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.