While scoring has been an issue lately, the San Jose Sharks were one of the league’s stingiest teams in December.
Coming off one of their worst defensive showings in five seasons, the Sharks face another challenge with Monday night’s visit to the Winnipeg Jets, one of the NHL’s highest-scoring teams in the past month.
San Jose (20-14-5) allowed an average of 2.00 goals last month and 1.91 in its previous 11 games before a 7-2 drubbing by St. Louis on Saturday. The Blues scored six unanswered goals while handing the Sharks their fourth loss in five contests.
The seven goals allowed were the most for San Jose since an 8-2 loss in Dallas on March 16, 2010.
"We weren’t even remotely close to being in that game. … I don’t know. I don’t have the answer. Right now, I don’t anyhow. We’ll try to get to it if we can," coach Todd McLellan said. "There’s no excuse for us, not one."
San Jose has totaled nine goals since a 3-2 win over St. Louis on Dec. 20 that capped a 9-1-0 stretch and played its latest game without one of its leading scorers. Joe Thornton’s streak of 319 consecutive appearances ended because of an upper-body injury suffered in a 3-0 win in Anaheim on Wednesday.
"It’s pretty frustrating," forward Logan Couture said. "If you can’t win missing one player you’re not going to go too far. We didn’t play at an NHL level. We didn’t even compete."
Thornton, who is tied for the team lead with 33 points, was put on the injured list Sunday and will miss at least two games.
The Jets (20-12-7) have performed well despite the absence of their top four defensemen and forward Evander Kane, winning 10 of their last 17. However, they needed a 5-1 rout of visiting Toronto on Saturday to end a season-worst three-game home losing streak and avoid a third consecutive overall defeat.
"It was a big game for us, you never really want to lose three in a row," said forward T.J. Galiardi, who scored his first goal in 22 games. "We weren’t happy with the way things were going there, but we showed tonight we can bounce right back."
Bryan Little extended his point streak to six games – one shy of matching a career high – with a goal and two assists. He has three goals and six assists during his run, aiding a team that’s averaged 3.54 goals in 13 games since Dec. 4.
Little has a team-best seven goals in that stretch, and Andrew Ladd has matched his 15 points with six goals and nine assists.
Sharks backup goaltender Alex Stalock kept all the Jets from scoring in the only other matchup this season, a 3-0 win in San Jose on Oct. 11. Stalock has shutouts in each of his two career games against Winnipeg while No. 1 netminder Antti Niemi is 2-2-1 with a 3.13 goals-against average in five lifetime meetings.
The Jets’ Michael Hutchinson, owner of a league-best 1.81 GAA, could make his first start against the Sharks.
San Jose has split its two games in Winnipeg since that franchise relocated from Atlanta after the 2010-11 season and lost 5-4 in a shootout in the most recent visit Nov. 10, 2013.