Meier remains on Sharks' top line; Boedker benched again


Meier remains on Sharks' top line; Boedker benched again

SAN JOSE – As a kid growing up in Switzerland, Timo Meier got a chance to see NHL star Joe Thornton in person during each of the last two lockouts. The Sharks center played in the town of Davos in 2004-05 and again in 2012, which is about a one hour and 40 minute drive from Herisau, where Meier grew up.

The 20-year-old Meier was just eight years old that first time he saw Thornton competing, but he remembered it.

“You could definitely see the difference between him and the other guys in the Swiss league,” Meier said. “It was great for me to see him as a kid over there.”
He’ll get an even closer look on Thursday when the Sharks host the Wild. After an effective third period on the top line on Tuesday night against Los Angeles, Meier remained on the left wing of Thornton and Joe Pavelski at practice on Wednesday, and that’s where he’ll presumably line up against Minnesota.

The solid six-foot-one, 210-pound rookie could be a perfect fit on that line, which could use a little more size, speed and physicality, particularly in those dirty areas in front of the net. Meier has shown no fear in going there, and although he’s still sitting on just one goal in eight games, he’s registered a more-than-respectable 24 shots.

He’s a bit similar to their former linemate, Tomas Hertl, another big body who has speed and skill to go with that size. In his rookie year of 2013-14, Hertl had 15 goals in his first 35 games in that spot before getting hurt.

Meier understands the comparison.

“I think [Hertl is] a guy that likes to score goals – he’s a strong guy, strong on the puck,” he said. “Getting [this] chance, I want to make the best out of it. I want to leave it all on the ice, [and] show the coaches that I’m capable of playing with guys like that.”

Pete DeBoer said: “I think Joe and Joe play well – and are complimented by – a guy who pursues the puck and is a little heavy and creates some room for them, like Hertl does. Timo has some of those characteristics.”

Pavelski has been impressed with Meier so far.

“He gets the puck, and he just kind of goes,” Pavelski said. “He attacks, he shoots it. He’s not looking to wait around and make plays. He’s looking to get there, get on the inside. That’s what you need sometimes.”

The Sharks are still waiting for that consistent offensive attack to materialize. They’re playing sound defensive hockey, but it has been a nearly season-long struggle to break out on the scoreboard. They have two or fewer goals in regulation in six of their past seven games, and are still the only team in the NHL yet to score five goals in a game.

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To make room for Meier up top, Patrick Marleau was bumped to the third line with Chris Tierney and Joel Ward, while the second line was Logan Couture between Joonas Donskoi and Kevin Labanc.

Mikkel Boedker, who was benched for nearly the entire third period on Tuesday, was with fourth liners Micheal Haley, Tommy Wingels and Melker Karlsson. It’s the second time this season Boedker has been benched late in a game, with the other on Nov. 26 against Anaheim.

“It’s always your last resort to shorten the bench. I’d like to roll four lines from buzzer to buzzer,” DeBoer said. “Players dictate that. We make decisions with the best interest of winning the game. … We played the guys who I felt could help us win that game last night, and he wasn’t one of them at that point.”

It's unclear if Boedker will be in against the Wild, but perhaps it's his turn to take a night off as a healthy scratch.

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David Schlemko did not practice on Wednesday, skating with the injured Hertl after the rest of the team was through, and although DeBoer did not rule him out for the Wild game, it appears doubtful.

Paul Martin also missed practice on a maintenance day, but is expected to be fine.

Kane leads Sharks to critical win on four-goal night

Kane leads Sharks to critical win on four-goal night


CALGARY, Alberta -- Evander Kane scored four goals to lead the San Jose Sharks past the Calgary Flames 7-4 on Friday night.

Tomas Hertl had a goal and an assist for the Sharks, who have won three straight and four of five. Kevin Lebanc and Eric Fehr also scored, and Martin Jones made 30 saves.

It was the first NHL hat trick for Kane, acquired from Buffalo just before the Feb. 26 trade deadline.

