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Game Preview/Lines #51: Barabanov Making Good Impression



Credit: NBCS Bay Area

San Jose Sharks (20-25-5)

Colorado Avalanche (32-12-4)

Jared Bednar said yesterday that because the playoffs are approaching, he wouldn’t announce his line-up before the game anymore.

So it’s anybody’s guess who plays tonight for the Avs, especially with Samuel Girard and Ryan Graves leaving the game early last night. It’s also a back-to-back, so will former San Jose Sharks goalie Devan Dubnyk draw the start?

Graves should play tonight, but Girard is a question mark. Colorado did not have morning media availability.

Where to Watch

Puck drop is 5 PM PT at Ball Arena. Watch it on NBC Sports Bay Area, Altitude Sports, or

Morning Skate

Alexander Barabanov will play his fourth straight contest with Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane tonight.

In contrast, Logan Couture and Rudolfs Balcers will be seeing another right winger to begin the game tonight – Noah Gregor – their fourth in four tilts, following Timo Meier, John Leonard, and Ivan Chekhovich.

Not to overhype the 26-year-old Russian winger, but that’s a testament to the impression that he’s making in San Jose – the Sharks are in clear evaluation mode, and they’re liking what they’re seeing.

“He’s a nice player,” San Jose Sharks head coach Bob Boughner said. “We’re putting him in tough situations, but he’s responding.”

“He slows the game down a little bit and his skill takes over,” Boughner noted, exemplified by this sequence.

Here’s another example:

They’re small plays, but they help a struggling San Jose Sharks power play. Barabanov (94) draws in back-to-back penalty killers, before distributing the puck to Brent Burns (88). The winger’s patience is important here: He holds the puck until the last second, maximizing Burns’s time up top and creating space for the other Sharks on the PP.

Another small Barabanov play almost snapped San Jose’s now 10 games and running power play slump – they’re 0 for their last 28:

The winger was offside, but it was still excellent work.

But these aren’t the only reasons why Barabanov played 19:15 last night – his NHL career-high – Boughner also offered praise for the winger’s work on the other side of the puck.

“We’re asking a lot of him. Playing on that top line against those players and he doesn’t look out of place defensively,” Boughner said. “He’s a guy that is not afraid to block a shot. He comes back, he stops his feet in the D- zone, he wins a lot of battles on the wall and the 50-50 pucks, getting them out.”

There’s not a lot of time left for Barabanov to make an impression, as the San Jose Sharks are down to just six more games this season – but he appears to be making the most of his opportunity.

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