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Senators at Sharks Preview: Familiar faces facing friendly fire

A come-from-behind overtime victory will propel the Sharks as they host the Senators tonight at SAP Center.

Erik Karlsson #65 of the San Jose Sharks skates during warmups against the Carolina Hurricanes at SAP Center on November 22, 2021 in San Jose, California. Photo by Kavin Mistry/NHLI via Getty Images

After a good effort on Monday, the San Jose Sharks will get right back into action tonight, finishing the season series against the Ottawa Senators.

The Senators have had a rough go this season. After their general manager, Pierre Dorion announced that the rebuild was over and they were set to start contending for the playoffs, they have come out with a 4-11-1 record to start the season, ranking dead last in the league (yes, even worse than the Arizona Coyotes, somehow). Through their last nine games, the team has gone 1-7-1. Yikes!

Ottawa is coming off a 7-5 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, and quite frankly they were heavily outmatched. That was also the team’s first game in eight days after nearly half of their roster landed on COVID-19 Protocol and the league was forced to postpone three games.

The Senators have just one player scoring at over a point-per-game pace, winger Drake Batherson, who has tallied 16 points (7 goals, 9 assists) through 14 games, leading the team in goals and points in his sophomore season. Tied with him for the goal-scoring lead is former Sharks prospect Josh Norris.

Speaking of former Sharks, this game will feature five players on either side who were a part of the other franchise. The former Senators in San Jose include Erik Karlsson and Rudolfs Balcers, while former Sharks include the aforementioned Norris, Chris Tierney and Dylan Gambrell. There could be seven total, if you want to include the Sharks’ draft pick that drafted Tim Stutzle (hide the pain), and Sharks forward Jonathan Dahlen, who has been ruled out for tonight.

The Senators have three potential starting goaltenders between Filip Gustavsson, Anton Forsberg and Matt Murray, and there’s no real way of predicting who gets the start tonight, but for the most part, all three have struggled when they’ve been in net this season.

As for the Sharks, they played well on Monday against the Carolina Hurricanes. Though San Jose didn’t drive a whole lot of offense, they allowed less than they produced, which is always a fine sign. They’ll hope to bring some of that momentum from a big overtime win into tonight’s game.

Does James Reimer pull away with the starting job?

Slowly but surely, Reimer has been separating himself from Adin Hill in the Sharks’ goaltending race. He’s been confirmed for another start tonight, which will be his seventh start in 11 games.

Reimer has been the better of the tandem up to this point, with a 5-3-1 record to accompany his .940 save percentage, which ranks third in the league among all goaltenders with 10+ games played this season.

With a good performance tonight, I would say that Reimer has earned the trust as the starting goaltender, at least for the next little bit. He’s coming off of a 22-save win over Carolina, where his workload wasn’t as difficult as usual, but still, the results were there. I would anticipate another big game from him tonight.

Does Kevin Labanc get hot after his big goal?

It wouldn’t be crazy to say Kevin Labanc has struggled this season, as he has relied heavily on the power play for his production up to this point. But maybe, just maybe, he can start to get rolling after an important goal on Monday night. His game-tying goal was his first since Oct. 21, and marked his first even-strength point dating back to last season.

He’ll likely remain on a line with Matt Nieto and Jasper Weatherby, which is a trio that can have their offensive moments at times. I think we can really see a little run from Labanc in this next bit here, as he’s a player who thrives off of confidence.

What can we expect from Barabanov?

After scoring a big goal to win the game for the Sharks, Alexander Barabanov has to be hungry for me. The Russian winger has been a crucial piece to this team's offense, with 8 points through 13 games.

Against a team like the Senators, you have to be ready to face some physicality, but Barabanov has shown that it’ll take more than a couple of big hits to get him off of his game.

“He’s a tough kid, not a real big guy, but he will take a hit to make a play and he keeps coming back,” said Sharks head coach Bob Boughner on Barabanov. It’s evident that he thrives when the game is more physical, so don’t be surprised if he proves that again tonight.

Bold Prediction: The Sharks get a high-scoring game for the first time in a while, scoring over four goals against the depleted Senators.