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Mueller “belongs,” but call-up may not last long

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The Barracuda’s staff think the 21-year-old is “ready for full-time NHL duty,” according to Pete DeBoer.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

SAN JOSE — Sharks defenseman Mirco Mueller is in a different position than he’s been in previous call-ups to the NHL.

Although this call-up doesn’t feel any different than his prior stints with the big club, Mueller is “pretty happy” with his game and the natural progression that’s come with age and more ice time in the minors, he said.

“[It has] definitely helped my confidence,” Mueller said. “Experience-wise, you get more reps in, I think it automatically gets better. That’s been key so far.”

With defenseman David Schlemko “day-to-day” , the Sharks recalled the defenseman and 2013 first round pick to slide in as the team’s seventh defenseman while Dylan DeMelo takes Schlemko’s place in tonight’s lineup.

In 16 games with the San Jose Barracuda, the Sharks’ AHL affiliate, Mueller has already scored more than half as many points (6) as he did in 50 AHL games last season (11). The Barracuda’s coaching staff have seen significant improvement, and think he is prepared to take the next step in his development, according to Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer.

“All the reports out of the [Barracuda] were that he’s been excellent,” DeBoer said. “I think he’s really taken a step maturity-wise as a player and as a kid this year. Everybody’s saying that he looks like he’s ready for full-time NHL duty.

“We’re deep, but we’re rewarding a guy for going down there and handling a demotion the right way. He’s a guy that belongs up here.”

That next step likely will not happen in this stint. Since Schlemko’s absence is not expected to last very long and the Sharks sit right against the salary cap, Mueller’s call-up could end as soon as tomorrow, when the Barracuda host the AHL’s Pacific Division-leading Stockton Heat.

The Barracuda trail the Heat by five points in the standings, but have “lost a couple stupid” games, Mueller said. The team’s skill and speed is apparent, but the inexperienced group has begun to improve defensively, according to Mueller.

The third-year professional is one of the Barracuda’s most experienced players, and plays on special teams, he said. It’s certainly a change of pace from his first two seasons, but one that the 21-year-old has embraced.

“Even compared to last year with a lot of guys leaving, it’s been like a rebuild almost,” Mueller said. “It’s definitely different, but I’ve enjoyed the role. Everyone on the team has [enjoyed theirs], and it’s been good.”