The San Jose Sharks tout one of the NHL’s most dynamic offenses. Their lack of defense, however, is a big reason the team is riding a three-game losing streak.
The Sharks look to tighten up their defense Saturday against the visiting Buffalo Sabres, the NHL’s lowest-scoring team.
After opening the season with consecutive shutouts, San Jose (4-3-1) has allowed 25 goals over its last six games. The Sharks are coming off Thursday’s 5-4 defeat to Columbus after falling to Boston 5-3 two nights earlier.
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"You give up five, you are not winning," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "Our defensive play right now is killing us."
The Sharks rank near the bottom of the league with 33.8 shots allowed per game. They give up an average of 3.0 goals, a steep drop-off for a team that had the fifth-best goals against average in 2013-14 at 2.4.
Antti Niemi has allowed five or more goals in a game twice this season, already matching his total from last year.
Niemi and the Sharks defense could receive a needed boost against anemic Buffalo (1-7-0), which ranks last in the NHL with eight goals. The Sabres have totaled one goal or fewer in six of their defeats.
"I think we’ve got enough guys in here that have played a lot of hockey games and we’re just frustrated," Buffalo coach Ted Nolan said. "Whether or not we’re doing the right things and playing well, at the end of the day if we’re not getting two points then we didn’t do the right things. Again, we’re frustrated."
The Sabres, whose victory came in a shootout against Carolina, have been shut out in three of their last four games. Cody Hodgson, who was second on the team with 20 goals last season and scored in Buffalo’s 4-2 home win over San Jose on Feb. 28, has yet to score this season.
Matt Moulson, who scored 23 goals in 75 games last season, and Chris Stewart, who had 15 scores in 63 games in 2013-14, have also failed to find the back of the net.
"We’re going to learn a lot about the guys in this dressing room," Stewart said after Thursday’s 2-0 loss at Los Angeles, the second stop of a three-game California swing. "We can pack it in and go home 0-3 or show some dignity and earn some respect and get two points in San Jose."
San Jose has treated the Sabres well in the past. Buffalo has won three straight matchups in San Jose and is 8-1-0 overall against the Sharks since 2007-08.
The Sharks’ scorers have continued to produce this season despite the losing. Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau each have four goals, and the Sharks have totaled 27. That number could rise against the Sabres, who are allowing 3.5 goals per game.
Still, the wins have not come.
"No one in here is happy about how we’ve been towards the second half of games," Pavelski said. "If you think it’s gotten better, it probably has a little bit. But we’re getting the same results. We’re not good enough.
"It’s going to change. We’re going to get through it. I think guys know that."
Buffalo goaltender Jhonas Enroth is 1-5-0 with a 3.13 GAA this year while facing an NHL-high 222 shots.