Sharks praise Kevin Labanc after he tallies his first career NHL hat trick

Sharks praise Kevin Labanc after he tallies his first career NHL hat trick

Sharks veteran Joe Thornton recently commented on the depth of the team’s lineup, pointing out that a different player can step up in any game and lead the way.

On Saturday night in Edmonton, that player was Thornton’s linemate, Kevin Labanc.

The 23-year-old winger has been playing a confident game since the Sharks returned from their bye week, being reunited on a line with Thornton and Marcus Sorensen. His game reached new heights against the Oilers as he tallied his first career hat trick and led the way for San Jose to a 5-2 win.

“First one – that’s awesome to see,” Joe Pavelski said after the game. “They were nice goals too. He shot the puck really well tonight. Quick, accurate, hard.”

All three of Labanc’s goals were, indeed, nice to watch. From his tricky snap shot to open up scoring in the first frame to his nifty wrister on a second-period power play and his nice shot to split the defense in the third. On a night where the Sharks got contributions from different parts of the lineup, Labanc’s performance was a standout.

“He made some good plays out there and that was big for us,” Pavelski continued. “When we’ve come in here, we have guys that step up and have big nights. Kevin had a good one for us tonight.”

Labanc went a month without finding the back of the net, going through a drought between December 16 and January 16. He has since been contributing to the offense on almost a nightly basis. Since the team returned from their break on February 2, he’s registered six points (four goals, two assists) in four games. 

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer contributed Labanc’s recent success to putting in a lot of time and evolving how his work ethic.

“Kevin’s a kid that has worked at his game since I got here, since four years ago at development camp,” DeBoer said. “He’s learned how to work. He’s learned from the Joe Thorntons and the Joe Pavelskis and the Brent Burnses of the world to put in extra time and take care of your body.

"He’s changed everything about his habits. (You) get rewarded for that.”

Having one of those veterans as a linemate doesn’t hurt either.

“I think playing with Joe Thornton helps,” DeBoer said after Thornton tied Gordie Howe on the NHL all-time assists list with his set-up of Labanc’s third goal on the evening. “You can never underestimate the importance of a guy like that with you and talking to you all the time.”

Above all, Labanc’s performance on Saturday night is a positive sign for the Sharks as regular season games wind down. San Jose needs contributions from all parts of the lineup on a nightly basis. In Edmonton, Labanc showed he can answer that call.

“We’ve had some good conversations with Kevin, and this is the last 30 games of the year,” DeBoer said. “You have to show that you can contribute and that you can be trusted in critical times as we had to the playoffs. I think he’s trying to prove a point.”

NHL All-Star Skills Competition live stream: How to watch event online


NHL All-Star Skills Competition live stream: How to watch event online

It's time to see who's got the skills in the NHL.

That's right, All-Star weekend officially is here and the NHL's best will descend on Scottrade Center and see who's got the goods.

The fun starts Friday with the All-Star Skills Competition as the league's best compete in a variety of events such as Fastest Skater, Save Streak and Accuracy Shooting where Sharks All-Star Tomas Hertl will try and get the W.

It should be a lot of fun.

[RELATED: Hertl honored to be All-Star, not giving up on Sharks]

Here's how to watch the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills Competition online.

When: Friday, Jan. 24, at 5 p.m. PT (coverage starts at 3:30 p.m.)
Live Stream: NBC Sports

All-Star Tomas Hertl doing best to keep Sharks' spirits up through struggles

All-Star Tomas Hertl doing best to keep Sharks' spirits up through struggles

Sharks forward Tomas Hertl is all set for his debut at NHL All-Star Weekend in St. Louis.
“A huge accomplishment, it will be a big honor for me,” Hertl -- who is taking the place of injured San Jose captain Logan Couture -- recently said.
While he is on pace for a good statistical season, it's nothing like last year when Hertl potted 35 goals and 74 points.
This time around, the fun-loving forward is on a Sharks club that’s looking like a longshot to qualify for the playoffs.
“I still try to be positive, the smiley guy, the funny guy,” Hertl explained.
He also acknowledged those smiles and uplifting moments have been few and far between this season, but they are still significantly better than the alternative.
“It’s the only way I think to help it,” Hertl stated. “It gets too much in your head. Everybody will be in a bad mood. I try my best to bring it every day, a good mood in the locker room.”
There are widespread assessments as to what's at the root of the Sharks' struggles this season. For Hertl, it’s the defensive failures that bleed over into trying to create too much.
“When we start cheating, we just can’t do it,” Hertl said. “Maybe on other teams, they have different players. On our team, it has to start with defense.
“I think we’ve proven it over the last lot of years. There’s always the stat of ‘two-or-fewer’ goals, we always win those games. We know that and we've always been the team that’s tough against.”

[RELATED: Key storylines to watch through remainder of Sharks' season]
While Hertl’s second NHL season saw San Jose’s rare miss of the postseason, he has never been with the club in a year like this where things already look so bleak entering the All-Star break.
“We have to step it up, and just play together," he said. "Because only the team together can win the games.”