Programming note: Sharks-Canucks coverage gets underway today at 6:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live only Comcast SportsNet California.
VANCOUVER – How things have changed for San Jose’s offense since the last time the Sharks met the Vancouver Canucks.
In their fifth game of the season on Jan. 27 at HP Pavilion, the Sharks skated to a 4-1 win over the Canucks, their fifth straight multiple-goal victory to start the season. Through those first five, San Jose outscored the opposition by an impressive 23-8 margin.
Since that time, the Sharks have yet to score four goals in a game. In fact, they’ve only reached three goals in regulation once, in a 5-3 loss to Chicago on Feb. 5. The Sharks’ 44 goals are dead last in the NHL, thanks primarily to just 21 in their previous 15 games since that win over Vancouver.
Where has the offense gone?
“It’s somewhere in that locker room. If we had the ability to do it early and start the way we did, it’s there. It’s got to come out now,” said Todd McLellan, whose club collected five of a possible six points in its recent homestand. “Things change over time, teams get their systems in play and guys get their legs going again. There is going to be some catch-up that’s done. But, it’s still in the locker room.”
Joe Thornton, who has seven points in the last six games, said: “We’ve still got a good offense in here, but the West in general plays real good defense and real tight defense. Goals are at a premium right now. We feel comfortable in low scoring games, and that’s all that matters to us.”
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The Sharks looked more dangerous in a 2-1 win over Nashville on Saturday, scoring twice on the power play but still failing to get on the board even-strength. The Sharks’ coaching staff and general manager Doug Wilson both expressed a desire to get more shots and traffic to the net, and that’s just what San Jose did, recording 39 shots on goaltender Pekka Rinne. It was their third-highest shot total of the season.
Patrick Marleau said: “Throwing pucks from bad areas, getting pucks from the point -– that’s something we’re going to try and focus on and keep doing. I think the goals will come if we keep doing that.”
Marleau’s line led the way, combining for 14 of the Sharks’ 39 shots. Joe Pavelski and Tim Kennedy were the wingers, with Marleau starting a game at center for the first time this season.
Kennedy and Marleau each had a game-high five shots on goal.
Kennedy said: "We just got put together for the game and I thought we had a lot of chemistry for just one game together. I thought we had a lot of chances.”
There will be a new player in the lineup for the Sharks, as forward Bracken Kearns was recalled from Worcester on Sunday. Kearns will skate next to Thornton and Logan Couture, a spot vacated by an injured Marty Havlat, who is out at least the next two games with a lower body injury.
Kearns, whose father played 10 years as a defenseman for the Canucks from 1971-81, is excited for another chance after making headlines as a 30-year-old rookie (now 31) for the Florida Panthers last season, getting into five games and recording 10 penalty minutes. He has 30 points (13g, 17a) in 50 games with San Jose’s AHL affiliate this season.
“I showed up yesterday at practice and that was the line I was on. It means a lot to be able to play with those guys, and you can already tell they make the game a lot easier for you,” Kearns said. “They know why I’m here, and I’ve got to go out and execute.”
Kearns, who singed a one-year contract with the Sharks last summer, spent the week at training camp in January before he was reassigned to Worcester.
Thornton said: “I thought he was going to make the team out of training camp, to be honest with you. I’m excited to play with him. He’s a rugged player, and I think he’ll fit me and Logan’s game quite well.”
At 6-0, 205-pounds, Kearns’ job on that line will be fairly elementary, and is exactly what the Sharks' coaches have been preaching to their other forwards of late.
McLellan said: “He’s a strong player. He bulls his way to the net; he gets in and around the blue paint. Most of his goals have come within six feet of the net. Playing with Jumbo and Cooch tonight, that will be his job and his role, and he seems ready to accept it.”
As for the rest of the offense?
“We still need some people to step up to the plate,” McLellan said. “Get up there and swing the bat, and swing it hard and see what happens. You can’t play careful and win. You have to get up there and do it. That’s what we’re looking for.”
Wingels skates, Braun sits?
Tommy Wingels took part in the morning skate, but is still on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury after crashing face-first into the boards in Dallas on Feb. 23. Brent Burns also made the trip, but was not on the ice.
On defense, it looks like Jason Demers will return to the lineup after missing the last two games as a healthy scratch. He'll be paired with Douglas Murray, while Justin Braun comes out of the lineup. TJ Galiardi looks to be the other healthy scratch.