Timo Meier

Sharks’ Meier fined, not suspended, for elbowing Del Zotto

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) San Jose Sharks forward Timo Meier has been fined for elbowing Vancouver defenseman Michael Del Zotto.

The NHL announced Sunday that Meier will be fined $2,403.67 for the infraction. The play occurred late in the third period of San Jose’s 5-0 win over the Canucks on Saturday night. Meier was assessed a major penalty for elbowing and a game misconduct.

More AP NHL: apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

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Note: You can see the infraction in the video above this post’s headline.

Don’t be surprised if Kings, Ducks, Sharks finish with similar records

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Heading into the 2017-18 season, there’s a lot of optimism surrounding the Anaheim Ducks, a solid amount still going to the San Jose Sharks, and a pile of doom and gloom for the Los Angeles Kings.

Some of this comes down to crummy luck, but here’s an observation: it’s highly likely that the three California teams will finish very close in the standings.

Let’s consider the state of each team.

To go even deeper, check out PHT’s detailed preview for the Pacific Division.

Waddling through injuries

My goodness are the Anaheim Ducks banged up right now.

The OC Register’s Eric Stephens reports that Ryan Getzlaf won’t play in the Ducks’ season-opening game against the Arizona Coyotes. With John Gibson doubtful, it all adds to a troubling situation. Resounding workhorse Ryan Kesler could be gone for quite some time. Kesler is on IR with wildly underrated defenseman Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Patrick Eaves, and Ryan Miller. Woof.

It’s a testament to what GM Bob Murray’s built that the Ducks still have a fighting chance, as young players like Rickard Rakell bring something to the table.

Still, even well-stocked teams can only withstand so many injuries. Anaheim might just pay the price for its deep playoff run in 2016-17, not to mention the emphasis on aging, physical forwards in the well-compensated duo of Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

In an NHL with injuries turned off like a video game, the Ducks would be one of the NHL’s deepest teams.

Sharks getting sleepy?

Even in losing 5-3 to the Philadelphia Flyers last night, the Sharks put on a pretty good show. When those top-end players are clicking, they’re still pretty special.

That said, consider how old those guys are. Joe Thornton might be the next Jaromir Jagr in aging like hockey-themed wine, but he could also slip at 38. Joe Pavelski, somehow, is 33 already. With a shaky year or two in Minnesota in mind, many might be surprised that Brent Burns is 32. Paul Martin is 36 and Marc-Edouard Vlasic is a high-mileage 30. Even younger cornerstones Logan Couture (28) and Martin Jones (27) aren’t necessarily spring chickens. Joel Ward is 36 and even a supporting guy like Jannik Hansen is 31. This is an old group despite allowing Patrick Marleau to leave for a three-year term.

(Yes, Marleau was great last night, but the Sharks still made the difficult-but-necessary choice there.)

Although there’s skill in players such as Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier, being a regular contender has generally limited the Sharks’ ability to surround those aging veterans with a ton of talent.

A slip is coming, and the drop could be sharp. The Sharks just have to hope that it doesn’t come now.

Reports of Kings’ demise exaggerated?

Look, there’s no doubt that the Kings’ salary cap situation is … appalling.

In the long-term, GM Rob Blake has a mess on his hands that Ron Hextall might have winced at early in the Flyers rebuild. Even in 2017-18, there are some problems.

Still, it’s easy to get swept into excessive pessimism and forget that it wasn’t all bad for the Kings; it’s also possible that their luck might go up a tick.

Don’t forget that the Kings still dominated puck possession in 2016-17. Also don’t forget that, even at their best, the Kings tended to struggle during the regular season. Los Angeles ranked third in the Pacific during its two championship seasons; the Darryl Sutter Kings won two Stanley Cups and zero division titles.

Anze Kopitar‘s contract looks scary, yet a 2017-18 rebound is far from unreasonable. They can still revv up “That ’70s Line” with Jeff Carter, Tanner Pearson, and Tyler Toffoli (or at least elements of that). Perhaps system tweaks will allow Drew Doughty to be the fantasy-friendly scorer many dreamed of?

Now, again, there’s some negative stuff. Even beyond predictably depressing updates about Marian Gaborik, the Kings’ defense looks to be without Alec Martinez for some time.

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With the Central Division looming as a threat to take as many as five of the West’s eight playoff spots (for all we know), the Pacific Division could come down to the Edmonton Oilers and two other teams.

Don’t be surprised if one or more of those positions become, well, a battle of California. And don’t count the Kings out altogether in that joust, either.

Sharks begin 1st training camp without Marleau in 21 years

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) There was something familiar missing in San Jose when the Sharks opened training camp.

For the first time since 1996, the Sharks took the ice for their first training camp practice without Patrick Marleau on the team as the franchise’s career leader in games and scoring left as a free agent for Toronto this summer.

“I’ve spent a lot of years with him. It is kind of strange,” said Joe Thornton, who came to San Jose in 2005. “It’s his birthday today too. It’s a little weird, but he’s going to do great up in Toronto.”

Marleau had been with San Jose since being picked second overall in 1997 but left the Sharks to sign an $18.75 million, three-year deal with the Maple Leafs in July.

