PHILADELPHIA -- Set aside for a minute the speculation about the aftereffects of jet lag or the lingering emotions tied to the highs and lows of Olympic competition.

Joe Pavelski honed in Wednesday on a more practical adjustment he and the three other Sharks returning from Sochi now face as they prepare for the resumption of their NHL season Thursday night against the Philadelphia Flyers.

"Coming back on the ice, it just feels small out there," Pavelski said, drawing a comparison to the bigger European surface he's been playing on. "Just skinny, the offensive zone seems kind of long and narrow."

No, it isn't likely to take long for Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Antti Niemi to get used to the smaller NHL rinks again. But that was only one of many topics on the table after an hour-long practice at Penn's home rink as the Sharks welcomed not only their four Olympians back into the fold, but also the likely return of Logan Couture, Raffi Torres and Tyler Kennedy to the lineup.

"I felt like we were energized a little bit today," coach Todd McLellan said. "I don't know if that's because we were in a different building or if they're back and guys are excited to see them."

But McLellan was also a little wary about how quickly his world travelers would readjust to their NHL routine.


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"It's as much the emotional part of their experience as it is the physical part. Time change, jet lag, all that type of stuff comes into play for every Olympian," McLellan said. "It's who can recover from the emotional part of being a champion or maybe losing a game that you wanted to win. But, I think the players that we sent are very mentally strong."

All four Olympic Sharks talked about the experience in a positive light -- even Pavelski, who acknowledged it was "definitely a tough ending" with Team USA coming home empty handed after being shut out by Canada and Finland.

"Overall, great experience," he said adding anyone "definitely can learn a lot from going to a place like that and being around those types of players."

Vlasic talked about the confidence gained by winning gold as a key presence on a Team Canada defense that shut down opponents by allowing just three goals in six games.

"Obviously we didn't score a lot of goals, but we didn't need to. Everybody was committed, everybody had a part in it and it was a great thrill," he said. "I thought my game grew in the Olympics."

Marleau said he was watching his Team Canada teammate in practice Wednesday just to see how Vlasic might react to his first Olympic competition.

"You can see how he has a lot of confidence now, having played against the best and with the best," Marleau said. "It raises your game. You see what other players do, how they prepare, how they practice and it can't help but help your game."

Niemi said he didn't find it too difficult to be a spectator at every Team Finland game because he knew ahead of time he might not start or even play. And, the goalie added, the break provided just the right amount of work and rest.

"I feel it was just the perfect two weeks for me, skating with the team, not skating a lot, just a couple drills a day pretty much," he said. "I didn't play so I think my mind is rested too. I feel pretty good right now."

McLellan said he thinks all NHL teams are facing the same challenge as they get ready for their first games after the nearly three-week break.

"Just the rustiness, the trying to do to much early in a game, we really have to keep it simple," he said. "You'll hear 30 coaches say that today. Keep the shifts short -- execute a lot like we are at the beginning of the year."

  • Rookie Tomas Hertl accompanied the Sharks on the road for the first time since a Dec. 19 knee injury. He stayed off the ice Wednesday, but the Czech forward is expected to skate sometime this week.

  • The Sharks recalled defenseman Matt Tennyson from Worcester to replace the injured Brad Stuart.

    For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak's Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/PollakOnSharks.

    THURSDAY'S GAME
    Sharks (37-16-6) at Philadelphia (30-23-6), 4 p.m. CSNCA