Programming note: Coverage of Game 7 between the Kings and Sharks begins tonight at 6:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California (Channel locations)
SAN JOSE – While the Kings’ top players have been surging, the opposite can be said for the Sharks’ big guns, several of which have been missing in action lately as the team prepares for Game 7 on Wednesday night.
Forward Brent Burns is scoreless in the last three games, and has just one even-strength point in the series other than a Game 1 empty-net goal. Captain Joe Thornton has not found the scoresheet since Game 3, and after finishing second in the league in assists, has just one helper through three games with a -4 rating. His only even-strength point of the series was his goal to open Game 1.
Joe Pavelski, the league’s third-leading goal scorer, has two goals and six points in the series but has been unable to finish on some prime chances lately. He has just one combined shot on goal in the last two games. Patrick Marleau scored the overtime winner in Game 3, and after getting eight shots on goal in Game 4, he was as bad as anyone on the Sharks’ side in a team-wide lackluster Game 5 performance. Marleau was credited with a game-high four giveaways to go with five shots that missed the net in the 3-0 home loss.
Finally, Logan Couture, arguably the most consistent Sharks forward in terms off night-in night-out effort, has zero points in the last four games, getting shut down primarily by Selke finalist Anze Kopitar's line.
The players that are counted on to lead the Sharks will have to show up if the team is to advance to the second round.
“We all know that,” Couture said. “We all know we’re counted on to score goals, to produce, and if we do we help our team. If we don’t, we don’t help our team. A lot of us are proud players. We want to help our team as best as we can tonight. We’re going to do whatever we can to fight for our lives.”
Marleau said: “We’re a team. Everybody has got their role and everybody has got to play it.”
Todd McLellan pointed out on Tuesday that there has been a tipping of the scales from the beginning of the series when it comes to the top players on both sides.
“When I look at this series, our core, our high end players if you will, got the better of theirs in the first two to three games and it certainly has swung in their favor now,” McLellan said. “The series as a whole is created that way so we get an opportunity to settle it all here in Game 7. For us, we believe in that group, and if we want to have success it has to go through our core. They have to find ways to elevate their play and carry the team, and everybody else has to follow them.”
The power play is one area that could use some polish. In Game 6, a lengthy five-on-three chance in the second period was wasted. Minutes later, the Sharks failed to take advantage of Drew Doughty’s high-sticking minor.
San Jose scored one power play goal in each of the first four games, but is a combined 0-for-9 in the last two.
“We’ve had some good looks, we just haven’t put it in,” Thornton said. “It’s going to be there [Wednesday]. We have a confident group. We’re confident with the five guys we put out there that we can change the game and score some goals.”
McLellan agreed with the captain the power play hasn’t been an issue lately, and the deciding game will likely come down to five-on-five play.
“I think this series will be won five-on-five, I really do,” McLellan said. “I think the five-on-five play is of the utmost importance probably to both teams.”
If that’s the case, the Sharks’ top forwards are probably going to have to be the ones to get it done, and they will have to get the better of guys like Kopitar, Marian Gaborik, Jeff Carter and Justin Williams for the first time since early in the series.
“It’s always one of those things where you’ve got to perform, and we haven’t been up to par with that the last few games,” Pavelski said. “It’s on us.”
In line image of Logan Couture provided by The Associated Press