Kevin Labanc

Labanc taking demotion to minors in stride: 'I've just got to keep working'

labanc-ap.jpg
AP

Labanc taking demotion to minors in stride: 'I've just got to keep working'

Kevin Labanc is taking his demotion to the AHL in stride.

The Sharks sent the 21-year-old winger down to the San Jose Barracuda, their top minor league affiliate, on Sunday. Labanc suited up for the Barracuda that same night, firing a team-high five pucks on net, and adding two assists in San Jose’s 6-1 win over the Texas Stars. 

“It was definitely fun. You just take it for what it is,” Labanc said, via the San Jose Mercury News. “I felt good. I felt confident and I’ve just got to keep working and keep proving myself every day.”

After scoring three goals in his first four games with the Sharks, Labanc was unable to find the back of the net in his next nine. In Saturday’s shootout win against Anaheim, head coach Peter DeBoer dropped Labanc to the fourth line. 

Labanc shuttled back and forth between the Sharks and Barracuda last season, scoring 19 points in 19 AHL games. After making the NHL roster out of training camp, this is his first stint in the minors this season. 

He hopes to “make a statement” during his time in the AHL, and has the right attitude, according to Barracuda head coach Roy Sommer. 

“You know what? He could have come down here with a big lip and I didn’t see it. He had fun out there,” Sommer told reporters after Sunday’s win. “This league is all about coming down and getting your mojo back.”

The Sharks are currently carrying 13 forwards, seven defensemen, and two goaltenders on their roster, with an open roster spot while defenseman Paul Martin is on injured reserve. 

Should the Sharks choose to carry an additional forward in Martin’s absence, Labanc will face stiff competition from his Barracuda linemates. 

Danny O’Regan also assisted on two goals on Sunday, while Marcus Sorensen scored a hat-trick. O’Regan and Sorensen are first and second, respectively, in scoring on the Barracuda. 

Greiss strong in net as Islanders hand loss to Sharks

sharks-postgame.jpg
USATSI

Greiss strong in net as Islanders hand loss to Sharks

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- Thomas Greiss guided the New York Islanders on a night when they played it a little bit too safe.

Greiss stopped 40 shots, Brock Nelson scored a tiebreaking goal in the second period and the New York Islanders rallied to beat the slumping San Jose Sharks 3-1 on Saturday.

The Islanders improved to 1-1 on their three-game, five-day West Coast trip. The Sharks are 1-3 on their season-opening five-game homestand.

Nelson made it 2-1 at 13:33 of the second period, capitalizing on an open look in front of the goal after Joshua Ho-Sang's pass from behind the net.

"After we got the lead we just kind of held on, we bent but we didn't break and we needed some big saves from Thomas," Islanders coach Doug Weight said.

"These teams, when they're down, they're gonna push. ... You don't want to sit back but I think it's human nature. We have to get it out of our heads. We want to play aggressive and we want to put the puck in good spots. We started making some shoddy decisions, our feet stopped moving for a while, but give (the Sharks) credit, they made a good push. Tommy was great."

The Sharks led after Kevin Labanc's power-play goal at 4:16 of the first. Labanc was in the left circle when he rebounded a deflection and fired a wrist shot that slipped through Greiss' pads.

The Islanders tied it when Anders Lee tipped one in at 17:02 of the first.

Cal Clutterbuck scored an empty-net goal at with 1:10 left in the game.

"It's nice, first road win of the year, a good bounce back," Nelson said, referencing a 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.

"I thought we did some good things in Anaheim and weren't rewarded. It's nice to come out on top here."

The Islanders failed to score on three power plays. The Sharks penalty killing unit hasn't allowed a power-play goal in 12 chances over its last three games.

The Sharks had a short-handed scoring chance after Joakim Ryan was called for holding at 14:33 in the third period, when Greiss turned away Chris Tierney's shot in front of the goal.

Greiss survived relentless pressure in a third period in which the Sharks had 15 shots on goal.

"It felt like it was going to break, it just never did," Sharks center Joe Pavelski said. "A little bit of credit to Greisser over there, but with us, we've got to keep pushing and find a way.

"I thought we were going to tie it, but encouraging to see the way guys played for a second straight game here. Wanted a better result, for sure, but guys played hard."

NOTES: Islanders C Alan Quine (wrist) is with the team on its West Coast trip and has been practicing. He'll likely go to Bridgeport of the AHL on a conditioning assignment if he's ready when the team returns home on Monday. ... RW Clutterbuck (hip) was in Saturday's lineup after missing the last three games and C Jordan Eberle was on the ice a day after missing Friday's practice with an injury he suffered in practice the previous day. ... Sharks D Paul Martin missed a second straight game with a lower body injury. Coach Pete DeBoer said the injury is day-to-day.

UP NEXT

Islanders: At the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday night.

Sharks: Host the Montreal Canadians on Tuesday night.

In season opener, Labanc embodies promise and growing pains ahead

labanc-kevin-sharks-teal-flyers.jpg
AP

In season opener, Labanc embodies promise and growing pains ahead

On the same night former Shark Patrick Marleau scored two goals in his Toronto Maple Leafs debut, the Sharks were reminded of the promise, and growing pains, to come this season. No player encapsulated that in San Jose’s 5-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers Wednesday night moreso than winger Kevin Labanc.

On the one hand, the 21-year-old scored two goals in a game for just the second time in his NHL career. He also matched his career-high with 5 shots on goal, tying Brent Burns and Logan Couture for the team lead.  

On the other, he set a more ignominious milestone, and committed a career-high three penalties. The Flyers took advantage, scoring on each of the ensuing power play opportunities.

As the Sharks look to replace Marleau, there will be nights where they frustrate you. As the Sharks look to integrate Labanc, Timo Meier, and other emerging prospects, there will be nights where they dazzle you. And there will be nights like Wednesday where they do both.

That's all to be expected as the Sharks attempt to rebuild their roster on the fly. It's also an expectation the team and fans should not lose sight of.

If Labanc, Meier, and others are to blossom into core pieces, they must be given room to grow, and allowed to make mistakes. Head coach Peter DeBoer did just that on Wednesday, as he played Labanc while the Sharks pressed for the tying goal in the game’s dying moments, despite his penalties.

In previous seasons, those penalties may have been enough to keep Labanc on the bench, or even ensure an assignment to the minor leagues. But if the loss to Philadelphia showed anything, it's that this year will not be much like those that preceded it.

After all, the San Jose lost its opener for the first time since 2009, and began a season without Marleau on the team for the first time since the Clinton administration. The Sharks are swimming in uncharted waters, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Labanc and the rest of the young core won’t be able to develop unless they're allowed to navigate those waters, and given the necessary leeway to do so. That didn't result in a Sharks win on Wednesday, but it did result in a vital learning experience for the second-year forward.

Ultimately, that growth is what’s most important this early in the season.