Notes: Sharks resume practice after rare weekend off

Notes: Sharks resume practice after rare weekend off

SAN JOSE – It was a spirited, if fairly unstructured practice for the Sharks on Monday as they got back to work following a full weekend off.

Assistant coaches Steve Spott and Johan Hedberg appeared to keep the mood light, as head coach Pete DeBoer was not yet back in the area. The Sharks took Saturday and Sunday off after Friday’s win over Montreal, and host the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.

“The pace was high, guys were excited to be back on the ice, and we’ll have a more structured practice tomorrow – some system play, and we’ll get ready for Ottawa,” Spott said.

The Sharks coaching staff opted for a two-day break from the rink after San Jose completed a stretch of 10 games in 18 days. The busy schedule resumes with three games in four days starting with Ottawa, and a four-game road trip follows next week, beginning in Toronto on Dec. 13.

The players took advantage of the down time, with several of them catching the Raiders-Bills game in Oakland on Sunday. More importantly, though, they presumably refilled their energy tanks after playing so much hockey and taking so many flights through the first seven-and-a-half weeks of the season.

Spott said: “We thought about a few different scenarios, but we thought having them shut down for two full days and then coming in to have two days of practice would be best for us. I think the players appreciated that.

"One thing we’ve all learned here as a staff, being relatively new to the Western Conference, is the importance of rest and player maintenance. We can’t underestimate how important that is for our hockey club, to make sure they get the maintenance and the rest that they need.”

Sharks forward Logan Couture and defenseman David Schlemko took maintenance days. Schlemko missed a portion of Friday’s game with what looked to be a leg or ankle injury, but he returned in the third period.

* * *

The Sharks reassigned forwards Kevin Labanc and Ryan Carpenter to the Barracuda over the weekend.

Sending Labanc down was a bit of a surprise in that the 20-year-old has averaged 11:58 of ice time in 12 games, with two goals and two assists. In two games with the Barracuda over the weekend in San Antonio, he posted three assists.

Spott was asked what the message was to the Staten Island, NY native.

“Do the same things there that you’ve done here, and that’s compete at both ends of the rink,” Spott said. 

“He’s going to get more offensive opportunities, being on the power play with the Barracuda, but [he has to not lose sight] of how good he has to be defensively, as well. That was our message.”

* * *

Sharks goalie Martin Jones was named as the NHL’s Third Star of the Week, going 3-0 with a 1.01 goals-against average and .962 save percentage.

It’s the second time in two weeks that the Sharks have had a player earn third star, as Brent Burns was honored last week.

Mailbag: Is it time for Sharks to call up Meier?

Mailbag: Is it time for Sharks to call up Meier?

A few questions about a certain former first round pick in today’s mailbag…

It seems like Timo [Meier] is starting to get up to speed in the AHL. When do you think we see him make his debut with the #SJSharks? (Mike Vetrone @washyourrhands)

Is it Timo's Time'o? (Bill Frederick)

Timo Meier has been heating up. In the most recent Barracuda game in San Antonio on Sunday, Meier had a pair of goals and a game-high seven shots. That extended his point streak to four games, with five goals, three assists and 19 shots over that span. He leads the team with eight goals and is tied for second with 14 points.

Meier needed to work on his north-south game when he first got to the AHL, but those numbers certainly indicate he’s figuring it out. I’d be surprised if the Sharks aren’t thinking about bringing him up, and soon.

On a related note, I was a bit startled that Kevin Labanc was reassigned over the weekend. I thought he had done enough lately to remain, especially when you consider that the team is winning games, and coaches don’t like to mess with a winning lineup (although the move does save the club some salary cap money). 

Perhaps it’s a sign, though, that they’re going to recall Meier shortly. The Sharks will need at least one more forward for their upcoming four-game road trip that begins next week in Toronto, and it could be time to give Meier a shot. At this point, and with the way Pete DeBoer seems to be constantly shuffling his lines, it may make sense to try him as the second line right wing with Logan Couture and Joonas Donskoi on the left, while bumping Joel Ward down to the third line with Chris Tierney and either Mikkel Boedker or Melker Karlsson.

