Nick Nollenberger

Jan 24, 2023

Hello, Cuda Country! Hope everyone is having a great week. Talk about a debut. After being acquired from the Red Wings for Jasper Weatherby on Wednesday, veteran forward Kyle Criscuolo scored twice in the team’s 6-0 win against the San Diego Gulls on Friday night and finished the game with a +3 rating. His first-period tally was the game-winner and jolted the entire team offensively. His linemates C.J. Suess and Max Veronneau also seemed to come alive, each finishing with a pair of assists, while the trio generated multiple high-danger chances throughout the game. Prior to Friday, Suess and Veronneau had combined for just four goals and 16 points (4+12=16) through 55 games. Friday was the best game I had seen either of them play all year long. Suess, in particular, was flying around the ice.

Was Friday’s offensive onslaught an anomaly or a sign of things to come? One could say, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves as the Gulls are one of the worst defensive teams in the league (31st), but in my opinion that’s a moot point. I say that because this team needs to find it within themselves to become a better offensive team and not worry so much about who their facing. They have the firepower to score on anyone. John McCarthy has said it several times; if they play with structure and to their strengths, the other things will come. Like goals and good defense. That was tangible in Friday’s win.

Prior to Friday the Barracuda had not scored four goals in a game since late November and had scored six goals in a game just one time prior (Nov. 20 at Tucson, 6-0 W). After a sluggish start on the power play to begin the year, the Barracuda have been just fine in that area over the last couple of months, thanks to players like Thomas Bordeleau, William Eklund, Tristen Robins and Danil Gushchin. It’s been the lack of five-on-five scoring that has been the team’s biggest detriment. If my math is correct, the team is -22 in five-on-five scoring.  That’s what made Friday so rewarding. All six goals came during full strength.

The Barracuda will embark on a three-game road trip beginning on Wednesday in Henderson against the Silver Knights. The roadie will feature a pair of games against the Knights (Wed/Fri) and one against Bakersfield (Sat). Both the Silver Knights and Condors are looking up at the Barracuda for the final playoff spot in the division, so a good road trip could give SJ a little bit of breathing room.

It certainly won’t be an easy road trip. Henderson and Bakersfield have been arguably the hardest destinations for the Barracuda over the last couple of seasons. Since the Silver Knights joined the Pacific, San Jose is 1-11-0-0 on the road versus the Knights (regular season/playoffs), earning its first win ever on Nov. 25. Prior to its 2-1 win at Bakersfield on Nov. 26, the Cuda had dropped 10 in a row at Mechanics Bank Arena (0-7-2-1).

We close out this edition of Nolly’s Notes by talking about Nikolai Knyzhov who was assigned to the Barracuda on Monday to start his long-term injury conditioning loan. The 24-year-old defenseman, who began his promising tenure with the Sharks during the Covid season in 2020-21, has not played in over 20 months as he’s dealt with various injuries. Knyzhov tore his Achilles while working out in August as he was returning from sports hernia surgery and other adductor muscle injuries. This is a just a guess, but I’d be surprised if he were to get in a game with the Barracuda during this upcoming road trip but his return is immenent. I’m clearly not a doctor, but Achilles injuries can be tough to navigate, just ask Max Pacioretty who re-injured his Achilles just weeks after returning to the NHL earlier this month. Given his recent injury woes, slow and steady is probably the best form of action, although I know he's raring to get back on the ice in an actual game. The blueliner has not played in the AHL since the 2019-20 season, where he appeared in 33 games before the AHL year was canceled due to Covid.

Although he’s dealt with multiple injuries, and he was brought in by the prior regime, there’s no doubt the organization wants to see if he can stay healthy enough to be part of the future. He’s still young and has shown flashes that he can be a good NHL defenseman. He’s a great skater, with really good size. Two things that are hard to teach.

It’s been a long and arduous road since he broke in with the Sharks a couple of years ago, but hopefully that's all behind him. For a depleted Barracuda blueline, he presense will certainly be welcomed.

That will do it for weeks edition of Nolly’s Notes. Thanks for reading and so long until next time.

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