'Cheech' chopped back

DEREK VAN DIEST, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 8:06 AM ET

It could be considered the curse of the 50-goal scorer.

Hit the plateau once and it becomes expected every season.

Since netting 56 goals during the 2005-06 season, Jonathan Cheechoo's production has steadily declined.

The San Jose Sharks forward has six goals this season and was virtually invisible in last night's 4-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place.

"We've tried different things with Cheech," said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. "We've tried to play him in that (first-line) situation, we've tried to take pressure off of him as a scorer."

Following his breakout campaign, the native of Moose Factory, Ont., had a respectable 37 goals the following season. Last year, he scored 23.

The way things are going, Cheechoo will be hard pressed to break the 20-goal barrier this season.

"One of the road blocks is perhaps is the fact that he scored 56 goals," McLellan said. "The microscope is on him night in and night out. Perhaps if he had only scored 35, we'd be somewhat happy with his impact on the game right now. But the fact that he has scored 56 and everyone is aware of it, makes it a little tougher for him."

Cheechoo, 28, was selected by the Sharks in the second round - 29th overall - of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.

He had a quiet rookie season with nine goals, but came back strong in his sophomore campaign and registered 28.

Cheechoo's production increased when he was teamed up with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau on the Sharks' top line.

But he's since been demoted and is now being used on the Sharks' third line with Marcel Goc and Mike Grier.

"The situation he's in right now, on the third line, is a reflection on his impact on games lately," said McLellan. "He's been given some opportunities and he has to get it done if he wants to move up the ladder."


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