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Preview/Lines #49: McCarthy on Why Mukhamadullin Deserves NHL Debut

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Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

John McCarthy was watching the San Jose Sharks practice on Friday morning, in part to see how Shakir Mukhamadullin was faring.

“Went over today to take a look and he kept right up,” the San Jose Barracuda bench boss said of walking the hallway from Tech CU Arena over to where the Sharks practice. “I thought he did great.”

Mukhamadullin, 22, the centerpiece of last year’s blockbuster Timo Meier deal, will make his much-awaited NHL debut this afternoon against the Buffalo Sabres.

The 2020 New Jersey Devils’ first-round pick has excelled in his first full North American pro season, posting five goals and 26 points in 39 games with the Barracuda.

He’s expected to pair up with Jan Rutta and participate on the second-unit power play in his NHL debut.

So how has the 6-foot-5 prospect separated himself from the rest of the pack this season?

“Obviously, he has the size, the skating ability, vision. He’s been kind of a one-man breakout for us on the back-end,” McCarthy said.

Mukhamadullin has also been working hard on getting better defensively, says McCarthy: “We were working on some positioning stuff, some stick details, defending the net, the net front, and defending low in the D-zone. He’s made some strides there.”

McCarthy noted that he likes to take in Sharks practices with some regularity anyway, to touch base and see what’s going on. But it was extra-special to see his star pupil fit right in with the best hockey players in the world.

“You tell him one thing and it shows up in his game the next night, which is refreshing as a coach, it’s good to see those guys get rewarded,” McCarthy said.

San Jose Sharks (13-31-4)

Kaapo Kahkonen will start.

This is how the Sharks practiced on Friday:

Buffalo Sabres (21-23-4)

This is how the Sabres lined up in their last game:

Sabres vs. Kings: Projected Lines, Betting Odds, How to Watch & More

Where to Watch

Puck drop between the San Jose Sharks and Buffalo Sabres is 1 PM PT at SAP Center. Watch it live on NBC Sports California. Listen to it on the Sharks Audio Network.

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