Sharks return home after road trip to face Devils
The San Jose Sharks are glad to be back home for an extended period. Perhaps it will get their struggling offense going.
San Jose opens a five-game homestand and a stretch of seven of eight at SAP Center on Monday night against the New Jersey Devils, who are dealing with their own problems trying to generate offense.
The Sharks are coming off a 3-3-0 road trip — their longest of the season. Things started well with 10 goals scored in wins over the Washington Capitals, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. They followed by tallying only four goals in losses to the Carolina Hurricanes, St. Louis Blues and Arizona Coyotes.
Joe Pavelski, who had two goals and two assists on the trip, said playing at home for the first time since Nov. 5 and for a long period will be good for the team.
“(We'll) spend a little bit of time (at home) and try to create that home-ice advantage,” he told the CSN Bay Area website. “We haven't had much time there. There's a little bit of disconnect from the fans just because we've been gone.
“We want to get back there, we want to get the crowd going where we score a goal and the place erupts on your side. Those are good feelings.”
That was certainly the case early in the season when San Jose won four in a row, but open this homestand trying to avoid a third consecutive loss in northern California.
San Jose (9-8-1) is near the top of the Pacific Division despite having one of the more lackluster offensive units in the league. San Jose has scored just 41 goals so far, one more than New Jersey.
Pavelski is tied with Brent Burns for the team lead with six goals, but Burns has failed to score in four straight. Joe Thornton has only two goals and none in his last five games, and Patrick Marleau has scored four goals with one coming in his past eight games. Thornton and Marleau have combined for 16 goals, including five game-winners, and 18 assists versus the Devils.
“I think all the guys in here have high expectations as far as how we want to play. I think guys put a lot of pressure on themselves,” Sharks defenseman Paul Martin told CSN Bay Area.
Another player who's struggled is Tomas Hertl, who set career highs with 21 goals and 25 assists last season, but has only four goals and five assists through 17 games. Hertl suffered an injury against the Blues, and may need knee surgery.
The Devils are 1-2-0 on their four-game road trip and will be trying to leave California with a win. After defeating the Dallas Stars in overtime on Tuesday, New Jersey dropped a one-goal decision to the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday before falling 4-2 to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.
New Jersey (9-5-3) has failed to score more than 197 goals in each of the last four seasons and is on pace for about 172 this season. The addition of Taylor Hall from the Edmonton Oilers was meant to address the lack of goal scoring, but a knee injury is expected to sideline him until mid-December. Michael Cammalleri (three goals) remains day-to-day for personal reasons.
With Hall and Cammalleri out, that leaves journeyman P.A. Parenteau as the team's leading goal scorer with five. Defenseman Damon Severson also leads the Devils with nine assists and 12 points.
“We need more performances from the players who are here,” Devils coach John Hynes said after the loss to the Kings.
One player Hynes could be targeting with that statement is Kyle Palmieri. Playing in his first season with the Devils in 2015-16, Palmieri had career bests with 30 goals and 27 assists in 82 games. He's slumped to three goals and four assists in 17 games, and played just 15 shifts against Los Angeles — his fewest this season.
New Jersey also has failed to score a power-play goal in its last eight games, going 0-for-26 in that stretch.
On the bright side, New Jersey has won two straight at SAP Center by a combined 8-2 score. That includes a 30-save shutout by Keith Kinkaid in the Devils' 3-0 win on March 10.
Kinkaid, who has not played since Nov. 11, is 2-0-1 with a 1.65 goals-against average as Cory Schneider's backup.