SAN JOSE – Since the day he was drafted, defenseman Mirco Mueller has been compared with the Sharks' Marc-Edouard Vlasic for playing an effective but not necessarily flashy style.
Todd McLellan wasn’t yet with the Sharks when Vlasic broke in as a teenager in 2006, but remembered seeing him skate for San Jose while still an assistant with the Red Wings.
He’s hopeful, of course, that Mueller can become just as much of a rock on the blue line as Vlasic is today.
“I remember playing against San Jose and us talking about this young kid on the blue line, the amount of poise that he has, the skill level that he had,” McLellan said of Vlasic. “The organization at that time was always very confident in playing that type of player. If Mirco can, or will become that guy, then all the more power to him and to us."
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McLellan has praised Mueller this preseason for his ability to use his feet to get out of trouble, and that he’s gotten progressively better as camp has moved along.
Still, it will be a work in progress for Mueller as he gets set to make his NHL debut on Wednesday or shortly after. It's not a certainty that Mueller will stay here for the duration of the season.
“There’s development that has to happen. … The maturity element, but also the understanding of what it feels like in certain situations on the ice,” McLellan said. “He has been able to adapt quickly to this point. We still have to monitor, and we have a huge responsibility as a coaching staff to continue to develop and grow this young man if he’s going to be here full time with us.”
Mueller has played with Brent Burns in each of the last three preseason games, so that pair could very well be together against the Kings in two days.
“I’m happy obviously to be here still,” Mueller said. “I’m looking forward to Wednesday. I’m really excited to kind of get the season going finally. It’s been a long camp and a long preseason.”
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Less than 48 hours before the Sharks hold their first game day morning skate, there are still no hints as to whom – if anyone – will be the team’s captain and alternates.
“The one thing I know in the rulebook is we don’t have to name a captain,” McLellan said. “We don’t have to have it done by a date, or anything like that. We’re working on it.”
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Another question that may not get answered until Wednesday morning is which goalie will get the start against the Kings.
Alex Stalock was 2-1-0 with a 1.68 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in three preseason games, while Antti Niemi was 0-1-2 with a 2.23 GAA and .909 SP.
“Two of them are playing well. To me, that’s real good progress,” McLellan said.