TORONTO — Patrick Marleau is heading back to San Jose, this time as a member of an opposing team.
The Maple Leafs open a four-game, seven-day road trip through California on Monday against the Sharks, the team Marleau spent 19 years with before signing with Toronto as a free agent this off-season.
But Marleau isn’t putting too much emphasis on the emotions surrounding his homecoming.
"Just go there and try and focus on playing. I think that’s the most important thing," Marleau said after Toronto’s 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night.
"It’ll be good to get it done with. Looking forward to getting things back on track for us and getting the win."
The Sharks chose Marleau second overall at the 1997 draft. The Aneroid, Sask., native played in 1,493 regular-season games with San Jose and is the franchise’s all-time leader in goals (508) and points (1,082).
The 38-year-old Marleau joined the Leafs in July, signing a three-year U.S. $18.75 million contract.
Told by a reporter that San Jose would likely honour him with a video tribute, Marleau joked he’s not prepared for that.
"There’s going to be a lot of emotions going back there and seeing some familiar faces on the opposite side," he said. "It’s all new to me."
The Leafs have dropped three of their last four games, with back-to-back losses for the first time this season following Saturday’s defeat against the Flyers.
Toronto’s offence, which was generating 4.9 goals per game through the first seven contests, has been held to 2.5 goals per game in their last four and their defensive woes continue to be an issue as Toronto’s goals-against (40) ranks 26th overall.
Babcock said he’d use the cross-continent flight to review game tape and make decisions on lineup changes.
Marleau’s teammates are aware of the significance of west coast trip, which includes games against the Anaheim Ducks and L.A. Kings on Wednesday and Thursday before wrapping up in St. Louis.
"(The Sharks) are always tough to play against," said Auston Matthews. "Obviously with Patty going home there it’s definitely a game we want to win for him. They all present a pretty tough challenge — all three (California) teams — so we’ve got to make sure we’re ready."