SAN JOSE — Rudolfs Balcers walked into SAP Center on Friday afternoon — like he has so many times before — and made his way to the hallway that houses the dressing rooms for both visiting NHL teams and the San Jose Barracuda, the Sharks’ AHL affiliate.
If he was still a member of the Sharks’ organization, Balcers may have been walking the few extra steps it takes to get to the Barracuda’s room for its game that night. Instead, he’s getting his chance to play at the NHL level with the rebuilding Ottawa Senators, who are excited — and a bit surprised — by what they’ve seen so far from the 21-year-old winger.
Balcers will join Chris Tierney, Mikkel Boedker and Dylan DeMelo as the ex-Sharks returning to play at SAP Center on Saturday.
“It’s weird,” Balcers said, “but at the same time, it’s nice to be back.”
Tierney, DeMelo and Balcers were all part of the Sept. 14 blockbuster trade that saw Erik Karlsson and minor league forward Francis Perron come to San Jose.
Senators general manager Pierre Dorian was roasted in some Ottawa circles for the trade, as many felt the return was inadequate given Karlsson’s superstar status.
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Still, Tierney enters Saturday fifth on the team with 29 points and DeMelo has been a solid addition to Ottawa’s blue line. He averages 18:39 of ice time per game and his +12 rating is the highest among all Senators defensemen.
Just as key to the deal were the prospects and draft picks the Senators were getting in return.
Centerman Josh Norris, the Sharks 2017 first round pick, was outstanding for Team USA at the IIHF World Junior Championships in late December and early January. And in four games with the Senators since his recall with from the AHL on Jan. 4, Balcers, a fifth round pick by San Jose in 2015, has a goal and an assist.
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Ottawa coach Guy Boucher said Balcers may have been a little overwhelmed when he played his first road game Wednesday when the Senators played the physical Anaheim Ducks. That wasn’t the case the following night against Los Angeles, where Balcers had an assist and played a season-high 11:29 in a 3-1 Ottawa win.
“It was his first game on the road. Big team and I think he was a little surprised by it,” Boucher said. “And right away the next day against a similar type of team, same size, he was very involved. Whatever he hadn’t done as good the previous night, he did really well the next night.
So that tells you he can adapt. Players who are meant to play in the NHL are the ones who adapt fast.”
“Every game, I feel a little more comfortable out there,” Baclers said. “But at the same time, I just try to make the simple plays and play as hard as I can.”
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Source:: The Mercury News – Sports