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Preview/Lines #53: Balcers Just Can’t Shake Injury Bug This Year

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Credit: San Jose Sharks

For Rudolfs Balcers, the 2021-22 season has been filled with an unfortunate series of setbacks and missed games. Balcers has been plagued by the injury bug this year, through no fault of his own other than, that’s just how professional sports work sometimes. Injuries happen, but unfortunately, they’ve been taking Balcers out of the lineup more often than not.

It’s a double-edged sword because NHL’ers are already under an immense amount of pressure to perform (to their own physical and mental detriment) with injuries, and blaming the players for not playing when injured can further entrench feelings of guilt and inadequacy when they’re unable to play through the pain the way fans expect they should.

For Balcers, who can be a valuable player for the Sharks when he’s in the lineup, his game log for this season has been less than ideal. Here’s what it looks like so far for Balcers, who has six goals and nine assists in 33 games:

• Played first 24 games this year
• Missed 13 (knee injury)
• Played 3
• Missed 3 (COVID protocol)
• Played 4
• Missed 1 (ribs)
• Played 2
• Missed 2 as of now (undisclosed upper-body injury)

Head coach Bob Boughner had some thoughts to offer on Balcers, his injuries, and struggles to stay in the lineup consistently this season:

“Every time he gets back, something happens where he takes a step backward. It’s tough to see because in that road trip, he put together three or four or five games where he scored and is feeling good about his game. So [this new injury] is just another setback.

“I don’t think this will be too long.

“It’s one of those seasons for him and we’ve got to try and get him back healthy. And he’s got a lot of work to do in the off-season to get bigger and stronger and be able to come back and play a full 82-game schedule.”

It’s not easy watching one of your players struggle through injuries, but it’s even more of a mental battle for the player themselves, and Boughner spoke about how Balcers was feeling.

“He’s a little depressed and upset,” he said. “It’s frustrating as a player – no one wants to be in the trainer’s room. No one wants to be in the weight room rehabbing all year when these guys get paid to play and they love doing it – so I know he’s not happy about it.”

So, when can fans expect to see Balcers back in the lineup? According to Boughner, it’s looking more like next week (possibly next Tuesday), to give him some more time to skate and feel good in practice.

San Jose Sharks (23-23-6)

Small mercies are that the Sharks are sitting just ahead of the Seattle Kraken in the standings in the Pacific Division, so if the Sharks lose, they won’t lose ground in the standings, although playoff contention is getting out of the question for this year.

These are how the lines shook out per last game, but they are subject to change ahead of puck drop.

And they will…Nicolas Meloche is back from an undisclosed upper-body injury and will take Mario Ferraro’s place in the line-up. Ferraro is out for the next six to eight weeks after breaking his lower left fibula.

Seattle Kraken (16-33-5)

The NHL’s expansion team has a record of…well…an expansion team. The Sharks need a win to buoy their locker room and spark momentum, and the Kraken could just be the bottom-feeder to do that.

Per the Daily Faceoff, this is how the Kraken’s lines may stack up against the Sharks.

Johansson – Jarnkrok – Eberle
Blackwell – Gourde – Appleton
Sheahan – Wennberg – Donskoi
Donato – Geekie – Czarnik

Giordano – Soucy
Oleksiak – Larsson
Dunn – Lauzon

Grubauer, Dreidger

Where to Watch

Puck drop between the Seattle Kraken and San Jose Sharks is at 7:30 PM PT at the SAP Center. Watch it live on ESPN+, Root Pacific Northwest, and NBC Sports California. Listen to it on the Sharks Audio Network.

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