SAN JOSE -- It took the Sharks more than 40 minutes to wake up and play their game against the anemic Buffalo Sabres in Tuesday night’s 5-4 shootout loss. Missed overtime goal aside, San Jose was forced to fight back from a pair of third period deficits before bowing out in the skills competition.
Perhaps a game against the Canucks, who, along with the Kings, are probably the team’s biggest rival right now, will prevent the Sharks from slowly wading into the game on Thursday night at SAP Center.
“No disrespect to Buffalo, but it’s a different atmosphere playing the Canucks,” said Logan Couture, who has four assists in two games against Vancouver this season. “They’re a rival and we’ve had a history with them in the playoffs that brings out the best in a lot of guys.”
The Sharks will be trying to end a three-game losing streak, although they have picked up a point in the standings in each of the three losses – two via the shootout to Buffalo and Phoenix, and one in overtime in Los Angeles.
“We would prefer better results, but it’s more about the effort for me, and the preparation,” said Todd McLellan, adding that the loss against the Sabres was “desperate when we needed it to be, but it wasn’t enough.”
[RELATED: Sharks upset with effort in Buffalo]
Couture said: “Personally, I don’t even think about the points. I think it’s the way our team played. The last couple games we haven’t played very well. We had a chance to get a couple points in each of those games, which we would have liked to do. We need to play a lot better.”
There’s another streak of the more pleasant variety on the line. Since the start of the shortened 2013 season, San Jose has beaten the Canucks nine straight times, including a four-game sweep in the first round of the playoffs. The Sharks have won the first two games of this season's series by identical 4-1 margins, too; Oct. 3 in the season opener at SAP Center, and one week later in Vancouver.
The Canucks, though, could be a different team than the one that dropped two of its first five games to the Sharks. In the past month, head coach John Tortorella’s club has shown it is still a force to be reckoned with in the powerful Pacific Division. In its last 11 games, Vancouver is 7-2-2.
Has McLellan seen improvements since the last head-to-head matchup?
“Absolutely. Their coach is a very good coach, and he has now had time to implement and work with the group and get them to believe. And, they do,” he said. “They play a fast hard game, and play the way he wants them to play.”
Henrik and Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler have led the way on offense. Henrik has an NHL best 12-game point streak, while Daniel has nine points in the last seven games (5g, 4a) and Kesler has added 10 points (6g, 4a) in the last nine games.
They’re all on the same line, too. Expect Couture’s line, with Patrick Marleau and Marty Havlat, to see plenty of ice time against that trio.
“Three very good players,” Couture said. “The Sedins find each other. Kesler is a shooter, he’s good on the forecheck. … “It’s always a challenge matched up against the Sedins, you have to know where both of them are on the ice and they find each other. They don’t even have to look at each other.”
San Jose will wrap up a three-game homestand before opening a five-game road trip on Sunday in Winnipeg, the longest road trip left on the Sharks' schedule. Putting their worst effort of the season in Tuesday’s loss behind them would be preferable before boarding the team charter.
“The reality is, it’s going to happen some nights, where the other team is going to play well for two periods and you’re going to play well for a period,” Joe Thornton said. “Tonight, we’d like to play well for three periods, and we’ll see if it happens.”
* * *
Joe Pavelski is expected to play against Vancouver, per McLellan, after missing Wednesday’s practice the Thursday’s morning skate due to personal reasons.