Sharks aim to break out of offensive slump vs. Wild

December 12, 2013, 1:00 pm
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SAN JOSE – Dan Boyle is in his sixth season playing defense for the Sharks, and Thursday’s conversation with the local media seemed to give him a sense of déjà vu.

The Sharks have lost their last four games, having scored just seven goals over that span, and arguably deserve more than the one point in the standings they’ve earned. Boyle analyzed the recent downturn.

“We’ve had our chances, we just have not been very opportunistic,” Boyle said. “Every team goes through it. We’ve gone through it every year. At some point throughout the season, we have this conversation.”

On Thursday, that conversation was centered around the Minnesota Wild, who will make their first of two visits this season to SAP Center and who just beat the Sharks, 3-1, on Sunday in St. Paul.

In that game, the Sharks power play took an 0-for-4, and looked horrible in the process. That was the single biggest reason the Wild came away with the regulation win, as San Jose had the better zone time and ended with a 38-13 advantage in shots on goal.

It was more of the same on Tuesday against the Islanders. The Sharks were dominant for long stretches of play, especially in the first period, but didn’t generate enough on the scoreboard to put away a team that had lost its previous 10 games. The Islanders captured the extra point in the shootout, winning 3-2, after scoring two third period goals.

What has to change for the Sharks?

“Maybe a little bit more traffic in front of their goalie, so he can’t see the pucks as well, and bearing down on those second and third chances,” Patrick Marleau said. “That will probably be a huge key. We still need to get that high volume of shots, maybe a little bit more traffic.”

McLellan expanded on Marleau’s notion.

“It has to be productive and you have to be able to react to rebounds, as well. We need to be in [the goaltender’s] eyes, but we need to find that garbage in and around the net,” the coach said. “We’ve done that the last couple games, we just haven’t found opportunities to get it over a pad, or settle a bouncing puck down and put it in. It will come.”

The Sharks will also hope to build on what was a more effective power play against the Islanders. Marleau’s goal in the second period against New York ended a 3-for-41 stretch, including the aforementioned 0-for-4 against Minnesota on Sunday.

“A lot of it is on us. They didn’t reinvent the wheel as far as penalty kill goes,” Boyle said of the Wild. “What they did, they did well, but it was definitely about us and not executing.”

Thursday’s game will conclude a brief homestand for the Sharks before they get right back out on the road. A difficult road trip begins with Nashville on Saturday, and continues on to rivals St. Louis and Los Angeles next week.

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The Wild will go with Niklas Backstrom in net, as Josh Harding played in a 2-1 loss to Anaheim on Wednesday night. Harding had 37 saves in the Wild’s win over the Sharks on Sunday.

Antti Niemi will start for San Jose.