San Jose coach Todd McLellan can’t understand why the Sharks have seemed so lethargic lately, and he’s even more disappointed in the lack of motivation to protect home ice.
That could bode well for a Los Angeles Kings team that should be looking forward to leaving Southern California.
The Sharks look to avoid a third straight defeat – all at home – in both clubs’ final game before the All-Star break.
San Jose (24-17-6) suffered seven regulation home losses last season, but fell to 11-8-3 at the SAP Center with Monday’s 5-2 loss to New Jersey. It is 1-4-1 at home since Dec. 30 after winning its previous eight there.
"I’m concerned about the life we bring to the rink and to the games," McLellan said. "I don’t know if you want to call it passion, but the internal drive per person is not where it needs to be right now. And these are important games. We talked about the importance of this stretch of games at home. It’s disappointing to see the lack of drive right now."
Joe Pavelski and Matthew Nieto scored Monday for the Sharks, who are in the midst of playing seven straight at home around the All-Star break.
"Every game counts," Nieto said. "We have to find ways to win in our building. We can only go up from here. We have to come together as a team and get it done."
The trip north could be good for the Kings (20-14-12), who completed a dismal 1-2-4 homestand with Monday’s 2-1 overtime loss to Calgary. That defeat dropped the defending Stanley Cup champions one point behind the Flames for the Western Conference’s final wild-card spot.
”The fact of the matter is that we need points, especially against teams like that,” captain Dustin Brown said. ”It’s a four-point game. It doesn’t matter how good we’re playing or how bad we’re playing. We need to find a way to win games.”
Los Angeles especially is having trouble picking up two points when games go past regulation. It is 2-12 in contests decided in overtime or a shootout, including defeats in its last eight such games.
”We’re just not doing a really good job in overtime, when things really count,” said defenseman Robyn Regehr, who returned after missing 12 games with a hand injury. ”Whether it’s 4 on 4, giving up chances or having too many turnovers and helping the other team go the other way, we’re just not doing a good job in the overtime.”
The Kings are set to leave home for the first time since ending a five-game road losing streak with a 3-2 win at Vancouver on Jan. 1. They outscored the Sharks 8-1 in San Jose while winning games 5 and 7 in the first round of last season’s playoffs to overcome an 0-3 series deficit.
This season’s first two matchups were played in Los Angeles. Tommy Wingels scored twice and Antti Niemi made 34 saves in the Sharks’ 4-0 win Oct. 8 before Jonathan Quick stopped 21 shots in the Kings’ 3-1 victory Dec. 27.
Both goaltenders are likely to be in net again for this meeting, but the Sharks will be without Wingels and defenseman Justin Braun. McLellan said both will be out "a while" after Braun was injured blocking a shot and Wingels took a hard slash Monday.