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Preview/Lines #33: Meier Takes Benching in Stride

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Credit: San Jose Sharks

If Timo Meier was upset about getting benched by Bob Boughner on Thursday, he didn’t show it at practice the next day.

“He came in, he took it upon himself to come in a good mood,” Boughner said.

On Thursday, up 2-1 with four minutes to go against the Philadelphia Flyers, Meier lost the puck in the neutral zone. Joel Farabee counterattacked and tied the game.

Meier was benched for the remainder of regulation and overtime, a 3-2 San Jose Sharks‘ victory.

Meier Benched, How Sharks Took Slot Away from Flyers

A younger Timo Meier might have sulked the next day. But instead, at the end of Friday’s practice, an impressed Boughner skated up to the 25-year-old.

“He just said he liked the attitude I had coming in today,” Meier said. “Obviously, I made a mistake, losing the puck there late in the period that cost us a goal. For me, just moving on, learning from it, don’t waste any energy getting mad about it. So just moving forward.”

That’s what Boughner saw too: “When guys take accountability for their games, good or bad, and want to be a good teammate, like what he was today, it just shows maturity. And personal growth.”

It wasn’t necessarily a smooth road to get here, as the Swiss winger has struggled recently. After potting 30 goals in 2018-19, the winger’s 82-game pace in each of the next two years, on average, was just 22. Boughner described discussions with Meier about his game as “more confrontational” at times in those leaner campaigns.

But Meier has turned over a new leaf. In 54 games last season, he scored 12 goals and 31 points. In exactly half that number of games this year, Meier has 13 goals and 31 points.

“Timo coming into training camp, he’s taken on a better leadership role on this team. He’s been more vocal, he’s been there for the young guys. His work ethic and practice, he’s one of the hardest-working guys out there trying to get better every day,” Boughner said. “It does show he’s come a long way in the last couple years.”

Meier agreed: “It’s part of the learning that I’ve been through in a year and a half past. Just trying to be strong in that way, and come in and get ready to work. I know it’s a long season, a lot of games. So just trying to go back to work and stay positive.”

That’s another striking difference between Thursday’s benching and other times that Boughner or Pete DeBoer have sat Meier — he’s seen as a leader now, not a follower.

“If anything, I explained to him that it’s easy to make an example out of a young guy, but it’s got to be the same for everybody, even our best players,” Boughner acknowledged. “He’s been one of our best players.”

That what Boughner expects to see from Timo Meier against the Pittsburgh Penguins: “He knows he’s going to get that opportunity again when the puck drops on Sunday.”

San Jose Sharks (17-14-1)

This is how the San Jose Sharks lined up in their last contest:

Expect James Reimer to start against Pittsburgh.

Winger Rudolfs Balcers, off IR, and center Jasper Weatherby, out of COVID protocol, are candidates to draw in.

UPDATE: Balcers did not, as expected, travel with the San Jose Sharks — he will rehab at home for another week. The Sharks will run the same line-up as Thursday. Adin Hill is close to returning — he’ll get a conditioning start with the Barracuda, then join the Sharks later on this road trip.

Here, by the way, is Timo Meier’s full reaction to getting benched:

“He just said he liked the attitude I had coming in today. Obviously, I made a mistake, losing the puck there late in the period that cost us a goal. For me, just moving on, learning from it, don’t waste any energy getting mad about it. So just moving forward.”

“It’s definitely something you have to learn over time or it’s gonna wear you down. Because there’s gonna be mistakes in the game every night. It’s gonna happen that you have a bad game. I try to go out there and help the team, try to push myself. It’s part of the learning that I’ve been through in a year and a half past. Just trying to be strong in that way, and come in and get ready to work. I know. It’s a long season, a lot of games. So just trying to go back to work and stay positive.”

“Yeah, definitely. I want to lead by example. If I make a mistake, I’m probably the hardest guy on myself. But at this point, you’re just hoping to get a win, even if you get sad. So, yeah, coming in the next day ready to work. That’s one of my attributes, I think, coming in and working hard, and that’s how you’re going to get success.”

Pittsburgh Penguins (17-8-5)

Because of a combination of COVID and Christmas, the Pens haven’t played since Dec. 19.

They still figure to be hamstrung by COVID against the San Jose Sharks, according to Pittsburgh Hockey Now’s latest update:

Updated: Penguins FINALLY in Action, Gm 31: Lines, Notes, & What to Watch vs. Sharks

Where to Watch

Puck drop against Pittsburgh is 10 AM PT at PPG Paints Arena. Watch it live on NBC Sports California and ESPN+. Listen to it on the Sharks Audio Network.

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