Heatley California dreamin’

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:21 AM ET

SAN JOSE -- A happy Dany Heatley was sporting a big smile as he faced his harshest critics yesterday at the Sharks' practice facility.

While the former Senators winger couldn’t have been more accommodating as he prepares to face his ex-teammates tonight for the first time since he was dealt here in September, Heatley chose his words carefully, bit his tongue and didn’t shed any more light on why he wanted out of Ottawa.

But through all the short answers with little substance, Heatley made it abundantly clear he’s quite happy to no longer be with the Senators.

“It’s gone good. The first day I got here, the organization and the team welcomed me,” said Heatley following a 45-minute skate. “I’m feeling really good about being here, coming to the rink every day and enjoying playing with this team.”

So, is Heatley finally happy with his life?

“Yeah, I feel good being here,” he said. “The team has really welcomed me. It’s a great room of guys, a great organization and I enjoy coming to the rink every day.”

Why wouldn’t Heatley be happy?

Playing on a line with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, Heatley’s on fire with 18 goals and 12 assists in 28 games this season. The possibility of another 50-goal season certainly exists and Heatley hasn’t ruled out the chance of getting 60 with the club firing on all cylinders.

And, while he tried to convince the four travelling media from Ottawa that there’s pressure on the Sharks, that was difficult to swallow with only one San Jose reporter in the room. With 15-30 reporters in the Ottawa dressing room daily, this place is an oasis for Heatley.

Of course, the Sharks might be in first place in the Western Conference, but they’ve never gotten the job done in the playoffs.

“Define pressure for me? For me, hockey pressure is trying to do well and win games,” Heatley said. “Media pressure is different. When you’re talking hockey pressure, this team has a lot more on it than we did in Ottawa.

“I like Canada. I still like playing there. I like the attention. That was never a problem in Ottawa. Here is obviously a little bit different, but there’s still a lot of people covering the team and this is a really good hockey city. People really care about the team.”

There are still a lot of people wondering exactly why Heatley wanted out of Ottawa. Sure, his relationship and role under Senators coach Cory Clouston was a major factor, but that wasn’t the only reason he decided to demand a trade and refused a deal to Edmonton on July 1.

But if there’s more to the story, Heatley wasn’t saying. That chapter in his life is behind him. He wouldn’t even touch the subject of Senators owner Eugene Melnyk filing a grievance against him to try to recoup the $4-million bonus US he paid out on July 1 back.

“I’m not going to talk about that. I’m aware of it and I’m going to focus on hockey,” said Heatley.

While Heatley won’t admit it, those who are closest to him in the dressing room know that tonight’s game will be special.

“He doesn’t need to be the man every night. He just needs to do his job and he’s done a great job so far,” said San Jose blueliner Dan Boyle. “I’m from (Ottawa). I just felt from hearing him and talking to him that (what happened in Ottawa) is something he really doesn’t want to talk about.

“I respect that. That’s fine. He’s got his reasons and we’re past that now. It was the same for me going back to Tampa last year, (this game) is going to be special for him. He may not admit it.”

Actually, in the final analysis Heatley wasn’t admitting anything yesterday.

Except for the fact he’s happy.

“They’ve got some good players (in Ottawa) that are playing well and we’re playing well,” said Heatley. “So far, it’s gone good for everybody. I feel good. I enjoy coming to the rink every day. I can’t wait to get here to practice, play games and be with this team.”

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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