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Rivals unite, Marleau honored as NHL best show off their skills

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When Drew Doughty of the last-place Los Angeles Kings walked onto the red carpet to prior to entering SAP Center for NHL All-Star Weekend on Friday, he was greeted by a kid no older than 10 years old, and was asked:

“How’s your year going?”

The kid’s parents started laughing, as did Doughty, who thought to himself:

“Oh my god.”

It was open season on Doughty, who received the loudest boos during introductions prior to Friday’s skills competition. On the Jumbotron, he responded with a smile and a wave, relishing in the hate.

A reporter compared him to Chris Pronger, the former Anaheim Ducks’ defenseman who was Public Enemy No. 1 in San Jose in his playing days, which Doughty said was an honor.

Several All-Stars in San Jose for the weekend have had career-defining memories at the Shark Tank. But no recollection is as painful for Sharks fans than the 2014 playoffs, when the Sharks blew a 3-0 lead to the Kings in the first round.

Doughty called it his favorite memory at SAP Center:

“The memories I have in this building are just hard fought games. I remember getting hit so many times, absolutely battling.”

Of course, no one will ever forget the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, when the Penguins clinched with a Game 6 win over the Sharks at SAP Center. The fans certainly remembered on Friday, when Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury received hearty disapprovals upon introductions.

Letang said:

‘That moment was pretty surreal. You dream of that moment. To have a chance to do it in real life was pretty amazing.”

Fleury, who was the backup goaltender on that Penguins team and helped eliminate the Sharks in the second round last postseason as the Las Vegas Golden Knights’ goaltender, is well familiar with big games in this building:

“Winning the Cup here was nice. Last year’s playoffs was one of my best memories here. This building was loud.”

But nobody talked more extensively about facing the Sharks than Doughty, who had a well-documented “rift” with Sharks’ forward Logan Couture. Doughty and Couture played youth hockey together, but the Sharks-Kings rivalry frayed their relationship over the years.

However, Doughty said it is all in the past:

“We both don’t want to lose to each other so bad that it did kind of burn our relationship. We’re almost 30 years old now. We’ve decided to put it by us and go back to the way we were and I’m glad we did that.”

And it isn’t strange for him to team up with his division foes during All-Star weekend, calling a potential line with Sharks’ All-Star defensemen Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson a “pretty good line,” joking:

“I don’t think any of us would want to play defense. We’d be getting up in the rush, trying 3-on-1s.”

Doughty added that for all the on-ice animosity that may fester with the rivalry, he has no hard feelings for the Sharks off the ice:

“We’re all friends off the ice. We can put away all the things that we do or say on the ice to each other.”

Mathews pays tribute to Marleau

The signature moment of the evening came during the accuracy shooter competition, when Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews took off his Leafs jersey prior to his turn and revealed a No. 12 Patrick Marleau sweater underneath, to a huge ovation from the crowd.

Matthews, who was born in the Bay Area, said he came up with the idea on Thursday during dinner with his family, and had the Marleau jersey made for him Friday morning. He said:

“It’s a testament to how much of a legend he is here. It’s pretty amazing, everything he’s done for the city of San Jose. All the cheering got me so nervous that I forgot there were five targets.”

Marleau, who played for the Sharks from 1997 to 2017 before signing with the Leafs, leads the Sharks organization in just about every major statistical category.

Watching from the side, Sharks captain Joe Pavelski looked on with awe:  

“Incredible. I looked at Brent [Burns] and said, ‘We’ve got to get a picture with him.’ Patty means a lot to just about everyone who’s come through this organization. He’s left his mark.”

Now a veteran in Toronto, Marleau has taken Matthews and the Leafs’ youngsters under his wing. Matthews teases Marleau by calling him a “second dad”:

“He never gets too high or low. That’s something I’ve learned from him. Just a good professional. There’s a reason he’s played the amount of games that he’s played and had the career he’s had. You feel fortunate to have him in Toronto because he’s made such a big impact on myself and others beyond his play on the ice.”

Matthews said that Marleau texted him afterwards to thank him for the gesture:

“That was awesome. I can’t explain how great of a guy he is and how close we are in our relationship.”

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