Evander Kane plays first AHL game as Barracuda lose to Abbotsford

SAN JOSE — Evander Kane began his long road back to the NHL on Saturday afternoon.

Kane, playing the first American Hockey League game of his professional career, had four shots on goal in the first two periods for the Barracuda, the Sharks’ AHL affiliate, in its 5-1 loss to the Abbotsford Canucks in front of an announced crowd of 2,257 at SAP Center.

Just two weeks after he was placed on waivers by the Sharks, Kane, 30, played on a line with fellow winger Joachim Blichfeld and center Joel Kellman. Kane finished with five shots as the Barracuda lost for the seventh time in the last eight games.

Kane had only taken part in three practices with the Barracuda since he officially joined the team on Nov. 30. Kane did not participate in Sharks’ training camp earlier this fall and was suspended for 21 games by the NHL in October for violating the league’s COVID-19 protocol.

Kane did practice Friday, though, and felt good enough to dress Saturday for his first pro game in six months. Kane’s last game came May 12 in the 2020-2021 regular season final for the Sharks, who lost that night to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Kane’s speed was still on display and he seemed to become a bit more comfortable as the game went on.

“The guy is a freak,” Barracuda coach Roy Sommer said Friday. “We had him practice — the first one I think he had here — and he wasn’t even tired. Six months out (from his last game), he was handling the puck and making plays. So the ability is there, that’s for sure.”

More than a half-dozen scouts from NHL teams were credentialed for the game, the first of two on back-to-back days for the Barracuda against the Canucks. The two teams play again Sunday in San Jose at  3 p.m.

For Kane, there was no mistaking the differences between the AHL and the NHL, where he had spent the first 12 seasons of his professional career.

Besides the relative youth of both teams, there was a teddy bear toss, which was activated after rookie Adam Raska, a Sharks’ 2020 seventh-round draft pick, scored his first career AHL goal.

The sparse crowd allowed individual fans, if they yelled loud enough, to be heard clearly throughout the arena. Most fans at the game cheered Kane, while a couple of others got on his case a few times.

Saturday’s game began six hours before the Sharks’ game with Joe Pavelski and the Dallas Stars.

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