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Kraken at Sharks Preview: Meeting the new guys

With a chance to spring into playoff position, the Sharks cannot afford to let this opportunity go by.

San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture (39) takes a faceoff during the NHL game between the San Jose Sharks and the Dallas Stars on December 11, 2021 at SAP Center in San Jose, CA. Photo by Matt Cohen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After an extremely boring day of no hockey last night, the NHL is back with 13 games on their slate, including the San Jose Sharks meeting with the 32nd franchise in the NHL, the Seattle Kraken, at SAP Center.

The Kraken’s inaugural season has been a bit underwhelming. The franchise came into the year with expectations of competing for a playoff spot in the Pacific Division after being heavy spenders at the Expansion Draft and Free Agency; however, a lack of goaltending and special teams has led to their demise. They rank last in the division, with a 9-15-3 record.

The Kraken finished off their recent homestand with three consecutive losses to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Winnipeg Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets. The team will now begin a mini-Californian road trip in San Jose before heading to Orange County on Wednesday to face the Anaheim Ducks.

The Kraken are 1-4-0 against Pacific Division teams through this season, having been outscored 23-14 in that span. They’ll hope to get back on track and steal some very valuable points from a divisional rival in the Sharks.

One thing to note is that while the Kraken don’t have any superstars on offense, they have a plethora of depth, with five players over 15+ points so far this season. Their scoring leader is Jaden Schwartz, who has 19 points through 25 games.

The Kraken have a couple of former Sharks players that will be interesting to watch, including Joonas Donskoi, who has 13 points through 27 games, but is still looking for his first goal with the Kraken, his third NHL team. They also have Ryan Donato, part of last year’s Sharks team, and he had netted 5 goals and 5 assists, scoring the first goal in Seattle’s franchise history.

The Kraken are expected to give Philipp Grubauer the start in net. He has struggled to find his game after cashing in on a major contract with Seattle this season, going 7-11-3 with a .884 save percentage. He’s been a liability for the team, and the Sharks will hope to add on to the beating.

San Jose is coming off of a 2-1 win over the Dallas Stars and are hoping to leapfrog over the Oilers and Golden Knights into a top-three spot in the Pacific Division with a win tonight.

Jayden Halbgewachs debut watch?

The Sharks recalled Jayden Halbgewachs from the San Jose Barracuda yesterday morning after head coach Bob Boughner confirmed that Kevin Labanc would miss the next 1-2 weeks due to an injury.

Halbgewachs is enjoying a great season with the Barracuda, tallying 16 points (7 goals, 9 assists) through 19 games, ranking second on the team in scoring behind Scott Reedy.

He’s a speedy undersized winger who is great on zone entries due to his skating abilities. He’s one of those smaller players who still manages to play the game on edge, which is how the Sharks like to play, so if he finds his way into the line-up, he’ll fit right in.

Bob Boughner wouldn’t commit to Halbgewachs playing for sure; however, I’d say it’s more leaning toward him playing.

Please don’t ask me how to pronounce that name, though.

Is Karlsson extending his point streak?

The hockey gods’ Christmas gift to Sharks fans was making Erik Karlsson elite again, and oh boy, has it been fun to watch.

Karlsson’s offensive skill is back; he’s defensively aware and has just been a vital piece to not only the blue line but the team in general, competing for his third Norris trophy right now, ranked 14th in scoring among all NHL defenders.

Karlsson’s currently riding a four-game point streak and has added points in eight of his last ten games played. He’ll hope to extend that streak to five for his longest streak of the season.

Reimer to continue his elite play?

James Reimer has been the best goaltender the Sharks have had since they last had James Reimer under contract in 2015-16, and honestly, if it weren’t for him, I think we’d be talking about if Shane Wright would look good in teal, not if the team could contend in the 2022 playoffs.

The Sharks will need that same play from Reimer tonight. Through his last three starts, he’s gone 3-0-0 while recording a .969 save percentage, continuing to stand on his head whenever the team inevitably struggles to score when he is in net, for whatever reason.

Due to the Kraken’s scoring depth, Reimer won’t have an easy night and will need some help in front of him; however, he’ll likely also benefit from the fact that Seattle’s power play has been inconsistent this season. It’ll be an interesting matchup to follow all night.

Bold Prediction: A barn-burner in San Jose ends in the Sharks winning over Seattle in a game where more than 8 total goals are scored.