Gulls Welcome Rival Barracuda to San DiegoDec 20, 2019
The Gulls hit the midway point of a three-game homestand and host the first of back-to-back matchups tonight before the AHL’s holiday break. The San Jose Barracuda visit Pechanga Arena San Diego tonight at 7 p.m. as the two clubs battle to climb the Pacific Division standings.
San Diego (10-11-1-1, 22 pts.) has earned points in eight of the last 10 home games (6-2-1-1) dating to Nov. 1. Coming off a 3-2 shootout loss to Grand Rapids Tuesday night on home ice, the Gulls roster has shifted with two former first-round selections joining the Anaheim Ducks in Isac Lundestrom and Max Jones. The Ducks have been hit with injuries again as Troy Terry suffered a broken leg and will be sidelined 10 weeks, while Derek Grant suffered an AC (acromioclavicular) joint injury and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.
The Gulls have had their own injuries, with forwards Kiefer Sherwood (lower-body) and Andrew Poturalski (wrist surgery) sidelined for nine and 17 games respectively. Sherwood, who was injured Nov. 16 while scoring an empty-net goal, skated as a full participant in yesterday’s practice and looks to be a game-time decision for San Diego.
“It feels good,” said Sherwood when asked about being back on the ice with his teammates following his first practice. “The boys are excited for these last two games. Hopefully we end the first half on a good note. I’m just trying to get my feet wet. Everything happens for a reason. It’s all about how you respond to the things that happen. I was just trying to get back as soon as I can and help the team win some games.”
Sherwood had posted six goals and seven assists in 14 games prior to the injury, including a four-game point streak from Nov. 11-16 (3G/2A, +6).
The Gulls have earned points in three straight games over the Barracuda while posting All time, the Gulls hold 25-15-3-1 record against the Barracuda, including 14-5-2-1 at home.
“They’re kind of built similar,” said Sherwood. “They work hard, they have some skilled played and I think a lot of them play the right way. We’ve seen them a lot and they’ve seen us a lot. Going forward, we’re going to need to start to win more than 50 percent against everyone so we can get ourselves into the playoff picture.”
Tonight’s game will feature a few notable milestones for two Gulls players. The game will mark Chase De Leo’s 300th AHL game, with the La Mirada, Calif. native beginning his career with the Manitoba Moose in 2015-16. After three seasons and 107 points (45G/62A) in Manitoba, De Leo joined the organization June 30, 2018 in a trade and has since appeared in 88 games with the Gulls, collecting 65 points (25G/40A) with a +22 rating. Alex Dostie will also reach a new mark as tonight’s contest marks his 100th in the AHL, all of which have been with the Gulls. The third-year center has tallied 12-11=23 points in his career with nine of those points coming this season in 21 games.
“They’re a good team every year. We faced them last year in the playoffs and every time we play them, it’s a good game,” said De Leo of San Jose following Thursday’s practice. “We expect their best and we have nothing to save for. We have a break coming up here and we’re looking to empty the tanks and put our best foot forward.”
The Gulls have outscored opponents 45-39 (excluding shootout goals) at home this season while also averaging 3.17 goals for per-game (73 goals in 23 games) to rank fifth in the Western Conference. The Gulls will look to build off a comeback performance on Tuesday night against a Barracuda defense allowing an AHL-worst 3.56 goals allowed per-game (89 goals in 25 games).
Center Alex Broadhurst has utilized his skillset well for San Diego, contributing at both ends of the ice and in all situations. Broadhurst has collected 11 points (4G/7A) this season with four of those points coming the last five games, including his third shorthanded goal Tuesday to tie a Gulls club record for single-season shorthanded goals.
Goaltender Anthony Stolarz has been a model of consistency for San Diego this season, posting a 9-7-2 record with a 2.91 goals against average (GAA) and a .913 save percentage (SV%) in 18 appearances this. In the most recent Gulls game, Dec. 17 vs. Grand Rapids, Stolarz faced 42 shots and made a season-high 40 saves (.952 SV%) in his first shootout loss of the season.
San Jose (9-14-0-2) sit at the bottom of the Western Conference through 24 games (.400%) following a 4-3 loss to Ontario Wednesday night at Toyota Arena. Over a span of nine games from Nov. 1-22, San Jose won just one game and earned three points (1-7-0-1). Since that stretch, the Barracuda have started to trend in the right direction, picking up points in five of nine games (4-4-0-1) and outscoring opponents 38-28 in that span. The Barracuda will enter tonight’s contest with a 3-6-0-2 record away from SAP Center, tied for the fewest road wins in the Western Conference.
San Diego will look to stop Maxim Letunov who continues to build on a strong second season with San Jose. Letunov co-leads the Barracuda in scoring (7-14=21) and power-play goals (4), while pacing the club in game-winning goals (2). The Moscow native totaled 3-12=15 points over his last 12 games played, failing to record a point in just one game over that span. Co-leading San Jose in points with Letunov is rookie winger Joachim Blichfeld (10-11=21) who has recorded two points in four consecutive games (3-5=8) with a +5 rating over that span. The Frederikshavn, Denmark native also leads the Barracuda in goals despite missing four games.
Thomas Gregoire has commanded the blue line for San Jose this season, leading all Barracuda defensemen in points (3-16=19) and pacing the club in assists. The young defenseman has already doubled his scoring production from last season in four fewer games. Goaltender Josef Korenar has held the job between the pipes, posting a 7-8-2 record with two shutouts through 17 games, but has been unable to string together more than two consecutive wins this season.