There was a time near the start of Kevin Labanc’s professional career when a place in the Shark line-up was far from a guarantee. He played 55 games in his 2016/17 rookie season, but also spent time with the Barracuda and maybe even a short stay in the dog house of then coach Pete DeBoer.
Four years later, Labanc is not only one of the leaders of his draft class in terms of games played, but his Ironman streak is now the third longest of the Sharks.
Labanc will play in his 300th career NHL game on Saturday and his 227th straight when the Sharks play the St. Louis Blues at the Enterprise Center. Labanc, selected by the Sharks in the sixth round in 2014, a total of 171st, is the 13th player in his draft class to reach the milestone of 300 games and the only one selected after the fourth round .
On the Sharks list, only Patrick Marleau (869) and Brent Brent (556) played more consecutive games on Saturday.
“Being in the NHL for so long is something you only dream of as a child. It’s something you’ve worked on all your life so it’s a huge milestone, ”said Labanc. “At the moment I’m more focused on the game and how I can help the team win.”
Of the 12 players who were drafted in 2014 and have already passed 300 games, 10 were played in the first round in 2014, one in the third round (Brayden Point) and one in the fourth round (Viktor Arvidsson).
Labanc led the Ontario Hockey League with 127 points in the 2015-16 season and scored seven goals in his first 24 NHL games in his rookie NHL season. However, in the second half of the year, Labanc had a 28-game drought that may have hurt his confidence at the time. His struggles bled the following year when he spent two games in the AHL in November 2017.
However, Labanc said he never lost confidence in himself that he could be a longtime professional in the NHL and has played in every Sharks game since November 12, 2017.
He’s also on the first season of a four-year $ 18.9 million contract.
“I thought I could play from the start. I’ve always had such confidence and always felt good about myself, ”said Labanc. “You have some great leaders that you’ve played with, and you’re learning to incorporate some of the things you learned from their game into your own. Just being a pro on and off the ice.
“How to extend your career by investing time and work on and off the ice, taking care of your body and eating right. When you play with (Joe Thornton), Patty, (Logan Couture) and Tomas (Hertl), there are so many great leaders on the team who really set the standards and set the standard for how you should take care of yourself. ”
BACK ON THE NET: Devan Dubnyk will start his first performance since February 6th on Saturday. Martin Jones started the last five games for the Sharks 2: 2: 1 during this time.
Dubnyk played well before missing the time due to a lower body injury. In three starts since Sharks lost 5-4 to the Blues on January 18, Dubnyk had savings of 0.934 percent and 2.22 goals against the average. However, his record was 0-2-1 during that period as the Sharks only scored three goals in those three games.
“Are we a team that scores five or six goals a night like some of those teams out there? Maybe not, ”said Sharks trainer Bob Boughner. “We have to be ready to win a 3-2 game or a 2-1 game. But when we say that we obviously love taking some pressure off our goalkeepers and defenses and scoring a few points.
“It’s coming and there are improvements in both our offensive and defensive parts of our game. But it’s the committee’s goal and hopefully it gets our power play rolling. ”
INJURY UPDATE: Boughner said defenseman Radim Simek (upper body) skated in St. Louis but it was too early to say if he can play on Monday when the Sharks return home to play the Minnesota Wild. Boughner said Erik Karlsson, also in an injured reserve with a groin problem, had largely rehabilitated himself from the ice since Wednesday.
Boughner said Karlsson could be on the ice Monday morning “if everything went well by then”.
The absence of Karlsson and Simek has opened the door to Nicolas Meloche and Fredrik Claesson, who will begin their third game together as defenders on Saturday. In Thursday’s game with the Blues, Claesson had 12:35 Ice Age and Meloche 10:58. In just under 19 minutes together in the last two games, Claesson and Meloche have a Corsi percentage of 66.7 per naturalstattrick.com with the same strength.
“I think they did a great job,” said Couture on Friday of the new couple. “It’s obviously not an easy situation if you haven’t played preseason games or anything like that. It’s not easy to get into a line-up with 14 or 15 games. ”