Marleau has 508 goals and 574 assists for 1,082 points. He had 46 points in playing all 82 games last season as he rebounded from a disappointing 2015-16 season by scoring 27 goals, including the 500th of his career. He ranks first in San Jose in career goals, games and points.

Only six players in NHL history have played more games with one team than Marleau’s 1,493 in San Jose. The Sharks haven’t played a game without him on the ice since April 7, 2009.

“Obviously Patty has meant so much to this organization and this group,” captain Joe Pavelski said. “Everyone in this room has pretty much played with him and Patty has done something to help them out. He’ll be missed. … Just by committee somebody will step in and fill that kind of hole. That’s what we’ll need.”

The Sharks made no major additions this offseason so will need to replace Marleau’s 27 goals by getting development from younger players like Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Danny O'Regan, as well as bounce-back seasons from veterans like Thornton, Mikkel Boedker and Joonas Donskoi.

Only Pavelski, Logan Couture and Brent Burns are back after scoring more than 12 goals last season.

“When I look back at last year we had key people either have down years or miss significant time with injuries or coming off injuries,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “I think if we can stay healthy I think we’ve got a large group of guys that can really take a step this year and I expect a step out of them.”

While the Sharks lost Marleau in free agency, they did manage to keep Thornton by giving him a one-year, $8 million contract despite dwindling production last season and offseason knee surgery.

He scored just seven goals – his fewest in an 82-game season since his rookie year in 1997-98 – and was a key part of a power-play unit that uncharacteristically struggled last season. But he still managed 43 assists, teaming with captain Joe Pavelski on San Jose’s top line.

Thornton missed the final week of the regular season and the first two playoff games with a left knee injury before returning for the final four games of a first-round loss to Edmonton. Thornton then underwent surgery to repair his MCL and ACL after the season but was back skating in August and started ramping it up for training camp two weeks ago. Thornton believes the lower-body work he did in rehab this offseason will pay dividends on the ice.

“They feel real strong,” he said of his legs. “I feel a lot of pop out there. They’re probably as strong as they’ve ever been just because I had to rehab that knee so much.”

 

Looking to make the leap: Timo Meier

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This post is part of Sharks Day on PHT…

Timo Meier appeared in 34 regular-season games for the San Jose Sharks in 2016-17, and he also suited up for five postseason contests.

Even so, that felt a bit like a dress rehearsal for the ninth pick of the 2015 NHL Draft.

Meier was held pointless in the playoffs, and he wasn’t a whole lot more effective in the regular season, generating three goals and three assists while averaging 12:28 TOI per game.

Those limited opportunities stand out, and so does a lack of bounces. The Swiss-born forward managed 85 shots on goal in those 34 contests, connecting on just 3.5 percent of them.

It’s easy, then, to imagine a big jump forward if the Sharks give him more ice time and if the puck bounces the right way. Even if Meier is at a more middle-of-the-road shooting percentage, it could be a big difference.

And, let’s be honest, the Sharks could use an infusion of youth. With Patrick Marleau out of town, there’s an opportunity for someone out there, and it’s plausible that Meier could leap over the likes of, say, Mikkel Boedker and Joel Ward.

The experiment could be especially successful if Meier is the latest beneficiary of the Joe Thornton boost.

Thornton has enriched the careers of many up-and-coming snipers, with Jonathan Cheechoo standing as one of the handiest examples. Meier seems especially adept at producing goals (take, for instance, 14 goals versus nine assists at the AHL level in 2015-16), so there could conceivably be some synergy there.

Naturally, that might be asking for too big of a leap from Meier, who will turn 21 in October.

Still, it’s worth consideration, especially if the Sharks decide that they might want to spread out their offense by at least experimenting with having one Joe (Thornton) on one line and Joe Pavelski on another.

Developing a Meier-type from a promising prospect into a productive NHL player could make a big difference in sustaining the Sharks as legitimate contenders, for all we know.

Donskoi returns as Sharks go with ‘most experienced lineup’ in Game 6

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Facing elimination on Saturday night the San Jose Sharks are making one change to their lineup heading into Game 6 of their first-round series against the Edmonton Oilers.

After being a healthy scratch for their Game 5 overtime loss, Joonas Donskoi will be back in the lineup on Saturday night in place of forward Timo Meier.

He is slated to skate on a line alongside Melker Karlsson and Tomas Hertl.

Here is what Sharks coach Pete DeBoer had to say about the decision to put Donskoi back in the lineup before the game: “We went with our most experienced lineup here tonight in an elimination game. He’s been here before, he’s delivered for us before. He’s typically always bounced back after being sat down or demoted. I expect a big game out of him.”

In 61 games during the regular season Donskoi scored six goals and recorded 11 assists. In the four games he has played in this series he has one assist. Donskoi was a solid producer for the Sharks a year ago on their way to the Stanley Cup Final, picking up 12 points (six goals, six assists), including an overtime game-winner in Game 3 of the Final.

Meier, the Sharks’ first-round pick in 2015 (No. 9 overall) had six points in 34 regular season games with the Sharks. He has zero points and 11 shots on goal in five playoff games.