Any chance [Mikkel] Boedker sits out any games to try and get his game going? Playing every game does not seem to do it. (Jim Kelley)

Boedker has responded a bit in his last few games since getting benched late against the Ducks on Nov. 26. He got his first two assists in wins over the Coyotes and Kings, and showed his speed on one rush against Montreal on Saturday, wheeling around the net and firing a wrist shot that Carey Price snagged in the second period.

The next few weeks are going to be important for the 26-year-old. This is obviously a deeper team than the Sharks have had in some time, with guys like Meier and Labanc on their way, Boedker could get pushed out of the lineup if he doesn’t bring it every night.

Will we see [Aaron] Dell more? (nowangel @Sharks_Division)

Looking at the week ahead, I would imagine he gets the Hurricanes on Saturday at home when you consider his strong game in Carolina on Nov. 15. That will be the second of a back-to-back for the Sharks, and it allows Martin Jones to rest before the upcoming (and difficult) four-game trip to Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Chicago. I could see Jones starting all of those, including the back-to-back against Toronto next Tuesday and Ottawa on Wednesday.

After that, perhaps the game against the Flyers on Dec. 30 – before a New Year’s Eve meeting with the Kings at Staples Center – is another good time to get Dell in there.

Do you think [Dylan] DeMelo will get into the rotation more to give some guys rest? (Jack Merridew @Maroon_1001)

DeMelo has played well in his two appearances, considering the circumstances, but I don’t really see a situation where they would play him unless someone else is hurt. Keep in mind, the Sharks are leading the NHL in goals-against per game (2.04) and give up the second-fewest shots per game (26.2). There’s just no reason to mess with the blue line if you don’t have to.

Sharks get some down time with a break in schedule

Sharks get some down time with a break in schedule

SAN JOSE – A weekend with no games on the NHL calendar is rare enough. A weekend without any games or practices, though? That’s virtually unheard of in the middle of the season.

But with nothing until Wednesday's home game, and after a stretch of 10 games in 18 days, Sharks coach Pete DeBoer chose to give the players and staff a full Saturday and Sunday off. DeBoer and assistant coach Johan Hedberg were seen quickly scurrying from SAP Center a few short minutes after the game ended, while defenseman Brent Burns had his massive camouflage backpack stuffed to capacity while conducing his postgame media availability.

“It’s packed and ready to go,” Burns said, without going into any detail as to what exactly was in the bag.

DeBoer explained his rationale behind the respite on Friday morning.

“The way [the schedule] laid out after the month we’ve just had – the injuries, the stuff we’ve dealt with – it just made sense. We’ve got another push until the Christmas break after this with a tough schedule. 

“With our travel and the World Cup and everything, it didn’t make sense to come down here and skate when we had a chance to actually recharge mentally and physically.”

Although the team was aware of the break for some time, there’s no question that the Sharks have earned it. As they wake up on Saturday morning (presumably after sleeping in), they find themselves with a three-point cushion in the Pacific Division with a 15-9-1 mark. San Jose has won six of its last seven, including triumphs over perennial contender Chicago, chief rival Los Angeles, and the top team in the Eastern Conference, Montreal.

Their two longest road trips of the season are also already behind them, including a five-game trip in October and a six-gamer in November.

Joe Pavelski is pleased with what he’s seen so far, despite the challenging circumstances.

“Guys have handled it well,” said the captain. “There hasn’t been a whole lot of rest time, and we’ve found a few different ways to win, especially on nights that it hasn’t been easy. The biggest thing is guys have shown up and played hard. We’ve got a pretty good structure in here, guys are responsible, we’ve found a few goals, and [Martin Jones] gives us a chance every night.”

Joe Thornton said: “It’s been a lot of hockey. It will be nice to get a couple days after this to relax and recover a little bit.”

The schedule will ramp up again in short order. After three games in four nights next week, the Sharks will fly to Toronto and open up a four-games-in-six-days road trip with the Maple Leafs on Dec. 13.

* * *

The Sharks reassigned forwards Kevin Labanc and Ryan Carpenter to the AHL Barracuda on Saturday morning. Carpenter was a healthy scratch on Friday as Tommy Wingels got back in the lineup. 

It’s likely that the move was made at least partially because the Sharks are up against the salary cap, and that one or both players could return by the time they host the Senators on Wednesday.