Programming note: Capitals-Sharks coverage starts tonight at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Network
SAN JOSE – Since suffering a number of injuries in recent weeks, including top defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the old cliché that other players need to step up has been a common phrase in the Sharks’ dressing room.
While that’s certainly the case, the Sharks could also use more lately from their top players, including Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. That pair, along with winger Melker Karlsson, has played two of its more ineffective games in the Sharks’ two straight losses to Carolina and Calgary. They have two goals between them over the last four games.
Thornton enters Wednesday’s game with Washington with just one assist in his last four games, coming off of a faceoff win. That’s tied for his lowest scoring output over a four-game stretch this season.
The former captain didn’t seem concerned, though.
"Keep doing the same things,” he said. “If you've been watching the games, [the chances] have been there.”
Todd McLellan had a more critical take, as did Karlsson.
“They’ve been a focal point for other teams. … They’ve got to get back to doing some of the simple things, and all three have to be on the same page,” McLellan said. “Doing the tough stuff before the scoring comes will allow them to have a little more success.”
Karlsson said: “We haven’t gotten that many pucks to the net lately. The forechecking needs to be better, so we can have the puck in the zone. That’s what Jumbo is really good at, and Pavelski, handling the puck and making the other teams tired. That’s what we have to do.”
The struggling power play is also a factor, as Thornton and Pavelski are both mainstays on the top unit that has scored just twice in the last six games (2-for-16).
“Our power play hasn’t been exceptionally sharp and a lot of times [that allows] them to be productive players in that situation, too,” McLellan said.
Thornton said: “It starts with passing. Our passing hasn't been sharp. If you get back to that, usually good things happen.”
The Sharks will be closing out a three-game homestand, and enter tonight’s game with 14 home wins and 14 home losses (including overtime and shootouts). They have lost four of their last five (1-3-1), and now have just a four-point cushion on the second and final Wild Card position.
Consistent efforts continue to elude them with 27 games to go in the regular season.
“I think enough's enough in terms of our inconsistent play,” Tommy Wingels said. “We can't keep riding this roller coaster the rest of the year because before you know it the season will be wasted away and we'll look back on it and not be happy missing the playoffs.
“We’ve got to step it up and find a way to start winning consistently."