Horvat, Canucks host Sharks

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Now, Bo knows success in the NHL.

Bo Horvat, in just his third NHL season with the Vancouver Canucks, has learned the hard way -- by standing out with a rebuilding team that is battling for a playoff spot. But after taking part in last weekend's All-Star festivities in Los Angeles, he knows more about himself and his game.

"Just being there in front of all those players, all those people, all those legends that were there, it just gives me a lot more confidence going in that I do deserve to be there," said Horvat after getting a day off from practice this week. "That was a really good experience for me, and it just made me that much more hungry to get back to playing (meaningful games) and helping this team win."

The first opportunity comes Thursday night as the Canucks (23-21-6) host the San Jose Sharks (31-17-2) at Rogers Arena.

Horvat thrived offensively during his first appearance in the All-Star tournament while playing alongside flashy Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau. Although Horvat and Henrik Sedin share Vancouver's lead in points with 32, the 21-year-old center is anxious to show that he can do more offensively.

"For me, being the type of player I am, I definitely want to be at both ends of the rink," said Horvat. "I think a lot of people thought that I was going to be a defensive guy that just plays defense. That (defensive aspect) is part of my game, but I also have another (offensive) element to my game as well."

Canucks coach Willie Desjardins is not worried that All-Star success will inflate Horvat's ego to the detriment of the Canucks.

"I don't think Bo's like that at all," said Desjardins. "I think it should be a confidence-builder for him. It should let him know that he can play with the best in the league. I thought he made some great plays out there."

Collectively, the Canucks will have to make some great plays if they hope to beat the Sharks, who are 8-2 in their last two games following a 3-1 home victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night. San Jose is showing strong signs of being able to contend for the Stanley Cup again after losing out to Pittsburgh in last season's championship season.

"We'll have to be willing to compete," said Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller, who is expected to start.

He said the Canucks will have to be especially aware of San Jose's "activation at the back end." Defenseman Brent Burns leads the Sharks in goals with 21.

"Obviously, Burns is dangerous, and they look to him, but they're a team that's adapted well to the (modern) NHL," said Miller. "They're probably (one of) the top two or three teams, maybe even the best, at getting guys to the net but then opening it up and finding ways to get a hold of (the puck) as they're coming to the net -- and they cause havoc.

"They make things happen. They have guys that can make some plays and, obviously, good structure to get to the Stanley Cup finals last year."

While the Sharks will need to be wary of young Horvat, who has 14 goals and 18 assists, the Canucks will have to pay close attention to 37-year-old veteran Patrick Marleau, who scored the winner against Chicago on Tuesday and now has six goals in his past four games.

"Patty's been excellent. Best hockey I've seen him play since I've been here," said Sharks coach Peter DeBoer. "He's just got to keep going."

Marleau's surge has put him just shy of a milestone. He has a chance to get his 500th NHL career goal against the Canucks, now standing at 499.

"It always feels good when you score and win," said Marleau. "Hopefully I won't have to wait too much longer."

Marleau does not mind the extra attention that his pending milestone is generating as the Sharks thrive.

"It feels good," he said. "It's one of those things. You just can't help but be asked questions about it or talk about. Just the way the team is playing right now is a bonus."

Game notes
Marleau has 18 goals on the season, just three behind team leader Brent Burns. Marleau could surpass the 25 he had last season after netting 19 in 2014-15. ... Canucks winger Jannik Hansen, out since Dec. 22 with a knee injury, has resumed practicing with the team and is close to returning, but he is unlikely to play against the Sharks, said Desjardins.
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