SAN JOSE –- The Sharks still find themselves in an extremely difficult, and some would say insurmountable hole in terms of extending their playoff streak to 11 seasons.
Despite gaining seven of a possible eight points over the last four games, including a 5-1 win over Colorado on Wednesday, the Sharks are still five points behind Winnipeg for the second Wild Card spot and three behind Los Angeles, which has a game in hand.
One reason to believe they have one last gasp in their lungs before flatlining, though, is the remaining schedule. None of the five teams they will face currently sits in playoff position, starting with two games against the worst team in the Western Conference, the Coyotes. Arizona visits the Sharks on Friday, while San Jose makes an appearance at Gila River Arena on Saturday.
After that, the Sharks host Dallas on Monday, visit the lowly Edmonton Oilers next Thursday, and close it out with the Kings on Saturday, April 11.
“We know we have the ability to run the table here finishing the season,” Tommy Wingels said. “If we do that, who knows what’s going to happen? I think first and foremost, we need to do that if we want to give ourselves a chance.”
The Coyotes are just 4-20-2 since Feb. 5, and are challenging the Buffalo Sabres for the league’s worst record. It should be four points in the bank, considering the Sharks are a better team and should be playing with a much higher level of desperation. Right?
If only it were that simple.
“Back-to-backs are tough no matter who you’re playing,” said Alex Stalock, one of the keys to the Sharks’ recent run. “It’s the same team. It’s tough to beat the same team twice back-to-back nights at this level, no matter who is in the lineup.
“It’s going to be a test. We need to get through this weekend and we know what we need to do and how many points we need to get.”
Of course, not much has come easy for San Jose this season, which is why it finds itself in the position it’s currently in.
Regarding the Sharks playing down to their opposition -– a common theme for several seasons now, including this one –- Todd McLellan said: “We know that hasn't gone well this year, so it's a couple tough games.”
Wingels said: “That’s something that we’ve kind of struggled doing throughout this year, beating the teams you’re supposed to beat. We’ve got a lot on the line right now. The intensity and work ethic has to be there from puck drop.”
The Sharks are still watching the scoreboard, of course. McLellan, who has the NHL’s Center Ice package at home, said there are “TVs on all over the place” watching different games.
On Thursday night, he’ll almost certainly be eyeing the Kings-Oilers game, which is Los Angeles’ game in hand on San Jose. If the Sharks are to make the playoffs, they’ll have to jump ahead of their in-state rival at some point.
“We know who's playing tonight and what time and probably what channel,” McLellan said. “It's the same story as I told you before, when you're doing that, you haven't had the season you wanted to have. It's as simple as that. But we're watching, and we'll keep playing.”