Tuesday’s practice brought a lot of news from the San Jose Sharks, none of which was positive. Defenseman Matt Benning has been placed on IR with an undisclosed injury, per Sheng Peng of San Jose Hockey Now, who also added that team captain Logan Couture has sustained a setback in his recovery from a lower-body injury and will stop skating for the next while. He also confirmed that forward Alexander Barabanov, who sustained a broken finger a few days back, will not have surgery and will miss four to six weeks.
Benning played 16:45 in Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the Capitals, recording a -1 rating, one shot on goal, and two blocked shots. The 29-year-old, who’s in the second season of a four-year, $5MM deal, has just one assist in eight games on the season and has struggled defensively even relative to his teammates, posting a career-low Corsi share of just 35.2% at even strength.
No corresponding recall will be necessary, as the Sharks were already carrying three extra defensemen on the active roster. 22-year-old Nikita Okhotyuk, who was recalled from a conditioning loan to AHL San Jose earlier today, could make his Sharks debut in place of Benning when they host the Canucks on Thursday.
It’s been an extremely trying start for the Sharks, who have managed to slide below already ground-level expectations. The team has scored just nine goals through nine games and is the only winless team remaining in the league with a 0-8-1 record. Couture’s season-long absence is a major factor in their poor performance, as the Sharks’ wingers have failed to produce much of any offense unless stapled to center Tomas Hertl on the first line. Before exiting the lineup with injury, Barabanov had been held off the scoresheet through six games and was a non-factor.
Perhaps what’s most concerning is that the development of their forward group, including youngsters like William Eklund and Thomas Bordeleau, was supposed to be the team’s lone goal for 2023-24. Instead, it’s a miracle they haven’t put up worse results – Mackenzie Blackwood and Kaapo Kähkönen have been surprisingly solid in the crease, both posting .907 save percentages while splitting duties. In doing so, they’ve kept the Sharks from having a worse goal differential than their already abysmal -26.