SAN JOSE Time is getting short for the San Jose Sharks.
The team has just 18 games left in the regular season, and is precariously close to dropping out of the top eight in the Western Conference. Rest will be at a premium, too, with 15 games over the next 26 days to close out the month of March.
Thats what makes days like Monday so invaluable to the club, as it desperately tries to end its funk of eight losses in the last 10 games (2-6-1), and 10 losses out of 15 (5-9-1). The Sharks conclude a four-game home-stand on Tuesday against Edmonton.
This is the first practice weve had in a long time, said Todd McLellan, who plans to return to the bench on Tuesday from his concussion, provided he was feeling better later Monday evening.
Today, we spent an hour and 20 minutes on the ice we havent done that in a long time reviewing a lot of different areas. Resetting things for the guys that have been here in the past, and trying to clarify for the new players.
It was nice, just to review a bunch of things, Joe Thornton said. Weve got some new guys in the lineup, just to review stuff for them. Its good for us guys that have been here for a little bit to go over things, too. An important day today.
McLellan mentioned the length of the session at Sharks Ice, but it wasnt 80 minutes of skating and battling. Quite the contrary, as the head coach slowly walked through his systems and pointed out where every player needs to be on the ice in every situation.
That includes the penalty kill. Newcomers Dominic Moore and Daniel Winnik were brought in specifically to help in that aspect, therefore lessening the burden for players like Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau, who could instead use that time on the bench resting up for an even-strength shift rather than expunging valuable energy trying to kill off a penalty.
For Moore, acquired on Feb. 16 from Tampa Bay, it was his first practice at Sharks Ice. Ditto for Winnik and TJ Galiardi, brought in via trade a week ago.
Every teams got their own systems. A lot of things are similar and theres obviously some differences. Going through the paces like that helps, Moore said. Especially like something like the penalty kill. Everyone has to read and react together. Everyone has to be on that same page.
Winnik, who skated about three minutes a game shorthanded with the Avalanche, was asked how difficult it is trying to learn another teams strategy so late in the season. At some point, hell be relied upon to improve the leagues 28th ranked PK unit.
Here we play a completely different style than how Colorado does. Colorado is pressure, pressure, pressure, where here its kind of sit back and make your reads and see what plays they make as opposed to dictating the plays they make, Winnik said. Its something Ill have to adjust to. Im used to just diving into guys, and here its not like that. It might just take a bit.
Of course, ending a losing streak is going to take more than buttoning up the systematic play and practicing. The Sharks have had trouble putting 60-minute efforts together all season long, but especially for the last six weeks.
Its the biggest reason the team finds itself on the precipice of missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2002-03 season.
Maybe guys are squeezing their sticks a little bit tighter, and the execution just might not be there, Thornton said. Youve got to rest your mind and rest your body and just try to grab confidence from experiences youve had in the past and just go out and do it.
Logan Couture said: Theres a lot of improvement from the way weve played the last month or so. We know everyone in the room can play better than the way theyve played.