Programming note: Sharks-Stars coverage stars at 5 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
DALLAS -- Often, an NHL coach changes up his team’s forward lines in search of more offense.
For Todd McLellan and the Sharks, though, the bigger issue has been defense. The Sharks have surrendered four or more goals in eight of their last 12 games, including 10 goals in the last two games in losses to Tampa Bay and Nashville.
Their team goals-against average in the 2015 calendar year stands at an atrocious 3.52.
“It’s not like we’re cutting it from [three goals-against] to two, we’re looking at cutting it from four and five down to two,” McLellan said. “That’s a significant leap when you look at the numbers themselves.”
Against the Stars, indications are Logan Couture will center Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels on the (top?) line, while Joe Thornton skates between Patrick Marleau and Melker Karlsson on another line. Tyler Kennedy will get bumped up to a third line role with center James Sheppard and Matt Nieto, while rookie Chris Tierney will be between Tomas Hertl and Andrew Desjardins on the fourth line.
Can those new combinations help the team defensively?
“We’re hoping that,” McLellan said. “We also look at how we think [the Stars will] match up.
“We only scored one the other day, as well. We need some offense out of it. We’ve won two of our last nine games with the same group, so it’s time to shake things up. We’ll see if that gives us an opportunity to be productive. If not, we can always go back.”
When a team is giving up as many goals as the Sharks are lately, it’s impossible to point to one single aspect of their game that needs improvement. Soft net play was one area that was mentioned weeks ago, and that remains, but poor line changes, and an unwillingness to commit to physical play and blocking shots has also been evident.
It all needs to get better.
“Sometimes you have to give up a little bit too, to be good defensively,” McLellan said. “You have to give up a few seconds on a shift. You have to give up a little bit of offense. You have to give up and sacrifice being in a lane when you know it’s going to sting a little bit. We’ve got to get back to that.”
Joe Paveslki said: “It just comes down to individual guys and making the right read at the right time. It’s somebody different every night. It’s got to be a collective effort.”
The Stars trail the Sharks in the standings but have them in their sights, as Dallas is behind San Jose by four points with two games in hand. The Stars have won four of five, while the Sharks are just 1-4-1 in their last six.
[RELATED: NHL standings]
Antti Niemi, who will start in net, was asked if there is a sense of tightness in the visitor's dressing room.
“It’s different always when you’re not winning,” he said. “It’s different than if we were winning all the time.”
McLellan and the Sharks coaching staff have had to alter their overall tone lately as the losses have mounted.
“We’ve gone from ranting and raving to a little more constructive guidance,” he said. “It’s up to them to drive themselves right now.”