Micheal Ferland had a goal and an assist for the Flames, who are four points out of a playoff spot. Troy BrouwerMark Jankowski and Johnny Gaudreau also scored for Calgary.

Three nights after stopping all 28 shots he faced against the Oilers, Calgary goalie Mike Smith had a rough outing as he made just 14 saves before being replaced by David Rittich early in the third period. Rittich went on to stop all seven shots he faced in a relief appearance.

The Sharks opened the scoring six minutes into the first period when Kane's wrist shot beat Smith to the glove side.

The Flames pulled even at 16:42 when Brouwer chipped a pass from Curtis Lazar into the top corner behind Jones. Matt Stajan stole the puck from Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon behind the San Jose net to get the play started.

Jankowski took a pass from linemate Garnet Hathaway and wired a shot to the top corner, glove side behind Jones to put Calgary up 2-1 at 2:10 of the second period.

Kane then redirected Dillon's point shot past Smith at 6:29 before Gaudreau cut into the slot and snapped a shot past Jones at 10:16 to put Calgary back up by a goal.

That lead lasted just 1:26 as Lebanc fired a shot from a sharp angle into the top corner past Smith to pull the Sharks into a 3-all tie.

Kane completed his hat trick at 16:32 when he swatted in his own rebound before Hertl poked the puck through Smith's legs with 1:58 remaining before the second intermission.

The Sharks added an insurance goal 62 seconds into the third when Kane redirected a pass from Joe Pavelski past Smith.

Ferland backhanded a shot past Jones to pull Calgary within two goals with 5:35 left in regulation and Rittich on the bench for an extra attacker. Fehr rounded out the scoring with an empty-net goal 1:37 later.

NOTES: Jankowski suited up for the Flames after sitting out Tuesday's 1-0 win over Edmonton. Fellow forward Kris Versteeg returned to Calgary's lineup after missing the past 49 games with a hip injury. ... Gaudreau extended his point streak to six games (three goals, five assists).


Sharks: At the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night.

Flames: At the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday.

Jones set for big workload down the stretch


Jones set for big workload down the stretch

Sharks goaltender Martin Jones is on pace for the lightest overall workload of his career as a starter. After starting 65 games in his first two seasons in San Jose, Jones can only play a maximum of 62 if he appears in each of the team's 12 remaining games. 

Yet simultaneously, he is also on pace for the largest stretch-run workload of his career. Jones will make his 10th straight start, and 51st overall, Friday night in Calgary. 

Friday will also mark his eighth consecutive start since the trade deadline. Over the last two seasons, Jones made 13 and 14 starts, respectively, from the deadline onwards. 

It's easy to envision Jones far surpassing that workload. Entering Mar. 16 each of the last two years, the Sharks held, respectively, 10-point and 18-point leads over the West's ninth-place team, the closest among the squads on the outside looking in at the postseason. As a result, James Reimer and Aaron Dell spelled Jones for eight and seven starts, respectively, to keep him rested ahead of the postseason. 

This year, San Jose's only three points clear of the ninth-place Anaheim Ducks. There's also only one back-to-back remaining on the post-deadline schedule, compared to five in 2016-17 and two in 2015-16, and 10 of the next 12 games are against teams within four points of a playoff spot. 

Taking all of that into consideration, Jones should pretty easily exceed the mark of 14 post-trade deadline starts he set last season and ultimately start more than 60 games for the third consecutive season, barring injury. 

Should the Sharks clinch a playoff spot, it will be fair to wonder what kind of effect Jones' stretch-run starts will have on his postseason performance. Jones posted a .923 save percentage in San Jose's run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016, and a .935 save percentage in the first round last year after receiving a good amount of time off. 

But the Sharks have to get there first, and it's understandable they will rely on Jones in order to do so. The recently-extended Aaron Dell remains one of the league's better backups, but has come a bit back down to earth this season (.914 save percentage) after earning the role last year (.931). 

Jones, for his part, has handled the increased workload well so far, winning five of nine games and posting a .922 save percentage. How well handles his 10th consecutive start, and any that follow, will have a profound impact on the Sharks' hopes of making the playoffs.