SAN JOSE -– One distinct advantage the Sharks have with their top minor league affiliate occupying the same practice facility and arena is that it’s pretty simple for them to shuffle guys back and forth. There are no more 2500-mile flights to Worcester just to switch jerseys.
The club has taken advantage of that recently, sending goalie Alex Stalock and Matt Tennyson down on conditioning stints. Stalock started -– and won –- two games for the Barracuda earlier this week, stopping 53 of 57 shots for a 1.96 goals-against average and .930 save percentage.
While it has yet to be determined at the NHL level if that will help his game after he’s struggled to find any consistency for the past season-and-a-half, it’s got to be a confidence boost at the very least.
“It was good to go down and get games,” said Stalock, who is 2-5-0 with a 2.98 goals-against average and .893 save percentage in 10 games with the Sharks.
“Did I get a whole heck of a lot better in two games? I don’t know. But it’s not about going down and getting better. It’s getting a feel, playing 60 minutes start to finish, and playing three good periods. … Got some chances to see difference scenarios. It was good.”
Playing for Barracuda coach Roy Sommer was old hat for Stalock, who spent parts of four seasons in Worcester from 2009-13. It was easy to go down there and compete for a few games on a team that has been playing well lately.
“Playing with Roy is awesome,” Stalock said. “He lets you go out and play, and play hard. Come and have fun, and you’re going to play. That’s why he’s had success. Anybody else that’s played for him loves it and speaks highly of him.”
The likeliest return to the net for Stalock would be next week, when the Sharks face back-to-back road games in Calgary on Monday and Winnipeg on Tuesday. The guess here is Stalock gets the Jets, as the matchup with the Flames is a little more important due to the Pacific Division race.
The Sharks have seven back-to-backs left on the their schedule, including two before the All-Star break. The way Pete DeBoer has handled his goaltenders so far, that probably means at least seven more starts for Stalock, as long as he sticks around.
“We’ve got a bunch of back to backs, [and] we’ve got a heavy schedule in February and March,” DeBoer said this week. “Those are going to be key points that we’re going to need, and he’s going to have to be good.”
There also exists the possibility that, should Stalock get hot, he could push Martin Jones, who played well on Thursday against Detroit but who has declined somewhat rapidly since Thanksgiving. Jones is 5-8-2 in his last 15 starts, allowing four-plus goals on six different occasions.
“I think for sure it will push Jonesy to be better if Al is there and playing well,” DeBoer said.
The bottom line is the Sharks need both of their goalies to be better if they’re ever going to get any sort of winning streak going in the second half of the season. San Jose’s .910 save percentage at even strength sits 29th in the NHL.
That’s not good enough.
DeBoer said: “I think our five-on-five goaltending has to be better, along with some other things.”
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Barracuda forward Barclay Goodrow will participate in the AHL All-Star Classic in Syracuse, N.Y. on Jan. 31 – Feb. 1. The 22-year-old leads the Barracuda with 13 goals and is second in points (19) in 22 games.