Jonathan Cheechoo recently received two important phone calls. One came from NHL headquarters, telling him he'd been voted to start in the All Star game. The other was from friend and former teammate Jim Fahey.

"What's going on with you?" Fahey demanded. "You gotta get back to doing what you know how to do."

Given Fahey's reminder, Cheechoo has shown signs of regaining his scoring touch. The league's leading scorer last season with 56 goals, Cheechoo had just 11 in his first 31 games this season. Now, fueled by a recent hot streak, he has 16.

"I started being around the puck more again," said Cheechoo, whose All Star teammates tonight in Dallas include Sharks Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. "I had gotten into some bad habits. The worst was not being close to the puck. For agoal-scorer, that's not a good thing."

There is no shortage of theories for Cheechoo's scoring struggles.

Thornton, Cheechoo's primary setup man last season, battled injuries (broken toe, broken finger) for the first couple of months. Cheechoo missed six games because of a knee injury. And Mark Bell, the projected left wing of that line, has struggled to find his game in San Jose.

But the biggest factor might have been the burden of expectations.

"He's a proven goal-scorer, but is he a guy that can score 50 goals every year? I'm not sure about that," said Ed Olczyk, the former Pittsburgh coach who is now an analyst for NBC and Versus.


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"But is he a guy that can definitely put up 35-40 goals each and every year? Absolutely, because he's got a nose for the net, and he plays with that jam and that moxie."

For players who have led the league in goals, a sizable dropoff the next season is not uncommon. It happened to Jarome Iginla, Teemu Selanne and Keith Tkachuk, all of whom mentioned the mental aspect of trying to repeat their success.

"It's tough because you want to score," said Tkachuk, who scored 52 in 1996-97, then slipped to 40 the next season. "You can't put too much pressure on yourself. If you put too much pressure on yourself scoring, that's when things aren't going to happen for you."

Even a tinge of doubt can be costly, Iginla said. He scored 52 goals in 2001-02, then dropped to 35 the next season.

"When you come back that next year after getting more than 50, you want it to keep rolling," Iginla said. "But if you don't get a few bounces here and there, you start pressing. If you're just a little tense, you're that split-second slower getting pucks off."

Unlike last season, Cheechoo isn't playing on the penalty-killing unit, and Sharks coach Ron Wilson thinks that might have been another part of the problem. Wilson said he wouldn't change his decision, because it will keep Cheechoo fresher in the long run, "But that might have been a mistake in hindsight because it got him to forget about the defensive part. It might have led to him thinking he didn't have to work defensively."

At his low point this season, Cheechoo had a minus-10 rating. He still has a minus-7 rating, but he has been plus or even in eight of the past nine games.

There are 34 games left in the season. In the final 34 games of last season, Cheechoo pumped in 29 goals. That will be tough to duplicate.

But if he just matches the 16 goals he has already scored, Cheechoo would finish with 32. In the history of the franchise, just two other Sharks (Patrick Marleau and Owen Nolan) have had 32 or more in a season.

Sometimes one goal is all it takes to get rolling. Selanne, for instance, had just one goal in the first 11 games this season. Now he has 30 to share the league lead.

"I always say as long as you have scoring chances, you know it's going to come," Selanne said. "You just need a little confidence, and you need one to break it. That's why I've always said, when you get the one, you're relaxed, you don't push so hard anymore. Then they start coming."