Labanc keen to prove he belongs as Sharks visit Canucks
Kevin Labanc is not just a call-up anymore.
The San Jose Sharks winger is heading into Monday's road game against Vancouver fresh off his first NHL hat trick. He now has 36 points in the season and his days of being shuttled between the minors and the NHL appear to be over.
He is also playing a top-six forward role on a line with Logan Couture.
"We had some good conversations with (Labanc)," San Jose coach Peter DeBoer told reporters. "This is the last 30 games of the year and you have to show that you can contribute and be trusted in critical times as we head to the playoffs. I think he's trying to prove a point."
A key point: The 23-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y., native has become a regular in the world's top hockey circuit. This season marks the first time in three pro campaigns that he has not spent any time with the Sharks' AHL farm club, which also is based in San Jose.
More importantly, he is helping the Sharks look like a serious Stanley Cup contender. They have won five straight games, including Saturday's decision in Edmonton, where Labanc had his memorable three-goal night.
But Labanc, who is well on the way to shattering the 40 points he produced in 77 games last season, is not taking his success for granted.
"I've gotta show that I'm doing everything that I can to be here," he told reporters.
Meanwhile, Evander Kane is also showing well as he heads into Sunday's game in his hometown. He furnished a goal and an assist in Edmonton and now has 13 markers since New Year's Day, ranking among the league's top scorers in the 2019 portion of the schedule.
"He's been fantastic," said DeBoer.
Zack MacEwen has been doing quite well with Vancouver's AHL farm team in Utica, N.Y., too. As a result, he was promoted to the Canucks on the weekend and could make his NHL debut against the Sharks.
The unheralded 22-year-old, a native of Charlottetown, located in Canada's smallest province of Prince Edward Island, has a career-high 17 goals and 25 assists with the Utica Comets. Not bad, considering that he was never drafted by an NHL club.
MacEwen's callup could be timely for the Canucks, who always struggle to find consistent secondary scoring and are battling for a playoff spot -- contrary to early-season expectations. He had his first four-point night as a professional Saturday as Utica beat Rochester.
"You want to move on to the next level," he told the Observer-Dispatch newspaper. "It has been a dream of mine to play in the NHL. (Canucks management) have a plan for me and I'm sticking to that. It's going well right now, so just keep my nose to the grind and keep going."
At 6-foot-4 and 212 pounds, MacEwen fits the profile of a typical power forward. Utica coach Trent Cull suggested that the second-year pro has earned his chance with the Canucks.
"He's been very much a pro," Cull told the Observer-Dispatch. "The work that he put in during the summer has changed his body. He's done a great job. He's hungry to learn. He's a very coachable young man. But he's doing a lot of hard work behind the scenes. He's doing a better job at (defensive) zone coverage at all times. ... He's a big, strong guy. When he protects pucks, he's a tough guy to play against."
MacEwen was called up to fill in for veteran winger Sven Baertschi, who has been sidelined with post-concussion syndrome stemming from a previous head injury that sidelined him for 30 games earlier this season.
"It's not a new concussion," Green told reporters Saturday before the Canucks edged the Calgary Flames 4-3 in a shootout. "He just wasn't feeling right."
Although Baertschi took some hard hits in Denver recently, a specific play did not appear to reproduce his former symptoms.
"We're going to give him some time off," he said. "(He's) probably going to be out for a little bit."
--Field Level MediaHome