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This article was published 23/1/2018 (1180 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
SAN JOSE, Calif. — They are best buds off the ice — and intense rivals on it.
And so Winnipeg Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers and San Jose Sharks winger Timo Meier spent the better part of Tuesday night trying to outduel each other — only 24 hours after the former junior teammates broke bread together over a dinner table.
"We’re really good friends. But there will be about two, 2½ hours (Tuesday night) where we’re not the best of friends. It will be good," a smiling Ehlers said after the morning skate. "We went for dinner (Monday) night. Talking about Halifax and the memories we have from there. Looking at some old videos and photos. It was a lot of fun."
Ehlers, 21, needs no introduction to Jets fans. The Danish speedster is a treat to watch every game and looks dangerous every time he touches the puck. He’s in his third full season with the Jets, with 19 goals and 16 assists going into Tuesday night’s game.
Meier, 21, is a Swiss power forward who is part of an impressive crop of young Sharks. He had scored 10 goals and added six assists in 45 games entering play Tuesday. He put up three goals and three assists while playing 34 games in his rookie season last year.
"It’s always fun to play against a guy you played with in juniors and had a good chemistry with, a good friendship," Meier said prior to Tuesday’s game. "Obviously you can see his speed and it’s pretty incredible. For me, it was just trying to create some space for him to go on the forecheck. He does it all… the guy can pass and shoot the puck. It was fun to play with him and learn from him."
Ehlers and Meier were part of a formidable line with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Undrafted centre Danny Moynihan, now playing in the American Hockey League with the Utica Comets, was between them.
"We played really well together. It was very exciting to play with a guy like Timo and then a centreman like Danny," Ehlers said. "He (Meier) has a great shot, he can shoot from anywhere. For me, I’d say I was more of a passer. So when he was in the right spot, I could just lay it in to him and he could pretty much put it in. Our line was put together really well. We fit good. For me and Timo, I guess we had a little more chemistry together because of the language, coming from Europe, same year, same age. So it was pretty great."
While Meier is still trying to develop his offensive game, Ehlers has quickly established himself as a force.
"Even in practices, we challenged each other and it helped us both a lot," Meier said. "I’m not surprised at all that he’s thriving."
The Mooseheads have been a pro hockey factory of late, with NHLers Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin and Nico Hischier among other recent graduates.
"It’s crazy. The thing is, they’re great from the beginning. I came over there, first time living away from my family. And from Day 1, they took care of you. The billet family I had was amazing. There were no problems at all. I could concentrate on hockey and school," Ehlers said Tuesday. "And I had a coach, Dom Ducharme, a great coach, he just won gold with Canada at the world juniors, won the (Memorial) Cup. He was great. Everything about the organization and the city, the fans, was awesome from the beginning."
Ehlers was asked Tuesday who picked up the tab from their dinner Monday night.
"I picked it up. I totally forgot to come see him in Winnipeg after the game (earlier this month). So I guess it was more of a sorry than anything else," he said.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.