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Barracuda at Chimuelos Preview: Pez Contra Bistec

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Los Tiburones Bebé de San Jose meet Los Chimuelos de San Antonio.

Bryan Del Fava, Fear the Fin

Tonight the Sharks’ American Hockey League affiliate the San Jose Barracuda will head to the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas to face off against the St Louis Blues’ new AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage. This starts off the season series between the Cuda and San Antonio, which concludes on November 2, due to San Antonio’s move to the Central Division.

Last season, the Blues did not have a formal affiliation agreement with any single AHL club; in the wake of NHL expansion, the independently-owned Chicago Wolves chose to affiliate with the Vegas Golden Knights. This led to a rather unique arrangement, where the Blues lacked a formal AHL affiliate and loaned players to both the Vegas Golden Knights-affiliated Chicago Wolves and the then Colorado Avalanche-affiliated San Antonio Rampage. This season, the Colorado Avalanche have gained a new AHL affiliate in the formerly-ECHL Colorado Eagles, freeing the Rampage to affiliate with the Blues. The San Antonio Rampage are owned by and play in the same arena as the National Basketball Association’s San Antonio Spurs.

With all that out of the way, the San Antonio Rampage will be playing tonight as Los Chimuelos de San Antonio, to celebrate the traditional Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos, much as the San Jose Sharks warmed up as Los Tiburones earlier this month.

Chimuelo is a Spanish nickname for a toothless man, and is a nod to the fact that many hockey players (notably, San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns) are missing more than a few teeth. Even the San Antonio mascot is getting in on the fun; T-Bone will appear as El Bistec for one night only. More information on the festivities in San Antonio can be found at Sports Illustrated.

The Barracuda are, of course, running red-hot. Despite tallying their first regulation loss, forwards Maxim Letunov and Jayden Halbgewachs continued to be scoring threats against Stockton. The Barracuda currently have four players scoring at or above a point-per-game pace: Francis Perron, Jayden Halbgwachs, Evan Weinger and Dylan Gambrell.

Center Dylan Gambrell is currently on a Southern road trip with the San Jose Sharks, and will be unavailable to play for the Barracuda. The roster aside from that is expected to be the usual squad in the usual spots.

Antoine Bibeau is anticipated to start, boasting a respectable 1.93 goals against average and a .938 save percentage over four games. Should that not be the case, Josef Korenar has also posted respectable numbers across his three games: a 2.34 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. Either goaltender would be a strong choice in net against San Antonio.

In part due to the change in affiliation, the Barracuda should expect to face a vastly different team in this year’s contests against San Antonio. Gone is forward Rocco Grimaldi, who played three seasons in San Antonio while under contract with the Florida Panthers and the Colorado Avalanche.

Winger Zach Sanford will not be suiting up with Los Chimuelos, as he was recalled earlier this month by the Blues. Sanford has played four games with San Antonio this season and has scored 2 goals during this stint.

Re-joining San Antonio is winger Sammy Blais, who this season has played eight scoreless games with the Blues. He returns to San Antonio’s lineup after a hot 2017-2018 season with them, scoring 40 points (17 goals, 23 assists) over 42 games with them.

Center Robby Fabbri is also joining Los Chimuelos on a conditioning loan. Fabbri missed all of the 2017-2018 season after re-injuring his left knee during training camp; he originally sustained an ACL tear late in the 2016-2017 season. He has not played in the AHL since 2015, when he joined the Chicago Wolves for a brief spell after the conclusion of his Ontario Hockey League career. The Blues expect to use his time in San Antonio to get Fabbri back to NHL condition.

The Rampage’s crease is defended by Ville Husso and Jordan Binnington, both of whom have special masks based on sugar skulls to celebrate Día de los Muertos.

Ville Husso is expected to start in net, and has posted a 3.37 goals against average and a .887 save percentage over six games this year. Should he need relief, Jordan Binnington has posted a 2.58 goals against average and a .918 save percentage over both of his appearances this season.

The puck drops in San Antonio at 5:30 PM Pacific Time/7:30 Central Time. The festivities at the AT&T Center are expected to begin well before puck drop, however, with mariachi dancers, face painters, and a Día de los Muertos altar expected amongst the festivities. Barracuda fans here in California can watch via AHLTV or for free on Facebook Watch.