Ottawa Senators at San Jose Sharks preview: familiar faces in friendly fire

After a good effort Monday, the San Jose Sharks will return to service tonight, ending the season series against the Ottawa Senators.

The Senators have had a rough patch this season. After their GM Pierre Dorion announced that the rebuild was complete and they were ready to fight for the playoffs, they pulled out a 4-11-1 record to start the season, placing dead last in the league (yes, even worse than the Arizona Coyotes, sort of). In their last nine games, the team has posted a 1-7-1 record. Ouch!

Ottawa just suffered a 7-5 loss to the Colorado Avalanche Wednesday, and quite frankly, they were way overwhelmed. It 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 only one player scoring more points per game, winger Drake Batherson, who has 16 points (7 goals, 9 assists) in 14 games, leading the team in goals and points in its second season. Tied with him for the goal lead, former Sharks prospect Josh Norris.

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

The Senators have three potential starting goalies between Filip Gustavsson, Anton Forsberg and Matt Murray.

As for the Sharks, they played well on Monday against the Carolina hurricanes. While San Jose hasn’t led a lot of offense, they’ve allowed less than they produced, which is always a good sign. They hope to bring some of that momentum from a big overtime win to tonight’s game.

Is James Reimer walking away with the starting work?

Slowly but surely, Reimer parted ways with Adin Hill in the Sharks’ goalie race. He has been confirmed for another start tonight, which will be his seventh start in 11 games.

Reimer has been the best of the tandem so far, going 5-3-1 to go along with his save percentage of .940, which ranks third in the league among all goaltenders with more than 10 games played this season.

With a good performance tonight, I would say Reimer has gained confidence as the starting goalie, at least for the next leg. He comes off a 22-save win over Carolina, where his workload wasn’t as difficult as usual, but the results were there nonetheless. I would expect another big game from him tonight.

Is Kevin Labanc warming up after his big goal?

It wouldn’t be crazy to say that Kevin Labanc has struggled this season as he has relied heavily on the power play for his production so far. But maybe, just maybe, he can start rolling after an important goal on Monday night. His tying goal was his first since October 21 and scored his first tied point since last season.

He will likely stay on a line with Matt Nieto and Jasper Weatherby, which is a line that can have offensive moments at times. I think we can really see a little run from Labanc in that next piece here, because he’s a player who thrives on trust.

What can we expect from Barabanov?

After scoring a big goal to win the game for the Sharks, Alexander Barabanov must be hungry for me. The Russian winger has been a crucial part of this team’s offense, scoring 8 points in 13 games.

Against a team like the Senators, you have to be prepared to face a bit of physics, but Barabanov has shown that it will take more than a few big hits to get him out of the game.

“He’s a tough kid, not really a big guy, but he’ll take a beating to make a play and he keeps coming back,” Sharks head coach Bob Boughner said of Barabanov. Obviously he thrives when the game is more physical, so don’t be surprised if he proves it again tonight.

Bold Prediction: The Sharks get a high-caliber game for the first time in some time, scoring more than four goals against the exhausted Senators.

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