dpollak@mercurynews.com

SAN JOSE -- Nobody is saying anything officially, but it looks as if the Sharks will open the abbreviated 2013 NHL season in Calgary on Jan. 20, one day after virtually everybody else gets rolling.

Because all games are being played within each 15-team conference, one franchise in the East and one in the West won't be in action when the NHL resumes on Jan. 19. A source familiar with the situation said that appears to be San Jose's fate.

On Wednesday, the NHL board of governors approved a new 10-year NHL labor pact, but the league said afterward that it would withhold release of the 48-game schedule until players also ratified the deal. That voting is expected to last until Saturday.

While starting on Jan. 20 could give the Sharks an extra day of training camp, it would have them returning to action on the same day as the NFC championship -- a game the 49ers would be competing in if they get past Green Bay this weekend.

  • The Sharks know they have to improve a penalty kill that finished 29th in the NHL last season, then had even less success in the playoffs.

    But coach Todd McLellan indicated Wednesday that while it is high on the to-do list for an abbreviated camp likely to open Sunday, it isn't at the top.

    "We've got to get guys to game speed," he said. "Forget about any system that you want to put in there -- penalty kill, power play, faceoffs, anything. Guys have to get up to game speed and game intensity. That's the number one priority, and we have to stay healthy doing that."


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    However the schedule plays out, the coaching staff faces a bigger challenge than usual when teams normally have about three weeks to prepare.

    "If we think we'll be able to cover everything, we're crazy or we'll have it so thin that we won't do anything well," McLellan said. "We'll prioritize some areas of our game we need to get to right off the bat and really work on."

    But, he explained, that comes after getting everybody in shape and clarifying what his team's identity needs to be.

    "We believe that we have to play a certain way. We believe that we have some size. We believe we have some skill," McLellan said. "We have to combine that to get the most out of players in a sprint, compacted schedule."

    McLellan noted that associate coach Larry Robinson and assistant coach Jim Johnson were assigned responsibilities for repairing the penalty kill.

    "There will be some changes there," McLellan said. "We'll need some time to implement it, so we'll spend some time at that but not at the cost of other areas of our game either. The power play's going to be important, too."

    The Sharks finished the regular season with a 76.9 percent success rate on the penalty kill, ahead of only the Columbus Blue Jackets. In losing to the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs, the Sharks saw the number drop to 66.7 percent.

  • Sharks defenseman Brent Burns was more willing to talk about being named one of Cosmopolitan magazine's 30 hottest NHL players Wednesday than he was about his health.

    The magazine chose one player from each team and picked Burns to represent the Sharks. So does his wife know he made the list?

    "I made sure she knew," he said Wednesday. "There's little post-its all over the house to make sure she knows."

    Burns was one of a handful of Sharks skating at Sharks Ice. He is still dealing with the aftermath of offseason hernia surgery but wouldn't assess his condition.

    "I've got no comment on that stuff," he said. "Nothing on that front."

    For more on the Sharks, visit blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks. Follow David Pollak on Twitter@PollakOnSharks.