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Preview/Lines #46: Duclair Wants To Show Sharks His ‘Best Hockey’ Yet

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Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

Anthony Duclair will return to the San Jose Sharks line-up after being a healthy scratch for a second time this season.

“I just gotta be better,” Duclair said. “I feel like I could be a better player for this team. I don’t think I played my best hockey this season, and even back to last year.”

Last year, Duclair helped key the Florida Panthers’ run to the Stanley Cup Final with four goals and seven assists in 20 games.

“I feel like coming back from an Achilles injury, I was at the top of my game and I was playing some really good hockey and I just gotta get back to that. Mentally, physically, for whatever reason it is, I just gotta be back to be myself.”

Duclair was scratched previously on Dec. 17 after getting caught offside to disallow a goal in a 1-0 loss to the Arizona Coyotes two days prior.

Quinn Explains Why Duclair a Healthy Scratch Tonight

While no specific play comes to mind this time, the message from San Jose Sharks coach David Quinn is similar: He wants to see Duclair skate harder in all three zones.

“That’s really it,” Quinn said. “Him skating both ways in all three zones. And when he does that, he is a really good player in this league.”

Duclair and Quinn talked it over yesterday and the expectations are the same as they have always been.

“It was a really good chat, and obviously, I will keep that between he and I,” Quinn said. “But he is a really important part of our team and, not because of our conversation, I’m expecting a great performance from him moving forward here.”

Like it has been for the San Jose Sharks, it’s been a tough season for Duclair.

After recovering from a torn Achilles and helping the Florida  to the Final, Duclair is trying to find his game on the worst team in the league.

Individually, his production has dropped to eight goals and 16 points in 40 games after scoring 31 goals in his last full season.

“It’s a little bit of a roller coaster, obviously,” the three-time 20-goal scorer said of all the losing.

“I try to approach it the same way I did last year. It’s a different situation, different team. As a competitor and an athlete, not only for myself but everybody in this locker room, you’re trying to get to that point, and obviously, coming so close last year, it was a dream come true to get there and I’m just trying to get back to that spot as soon as possible.

“There are a lot of steps, and it’s a process to get there, and we have a long way to go. Losing game after game and getting on losing streaks, it can be tough mentally. It can wear on your confidence and stuff like that, but you try not to use it as an excuse, and you try to be a pro and come to work every day.”

A change like that is tough to manage, and Quinn recognizes that.

“It’s a hard situation when we lose as much as we have, and he’s not used to it,” Quinn said.

“There is a level of frustration that can creep in with the player. He cares so much about his teammates, sometimes too much, and all that can get in the way. There is a lot that goes into it.

“We all lose sight of the fact that we are human beings, first and foremost. He is a 28-year-old who is at a pivotal point in his career and he is going through one thing he hasn’t gone through. It’s hard, so we can’t lose sight of that, and me in particular.”

Duclair is also a UFA after this season.

So he’s got plenty of reason to perform, if just for himself. But he wants the San Jose Sharks to see his best too.

Duclair Wants To Stay With Sharks, But Gets Trade Deadline Reality (+)

“You haven’t seen it yet, and it’s a little bit frustrating because I know what I can bring to the table,” Duclair said. “It’s something that I need to get back to, and I have to get back to using my feet and being the dominant player I know I’m capable of being.”

San Jose Sharks (10-31-4)

Mackenzie Blackwood starts, and Logan Couture and Nico Sturm are back.

Calen Addison, Kevin Labanc, and Scott Sabourin will sit.

Couture Reveals Injury That’s Sidelined Him All Season

Anaheim Ducks (15-28-1)

Where to Watch

Puck drop between the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks is 7 PM PT at SAP Center. Watch it live on NBC Sports California. Listen to it on the Sharks Audio Network.

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