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Deep Blue Sea: The trickle down effect of Sharks’ COVID outbreak

The Sharks have called up the Barracuda’s top players amidst their struggling season start.

San Jose Barracuda defenseman Jacob Middleton (67) skates with the puck to draw the defending player away from the net during the regular season game between the San Jose Barracuda and the San Antonio Rampage on January 9, 2017 at SAP Center in San Jose, CA  Photo by Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The San Jose Barracuda and San Jose Sharks operate out of the same arenas and practice facilities, something that’s not the typical NHL/AHL relationship, and it’s a convenience factor that has single-handedly buoyed the COVID-deprived Sharks roster. We’ve been focused on how the COVID outbreak has affected the Sharks, but it’s affected the baby sharks, too.

The Barracuda’s preseason wasn’t fantastic, with all three games ending in losses. Unlike the Sharks, who burst into the regular season with a string of wins attributed to team chemistry and a revitalized roster, the Barracuda have struggled.

Last season’s Sharks rookies are now back on the Barracuda, with John Leonard, Joachim Blichfield and Sasha Chemelevski among those who are fighting to find their way back to the NHL. Combined with a group who shone in training camp but haven’t cut their teeth on NHL ice (such as Nick Cicek and Cole Moberg), it’s no wonder that it hasn’t been smooth sailing from the get go.

AHL locker rooms can be notoriously competitive, with open NHL roster spots few and far between, and chances offered to prove themselves on the NHL level even less so. A losing AHL team can take it’s toll on the players too — statistics-wise, if not mentally.

Their season has begun with trading wins and losses. Of the four games they’ve played thus far (with the Oct. 31 game postponed due to COVID), they’ve won two and lost two, although the wins were hard won, and both scores were within one goal.

It’s unlikely to get easier for the Barracuda anytime soon. The Sharks have called up virtually all of their top players (Leonard, Nick Merkley, Artemi Kniazev, etc.) to fill in for the seven players in COVID protocol, forcing the ‘Cuda to get creative and call up a few players of their own from their ECHL affiliate, the Orlando Solar Bears. Four days ago, Kyle Topping, Jake McGrew, Montana Onyebuchi and Zachary Emond were brought up, and Joe Garreffa joined them on Nov. 2. The Barracuda have also signed Adam Parcells and Alec Rauhauser to professional try-out agreements.

The new emergency additions should help, but the hope is stifled somewhat by a few injuries. Timur Ibragimov will be out two to three weeks with an undisclosed lower-body injury, Adam Raska will be out approximately one week with the same, and Brinson Pasichnuk will be out for an undetermined timetable, also with an undisclosed LBI.

Today, they’ll play a double header with the Sharks, facing off against the Texas Stars at 1:15 p.m. at SAP Center.

News & Notes

Blood in the Water

  • Senators name Brady Tkachuk 10th team captain in franchise history [NHL]
  • Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk fined for high sticking Stars’ Klingberg [Sportsnet]
  • Women’s professional hockey league hopes to raise its profile with rebranding PHF television deal with ESPN [The Boston Globe]
  • Toronto Six reboots expansion season in Premier Hockey Federation [Sportsnet]
  • Craig retires as NHL’s top outdoor ice rink expert, leaves lasting legacy [NHL]
  • Michigan hockey rolls over Michigan State, 7-2, with five goals from NHL first-rounders [Detroit Free Press]
  • Seattle Kraken reveal minor league team: Coachella Valley Firebirds [ESPN]
  • 2021-22 NHL Awards Watch: Who’s leading for Hart, Norris, Vezina, Selke, Calder? [ESPN]

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