Don’t press the panic button yet. We are only 18 games into an 82-game season that’s sure to feature more of the same high scoring, fast-paced action that NHL fans have become accustomed to this season.
Although the Sharks are on a current four-game losing streak, there’s hope in the fact that the puck hasn’t exactly been bouncing in their favor over the course of the season. Sharks fans have heard the all too familiar “ping” of the crossbar numerous times this season, insinuating that they’re just a hair off where they want to be.
“I think the last couple of games we haven’t played real good,” said rookie forward Milan Michalek. “We need to start doing everything we’re supposed to do. I think the wins will come and we’ll turn this thing around.”
Sure, the Sharks have dropped the last four games. But thankfully, the outstanding play of Nolan Schaefer, in place of the injured Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala, rejuvenated a Sharks team that lost four consecutive games before the rookie carried the team to a five-game win streak from Oct. 26 – Nov. 4.
“We’re going to have bumps in the road,” said Nabokov. “But it’s how you handle those bumps. If you win great, but if not, it’s not the end of the world. That’s how you have to look at it. We have great talent and great guys, but so do the other teams. If we’re going to get outworked, we’ll lose every game, but if we manage our work ethic, we’ll be all right.” Currently, San Jose sits seven points out of first place behind the Pacific Division leading Los Angeles Kings. They will have a chance to climb the standings Saturday night when they play host to Wayne Gretzky’s Phoenix Coyotes.
“At some point, your players have to execute,” said a frustrated Ron Wilson. “We’re making major blunders at the wrong time and the result is a goal against. That’s what happens in a slump. You start expecting bad things to happen instead of good things.”
The biggest down fall of the Sharks thus far has been their special teams play. Their power play ranks third worst in the League (12.4 percent).
“The special teams have been frustrating,” said Wilson. “We’ve spent 35 minutes working on the power play the last few practices. Some guys are tightening up. They want to make a different play and they’re putting pressure on themselves instead of relaxing.
San Jose is a lowly 5-for-50 on the power play at home.
“Our power play has been much more successful on the road where we have kept things simple,” added Wilson. “At home, we try to do too much. We need to get the puck to the point and crash the net. We don’t seem to want to do that at home. With the home crowd, they get antsy. The crowd yells for them to shoot, so they shoot.”
So where do all the winning-losing-winning-losing streaks leave the Sharks 18 games into the season? At .500, 8-8-2. With 64 games left to play, including 28 against Pacific Division teams, the Sharks have plenty of time to regain the form they had the last time they took the ice in 2003-04.
“If we have a good week, we can be right back near first place,” said Wilson.
PARKER CLOSER TO RETURN Right wing Scott Parker is getting closer to returning to the lineup after taking a puck to the head late in training camp. The big enforcer will surely spark the young Sharks team, as he’s been a vocal leader since coming to San Jose.
“He’s very important in the locker room with his leadership,” said Wilson. “We’re missing a bit of that. Parker keeps the other team a little honest and lets your team play with more confidence.”
SECOND HARVEST HOLIDAY FOOD DRIVE The Second Harvest Holiday Food Drive took place during the last two Sharks home games and was a huge success. In total, the drive raised more than $2,300 and collected nearly 20 barrels of food. Just the money alone is enough to serve 4,758 meals this holiday season. Thank you Sharks fans for contributing your canned food and monetary donations.
NEXT GAME The Sharks will look to get back in the win column when they play host to the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday at HP Pavilion at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the HP Pavilion box office and all Ticketmaster locations. The game will be aired on FSN Bay Area, the Sharks Radio Network and sjsharks.com.