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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

Sharks need better goaltending with NHL playoffs just around corner


Sharks need better goaltending with NHL playoffs just around corner

SAN JOSE – Goaltending has been a hot topic all season for the Sharks. Even when they’ve been winning games, the performance between the pipes has been under scrutiny.

Now, with the playoffs just a couple weeks away and San Jose tryng to snap a season-long five-game winning streak, the performance of Sharks goaltenders Martin Jones and Aaron Dell is yet again being scrutinized.

There’s no mistaking it – they need to be better.

Even Sharks coach Peter DeBoer, who isn’t one to call out players after a loss, seemed particularly perturbed with the Sharks' play in net. He said just as much after San Jose's fifth straight defeat, a 4-3 loss to the lowly Anaheim Ducks on Friday.

“I don’t want to sugarcoat it, but I think we had them for six chances, and they scored four goals,” he said at the time. “You can’t lay it at one guy's feet, but you can’t win in this league with [an.800 to .900] save percentage. We’ve got to find a way to get an extra save, and on (the other) end we’ve got to find a way to get another goal.”

DeBoer isn’t wrong. Jones might be tied for third place among all NHL goalies with 34 wins under his belt, but his .898 save percentage is 58th out of 69 goalies who have played at least 10 games. Dell's .887 save percentage is 67th. Combined, the Sharks' .891 save percentage is last in the league.

In March, a month in which the Sharks have gone 6-4-1, San Jose has scored 37 goals and allowed 36. Those aren’t stats you want to see heading into the postseason.

To be fair, all the blame can’t be laid at the feet of the netminders, much like DeBoer said. Defensive breakdowns in front of the net don’t do Jones and Dell any favors – and with a banged-up blue line that’s missing Erik Karlsson and Radim Simek, those mistakes become more apparent.

It also doesn’t help the Sharks' offense has dried up, scoring no more than three goals in each of the last five losses. Leading goal-scorer Joe Pavelski has missed the last three, making matters worse.

But San Jose still, as DeBoer mentioned, needs to get more key saves from its goaltenders. 

[RELATED: Why Sharks believe five-game skid will strengthen them]

Now, with the Sharks having secured a playoff spot over the past week, the last few games of the season are going to be focused on being ready for the first round. In addition to getting the lineup healthier, the Sharks also have to focus on allowing fewer goals. A better defensive effort will go a long way, but Jones and Dell also have to buckle down and stop the puck more if San Jose is to hang on to home-ice advantage in the first round.

Don’t expect the goaltending conversation to cool off during these last weeks of the regular season. Goaltending is going to be a major focus as the playoffs get closer. If the Sharks want to still be playing hockey in May and June, it simply has to be better than it is right now.

Sharks not satisfied with single point, believe skid will strengthen them

Sharks not satisfied with single point, believe skid will strengthen them

Well, the Sharks certainly made it interesting. Every time the Ducks scored a goal on Friday evening, the Sharks came back and were able to tie things up. They even got the game-tying goal late in the third period that took their contest into overtime – at least, before they lost 4-3.

Perhaps at a different time of year, getting their first point in five games would feel better. Not on this night. 

The focus remains on the work to be done with just seven games left in the regular season. For Team Teal, they need to clean their game up and get back into the win column.

“It’s better than nothing, but overall, we’re just not finding ways to win games now,” Timo Meier told the media in Anaheim regarding the single point. “We’ve got to find a way to win games. It’s an important time of the year. Playoffs are really close.”

San Jose put a better effort on the ice on Friday than they did the previous evening in LA against the Kings, but the opportunistic Ducks were able to bury more of their chances,

"I don’t think we gave them very much," Peter DeBoer said. "Every chance they got, they stuck in the net, though."

DeBoer was more critical of the team a second night in a row, and rightfully so. Despite outshooting the opposition, the Sharks weren’t able to find the back of the net enough times. They allowed two goals while playing on the penalty kill and tallied 14 giveaways. Plus, outside of Meier’s power-play marker, San Jose still went one-for-five on the man advantage. Despite tying the score up three times, the Sharks couldn’t keep the Ducks from responding.

Clearly, all areas of the game need to be tweaked.

“We’ve got to find a way to get an extra save, and on (the other) end we’ve got to find a way to get another goal,” DeBoer said. “We could’ve used a power-play goal tonight -- another one.”

Perhaps the only silver lining, as Meier put it, is that the Sharks are going through this stretch now instead of once they get into the playoffs. San Jose is still trying to get some of its key players healthy and into the lineup so they can make a deep playoff run with the lines and pairs they want. The goal, at least at the moment, is to make sure this five-game skid is a lesson to learn from and not a prelude to the future.

"Get stronger as a team, get tighter as a group, and learn," Meier said. "It’s going to make us stronger going into the playoffs because there are going to be lots of ups and downs coming up. It’s going to make us stronger and we’ve got to react the right way.”