Slightly more than a week ago, the San Jose Sharks sat atop the Western Conference as they hit the road for a six-game trip. They are now in danger of returning home in fourth place and with the same point total they had before the trek.
Mired in their worst losing streak in more than four years, the Sharks look to avoid going 0-6 on a road trip for the first time in 17 years when they face the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night.
San Jose (43-19-10) had a three-game win streak snapped with a 3-2 overtime loss to Florida at home March 13, but the Sharks set off on their 10-day swing with 96 points - three ahead of Chicago in the West and nine up on second-place Phoenix in the Pacific Division.
By failing to earn a point through five games of the trip, though, the Sharks have dropped a point back of the Blackhawks and Coyotes.
“I don’t know if this is rock bottom or not, but we are certainly hoping it is,” goaltender Evgeni Nabokov(notes) said following a 5-1 defeat to NHL-worst Edmonton on Sunday. “Hopefully we can get back to climbing the hill after this. I think the confidence level is nowhere to be found right now and we have to find it.”
The Sharks, who have not lost each contest of a six-game trip since March 19-29, 1993, are sputtering offensively, scoring two goals or fewer five times during the skid. Prior to the slide, San Jose was averaging a conference-best 3.33 goals per game.
“The frustration level is growing as the days go on,” coach Todd McLellan said. “We didn’t really show a lot of emotion in the game until the end of it when it didn’t really matter. I’m tired of hearing in our locker room and around the team that adversity is good for us and will pay off in the end.
“It’s not going to unless we dig ourselves out of it. There is something missing right now, and we have to figure what it is pretty darn quick.”
In addition to their offensive woes, the Sharks are struggling defensively.
San Jose, in the midst of its longest losing streak since going 0-7-3 from Nov. 5-30, 2005, yielded at least four goals four times in the last five games. Nabokov has recorded a 4.32 goals-against average in that span.
He has fared much better against the Wild, going 10-0-1 with a 1.62 GAA and one shutout in his last 11 matchups. Nabokov was in net for his team’s two games against Minnesota this season, posting a 2.01 GAA in winning both.
The Wild (35-31-6) are coming off Sunday’s 4-3 win over Calgary, their fourth in six games. Minnesota, though, is in 12th place in the West with 10 games remaining.
“We have nothing to lose, we have everything to win now,” left wing Guillaume Latendresse(notes) said. “That’s the way we have to see it. We know it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be really hard to make it. But if we don’t try, we’re never going to know.”
Kobasew, who returned March 3 from a 23-game absence due to a knee injury, scored a pair of goals to give him four in the last four games.
“Hopefully this gives him some confidence moving forward,” coach Todd Richards said.