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Sharks look for answers after back-to-back defeats

Losses at Predators, Blackhawks on consecutive nights halt momentum following 5-1-0 spurt

by Tracey Myers @TraMyers_NHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski was going through a period-by-period analysis of his team's 3-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Friday. But just as he started to assess the third period, he stopped, sighed and skipped ahead to the frustrating conclusion.

"We've got to check out the game tape right now. It feels like we should've won that game," Pavelski said. "We're disappointed we didn't come away with the win."

It wasn't the best two days for the Sharks (33-21-8), who came to Chicago after a 7-1 loss at the Nashville Predators on Thursday. Just when it looked they were getting their game together, they took a step back. And though they're still second in the Pacific Division, the third-place Anaheim Ducks trail them by one point.

"At this time of year, what really matters is two points," defenseman Brent Burns said. "You bounce back after a tough night, we did some things well, but you don't win. So that's tough."

The Sharks had gone 5-1-0 in previous six games before Thursday, outscoring their opponents 22-13. They've been without forward Joe Thornton, who had knee surgery on Jan. 25, and he's missed in numerous areas. The Sharks miss his overall game. They miss him in the faceoff circle (52.0 percent). They miss his presence on the power play, which hasn't scored in eight straight games (although their lone power-play chance on Friday lasted all of 32 seconds). But they were finding ways to win without him at a critical time of the season.

Then came Thursday and Friday. Pavelski, San Jose's captain, said he and his teammates looked at the Nashville game tape and knew they had to play harder against the Blackhawks. But the finish wasn't there.

"We had the shots and looks," Pavelski said. "At times, we didn't get enough bodies at the net. That's something we're addressing a little bit here and there. But some of the chances we had, we had more than one goal out there."

Coach Pete DeBoer scoffed at the idea that the Sharks missed an opportunity against Blackhawks goaltender J-F Berube, who was making his first NHL start this season. Lack of traffic was a bigger issue.

"We didn't do enough to score, that's the bottom line," DeBoer said. "I think there was some shots and things; I didn't think we got enough traffic going. I didn't think we had enough speed on our attack. We probably deserved one goal."

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said Thursday he's hopeful that Thornton will return this season. Wilson cited 2017, when Thornton had knee surgery in April and was ready to go for training camp in September. But right now, it's just a hope.

The Sharks are 1-2-0 on a four-game road trip that concludes against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday (8 p.m. ET, FS-N, NBCS-CA, NHL.TV). The Wild have won three in a row and are 20-5-6 at Xcel Energy Center.

The Sharks were starting to gain momentum and pile up points during the past two weeks. Burns said they've been good at bouncing back after tough losses this season. They didn't do that on Friday, and they felt like they missed an opportunity.

"Probably best-case scenario, if you get blown out the night before, is to play again right away," Burns said. "It's just tough to lose that second one."

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