Home Sports Sharks expect Meier, Sorensen, Labanc to play key roles in Barracuda’s playoff run

Sharks expect Meier, Sorensen, Labanc to play key roles in Barracuda’s playoff run

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			Sharks expect Meier, Sorensen, Labanc to play key roles in Barracuda’s playoff run

SAN JOSE — In hockey, one man’s loss is always a win for someone else.

Besides the Edmonton Oilers, the big winners in the Sharks first round exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs last week was the organization’s AHL franchise, the Barracuda, who almost gained a full NHL line for what they hope is a long run through the Calder Cup playoffs.

Timo Meier and Marcus Sorensen both joined the Barracuda after the Sharks season came to an end Saturday, and the organization is expecting them, and Kevin Labanc, who played in 55 NHL games this year, to lead the charge in Game 3 of their best-of-five series against the Stockton Heat in Stockton Friday.

“It’s really important for those guys, the pressure’s on them,” Barracuda coach Roy Sommer said. “They can’t just come down here and crap the bed, they’ve got to get stuff done. We’re leaning on them.

“They’ll decide whether we go or we don’t.”

Meier, the Sharks 2015 first round draft pick (No. 9), joined the Barracuda for Game 2 on Sunday after putting together a strong series against the Oilers on the Sharks fourth line. The 20-year-old power forward didn’t register a point in five games, but he was the Sharks most physical forward, landing 17 hits in the series.

He also produced 11 shots on goal and 19 shot attempts while averaging just 12:04 of ice time per game.

Meier expects his playoff experience to pay dividends with the Barracuda.

“You feel that experience in the locker room, being with those guys,” he said. “We were down 2-1 (going into Game 4), but the guys were staying calm, they were sticking to the plan.”

The Swiss forward’s physicality should also come in handy against the Heat, who laid a bruising on the younger, more skilled Barracuda in the first two games of the series. Throughout the season, the Heat’s strategy against the Barracuda has been to throw them off their game by imposing a physical toll.

The teams combined for 138 penalty minutes in a game on Jan. 25 and 122 penalty minutes on April 8.

“Playing Stockton, there’s a lot of cheap shots, a lot of talking on the ice,” Meier said.

Sorensen should also give the Barracuda a significant boost. Of all the talent in the organization’s pipeline with the Barracuda this year, the Swedish rookie earned the most responsibility with the Sharks by the end of the season.

The 25-year-old forward suited up for 17 of the Sharks last 21 games and all six of their playoff games against the Oilers, scoring two points in the series (1g, 1a).

With his tremendous speed and ability to close in on the puck, Sorensen moved up to the Sharks second line in the second period of Game 6.

“Marcus was really good. He played inside, used his speed, got a lot of ice time,” Sommer said. “And he had chances, too, man. He scored a goal, but he had a lot of grade-A chances where he could have made a difference if he’d scored.”

As Meier and Sorensen look to carry the momentum of their series against the Oilers into the Calder Cup playoffs, Labanc will be attempting to regain his early-season form after getting reassigned by the Sharks on the eve of the playoffs.

Labanc scored just one goal over his last 31 games with the Sharks and his struggles have seeped into his game with the Barracuda. In the first two games of the series, Labanc has recorded an assist and scored an empty-net goal.

Sommer said he’s still waiting for Labanc to reach the level that he was at earlier in the season when he collected 10 points in his first six games, earning a recall to the Sharks.

“Honesty, I haven’t seen that. He’s been just very, very average,” Sommer said. “That’s a guy that has got to get it going.”

Labanc agreed with his coach’s assessment.

“The big dogs have got to eat,” he said. “We can produce a little bit more, but as long as we stick to a Sharks style of game, play defensively, the points will come and we’ll start rolling. It’s all about getting wins right now.”

Although Labanc, Meier and Sorensen would all prefer to be making a Stanley Cup run with the Sharks right now, they also see a unique opportunity in front of them with the Barracuda.

After producing a .699 points percentage this season and earning the top seed in the Western Conference, the Barracuda have a chance to capture the organization’s first Calder Cup.

“You want to start building that winning mentality,” Meier said. “The Sharks are out now, so it’s our turn to really show what we got.”


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