Meier Inches Closer to Receiving Recall From Sharks: ‘He’s Getting Better Every Game’
SAN JOSE — As Timo Meier struggled through his first five games with the Barracuda, he dismissed head coach Roy Sommer’s concerns, assuring him that he’d, “get it.”
With eight points in his last four games, the 20-year-old rookie is obviously “getting it” nearly six weeks after his return from mononucleosis, which knocked him out of training camp in the fall, suggesting his recall to the Sharks is likely imminent.
“Apparently, he’s a confident kid,” Sommer said. “He goes, ‘you know, I’ll get’ and he surely has.”
Meier is playing at such a high level right now, his absence from Barracuda practice on Tuesday appeared to indicate that he’d been recalled by the Sharks.
In reality, Meier is battling an illness, and Sommer decided to give him a maintenance day after he logged heavy minutes throughout the Barracuda’s weekend series with the San Antonio Rampage.
“If he could be out here, believe me, that kid would be out here,” Sommer said.
After struggling to have a presence in his first two weeks with the Barracuda, Meier has emerged as the team’s go-to guy over his last four games, scoring five goals and picking up three assists while forming a dynamic duo with center Danny O’Regan.
On Saturday, Meier scored a game-tying goal and a go-ahead goal in the third period of the Barracuda’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Rampage. He followed up the performance by recording two more tallies in the team’s 4-0 shutout win on Sunday.
In 14 games with the Barracuda, Meier has registered 14 points (8g, 6a) while producing 46 shots on goal and posting a plus-nine rating.
On one hand, the Sharks 2015 first-round draft pick is certainly benefitting from his return to health and action after spending roughly a month on the sidelines with mononucleosis.
More importantly though, Meier is responding to the Barracuda’s coaching staff’s directions, playing more of a straight-lined game after circling and looping throughout his first three weeks with the team.
Sommer said the circling has vanished from Meier’s game: “It’s gone.”
“He’s getting better every game,” Sommer said. “At the start, I was going, oh man, he’s all over the map, circling and not using his teammates. But shoot, now he just keeps producing.”
“We’ve spent a lot of time with him on video and he picks stuff up.”
As Meier sat out of practice on Tuesday, Kevin Labanc left the Barracuda to rejoin the Sharks, who recalled him after he collected three assists in two AHL games over the weekend.
Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said the team sent Labanc to the Barracuda over the weekend because the 20-year-old hasn’t exactly earned a full two-day break from hockey just yet. With a four-day gap in between last Friday’s contest with the Montreal Canadiens and Tuesday’s showdown with the Ottawa Senators at the SAP Center, the rest of the Sharks got Saturday and Sunday off from practice.
“I don’t think any of these young guys have arrived yet where they’re ready for weekends off,” DeBoer said. “If they can play hockey, they’re going to play hockey.”
After playing against the Canadiens on Friday, Labanc jumped on a plane for San Antonio Saturday morning and joined the squad 30 minutes before their team meeting.
Instead of laying off the gas after playing 12 games in the NHL, Labanc brought his best stuff to the Barracuda over the weekend, even though he was nursing a minor left-knee injury suffered against the Canadiens on Friday.
“He’s amazing,” Sommer said. “From the blue line in, there’s probably no one in the league (AHL) better than him as far as finding the back of the net or finding open guys. He made a couple of big-time plays.”
Ryan Carpenter, who was reassigned to the Barracuda with Labanc on Friday, is remaining with the team for the time being.
With Tommy Wingels and Melker Karlsson back in the lineup, the Sharks don’t have the roster space to keep Carpenter on the team right now.
“It’s a numbers thing,” Sommer said. “He’s going to get his opportunity again. I know they were happy with him.”
“That’s exactly right,” DeBoer said.
“There’s a lot of things that go into those decisions, including roster and salary cap, things that I don’t deal with.”
Carpenter, who scored a goal and produced a 63.3 percent Corsi percentage in three games with the Sharks, understands the nature of the beast.
“They have a really-good team,” he said. “They made a cup run last year, and they’re poised to make another run this year — that’s pro hockey. Stuff changes every day.”
“I’ve just got to stick to working hard. I wanted to stay. I want to compete. I want to play in the NHL. But I wasn’t disappointed in the way I played while I was up there.”