SAN JOSE – Sure, it’s just been two games. But for the first time since the end of January, the Sharks’ offense looks dangerous again. They poured 41 shots on goal on Tuesday in St. Louis in a 4-2 loss in which they probably deserved a better fate, and managed to get four pucks past the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday at home in a vitally important 4-3 regulation win over the Stanley Cup champions.
Have they turned a corner?
“It’s too early to say. It’s been two games. But, definitely I like what I’ve seen the last couple games,” Dan Boyle said. “You’ve got to get chances, you’re not going to score every night. If you don’t get chances, there’s a problem, but the last two games we’ve been getting our chances, which, hopefully, is a good sign.”
Patrick Marleau said: “We have to realize what it’s taken to be successful, and how much we have to do to get those goals. You can’t get away from it at all, and even when it doesn’t go for you for a little bit of time, you have to stick with it.”
That will be the challenge. The Sharks have not put forth a consistent effort enough over the past six weeks since racing out to a 7-0-0 start, winning on Thursday for just the third time in regulation in 21 games.
There are encouraging signs of a return to that early season form, though. Two, specifically – Brent Burns’ sudden emergence as a power forward, and the reappearance of a power play that more often drained energy from the team than gave it.
Head coach Todd McLellan talked about them both on Friday morning after a 45-minute practice at Sharks Ice.
Regarding Burns, McLellan said: “He’s given us a boost, and last time I checked it’s only been six periods. He has produced, and that’s been a real good thing. There’s been some energy injected into those forwards right now and he’s a big part of it, but the true test will come over the next four or five games. We know what we’re up against and the type of teams we’ll be playing, and we’ll see if he can continue that.”
The Sharks’ power play was 2-for-3 against the Kings, and is 6-for-24 (25.0 percent) over the past seven games.
“If we reflect back to the game last night, if we don’t score those two goals, we end up at two again. So, the power play plays a huge role in the outcome of games. Lately, it’s been getting hot again and we’ve been scoring goals, so that makes a huge difference,” McLellan said.
The competition will only get tougher. The Kings will likely be angry with their loss to the Sharks on Thursday, which came on top of an ugly defeat in Phoenix earlier in the week. The home-and-home will conclude at the Staples Center on Saturday night.
After that, the Sharks (12-8-6) will play the 20-3-3 Anaheim Ducks in three of the next five games, and then face the Detroit Red Wings at home on March 28. In between are road stops in Edmonton and Minnesota.
Could facing rival teams like Los Angeles and Anaheim help sharpen the Sharks’ game? Maybe, considering Thursday’s win.
“It might be easier for guys to get up for those types of games. You know it’s going to be a battle and you know they’re huge points,” Marleau said. “Maybe it makes some guys sharper, and hopefully that will carry on to the other teams we play, as well. To be able to get ourselves into a groove would be the main thing.”
Boyle would rather the opponent not make a difference.
“I hope that’s not the reason, because every game is so important, especially in a shortened schedule,” he said. “I hope that’s not the reason.”
Havlat going on road trip
Injured Sharks forward Marty Havlat skated for about an hour on Friday, and boarded Air Shark for its flight south on Friday. Whether or not he’ll return to the lineup against the Kings is unclear.
“It’s getting there. I’m getting better and stronger. We’ll see how it is tomorrow,” Havlat said. “It felt pretty good today.”
Even if he’s healthy, though, is there a place for Havlat in the lineup? The forward has been maddeningly inconsistent this season with just three goals and three assists in 20 games, often playing on the perimeter and not going to those areas of the ice that the Sharks’ coaching staff has been stressing lately.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Sharks coaching staff won’t want to tinker with its forward lines, even if Havlat, who has just one assist in his last 12 games, is available.
McLellan was asked if it would be a challenge to find a spot of Havlat, and his answer seems to suggest that Havlat must play the game differently than he’s done so far this season.
“He is a veteran of many years in the league that has a tremendous amount of skill. [If] he brings that skill set to the game and combines it with the way the game is played today, who wouldn’t want him? Who wouldn’t want him involved? You’d find a spot for him, for sure,” McLellan said. “When that happens, we’ll be so excited about having him back, and contributing.”