n and defenseman Dan Kelly cleared waivers Tuesday and were assigned to the Barracuda.

 ?? FRANK GUNN/THE CANADIAN PRESS VIA AP ?? Mikkel Boedker, left, joins Sharks practice after playing with Team Europe in the World Cup.
FRANK GUNN/THE CANADIAN PRESS VIA AP Mikkel Boedker, left, joins Sharks practice after playing with Team Europe in the World Cup.

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