Programming note: Coverage of Blackhawks-Sharks begins Saturday night at 7:00 on Comcast SportsNet California with Sharks Pregame Live.
For two-and-a-half weeks, the Sharks handled Logan Couture’s absence admirably. Despite losing their second line (and at times top line) center with a hand injury, San Jose won seven of its first nine games without the 24-year-old rising star.
They could sure use him now.
San Jose has scored just one goal in its last three games, all regulation losses. On back-to-back nights on Wednesday and Thursday, the Sharks lost to the two worst teams in the Western Conference by a combined score of 7-1.
“It’s a big concern of ours right now,” head coach Todd McLellan said of his team’s offense.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Offensive woes continue, Sharks fall to Flames]
A case can be made the Sharks deserved better against Edmonton, as they fired 59 shots on goal, all of which were turned away by Ben Scrivens in his record-setting performance. In losses to the Kings and Flames, though, San Jose got the result it deserved.
The Sharks have 16 goals in their last eight games, including five goals in the last five games, and recently dropped under an average of three goals per game for the first time this season. They were riding the top line of Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Brent Burns for some time, but those none of those players has been particularly good during the three-game losing streak.
Lately, that spells certain doom for the Sharks, who were searching for secondary scoring even before Couture got hurt.
Patrick Marleau seems to miss his linemate on the second line, with just two goals in the last 11 games. Matt Nieto has had some good games during Couture’s absence, including scoring in back-to-back games in mid-January, but he’s not been very noticeable the past week. Bracken Kearns, Andrew Desjardins and Tyler Kennedy have played well in certain situations, but have not been nearly consistent enough, and now Kennedy is out with a lower body injury.
It goes on. Tommy Wingels has had some great chances, including a cross bar against Edmonton that could have changed the course of that game, but he still has just one goal in his last 21. Marty Havlat returned against the Oilers and was effective through the first two periods, but he rode the bench for a stretch in the second and third periods against Calgary.
The Sharks are set up to get steamrolled by the high-powered Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday unless something quickly changes.
McLellan suggested after Thursday’s loss that some rest could be needed, and it’s a valid point. The Sharks just completed a stretch of three games in four nights and five games in eight days including the back-to-back. They’ll have a day off on Friday.
“I don’t think we had the energy that we needed to create a lot, and when we did, we were off the mark,” McLellan said. “It will come for our team. We have a lot of talent. We have offensive players. We’ll look at ways of trying to help them, and we’re also going to get healthy at some point.”
Couture could conceivably be ready to return from his injury by Saturday, as McLellan said he was close before the brief Alberta trip. Perhaps the disappointing results in last three games will bring him a little closer, as a suddenly flat team could use a boost.