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Saturday, March 25, 2023

With an unforgettable night out, the Shark makes its case for staying in the defenseman lineup

Nicolas Meloche was already looking forward to seeing his mother, Natalie, in South Florida this week, helping her celebrate her birthday before the Sharks play Saturday night at Sunrise.

Now Meloche will be able to bring a special gift to his mother – the puck from his first NHL goal.

Meloche scored his first career goal in 21 NHL games on his mother’s birthday on Wednesday, a second-period snipe that proved to be a game-winner in the Sharks’ 4-1 win over the Washington Capitals.

“Definitely calling him after I’m done here,” Meloche said. “Just special that it’s on his birthday. We talked before. He’s in Florida right now. It’s fun. I’ll be able to give him the puck (Thursday or Friday), so it’s a great time.”

Meloche has patiently waited for opportunities to play with the Sharks since being acquired by the team from the Colorado Avalanche prior to the start of the 2019-2020 season.

Meloche, 24, played seven NHL games last season, and six more this season from October 30 to November 11, when four Sharks defensemen, including Eric Carlson, were out for COVID-related reasons. Meloche has seen spot duty here and there since that time, but hasn’t been able to be in the lineup the entire time.

He is getting one more chance to play now. Carlson will be out of the lineup for a long time as he underwent surgery to repair a small muscle tear in his left forearm on Monday, and Sharks coach Bob Boffner is looking for ways to fill that void.

For the moment, Boffner likes what he saw from Meloche against the Capitals.

In addition to the defenseman’s handsome goal, which he stunned Ilya Samsonov from the high-slot with an assist from Matt Nieto when he jumped into the game, Boffner enjoyed a physical presence that was 6-foot-3, 211- Pound brought Meloche.

Meloche, Avalanche’s second-round pick in 2015, finished with five hits, adding a dimension that Boffner felt his team lacked last weekend.

“I really liked them in the trenches,” Boffner said of Meloche. “I thought he was big and heavy. I thought he was physical, he won a lot of fights, made some good plays when he got out.

“That’s what we need from the mail every night. We’ve talked a little bit about this before, me and he, making sure to make it harder for me to take you out when you’re in that lineup. I’ll love you again Give her a reason to play, and she definitely did tonight.

Boffner regretted that he thought the Sharks played to their own end in Saturday’s 7-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Lots of stick checks and tons of free passes to Lightning in front of the shark net as you like.

In the Sharks’ first game since Carlson’s surgery, Boffner traded some skill in Ryan Merkle for some size at Meloche for a third defense pairing with 6-foot-6 Jakob Magna.

Merkle had his share of struggles losing to Tampa Bay and it’s fair to speculate that he’ll be a scratch again for Saturday’s game with the Panthers at the FLA Live Arena.

In any case, Boffner is looking for ways to get things done without Carlsen and 23 minutes of ice time per game for the next two months and possibly beyond. It was 15:45 snow time on Wednesday in Meloche.

“It’s[smelly]to see (Carlson) go down, but it means other people need to step up too,” Meloche said. “I’m just trying to seize that opportunity and do my best to help this team win.”

Meloche did the same with a second-period block on a Brett Leeson shot that put the Sharks 2-0 up.

“I saw that the net was wide open,” said Meloche, “and blocked it.”

World Nation News Desk
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