DALLAS – Despite technically still sitting in playoff position as the second wild card team in the Western Conference, the Sharks haven’t exactly been playing inspiring hockey lately. That includes a 5-2 win in Dallas on Thursday night in which the score doesn’t indicate how close the game really was.
Saturday’s highly anticipated outdoor game with the Los Angeles Kings offers the Sharks the opportunity to give their middling season – at least by their standards – a real shot of adrenaline. The experience will begin on Friday with an afternoon skate at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.
Everyone in the organization is looking forward to it.
“In my opinion, we’re into a completely separate event from the whole season,” Todd McLellan said on Thursday night, after the win in Dallas.
“Still counts as two points in the standings, but everybody’s excited about it. Family, friends, everybody’s coming into town. We’ll be practicing outside [Friday]. I don’t think our guys have probably looked forward to practice as much as they have that one in all my years here, so we should have some energy.”
Energy is something that the Sharks have lacked far too often lately, as they bring a 3-5-2 record in their last 10 into the showdown with the Kings, and a 10-9-3 mark since the calendar flipped to 2015.
Still, the schedule has been unforgiving. The Sharks haven’t had two days off since the All-Star break, playing at least every other day since Jan. 29, including a back-to-back in Calgary and Vancouver.
They’ll get four days off after the Stadium Series, and will play seven of the following eight at SAP Center. A win over the Kings in front of 70,000 fans would be a great way to go into that break.
“It’s going to be a fun experience for everybody no matter what,” said likely starter Antti Niemi. “Then, a couple days not playing. Now, we’ve played like every other day for a long time, so we can’t practice much. [If] we have something we’d like to work out we’ve got to do it just on the board. There hasn’t been time for us to do lots of tactics on the ice.”
After that stretch at home, the Sharks will conclude the season with 10 of 13 games on the road, including an East Coast swing. They’re likely to be in the thick of the playoff race right until the end, when they close out the regular season in Los Angeles on April 11.
“We've got to start learning to win and start getting on the winning track again,” Andrew Desjardins said.