The San Jose Sharks have an opportunity to bounce back from Wednesday’s “lifeless” performance, hosting the Los Angeles Kings on Friday at 1 p.m.
This will be the second San Jose (13-12-1) — Los Angeles (10-13-2) rivalry game this week, as the Sharks beat the Kings 4-3 in overtime on Monday, Nov. 25.
Power play woes
A sore spot for the Sharks in the 5-1 loss to the Jets was the power play, which did not score through six opportunities. San Jose ranks No. 20 in the NHL with an 18.1 power play percentage.
While the Sharks have won nine of their last 11 games, their power play has gone 4-31 in that stretch. After Thursday’s practice, Kevin Labanc said:
“I think we tried something new, it was kind of off a little bit. We hadn’t really gotten too much practice with the new spots. I think right now, the best thing we could do is keep it simple … things will start opening up.”
To start the game, San Jose’s first power play unit was Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson at the points, Labanc and Logan Couture on the wings and Evander Kane in front of the net. However, there were some adjustments throughout the game, switching out Karlsson for another forward or changing up the wingers.
Kane, who has a team-high seven power play goals, said:
“It was a battle to get possession, it was a battle to break in and we couldn’t find a rhythm. That kind of just boiled over into every power play … I think that was our first real game where we struggled on the power play when we actually got some opportunities.”
The six power play opportunities on Wednesday tied a season-high for the Sharks. The Sharks went 1-6 in a 5-2 loss to Ottawa on Oct. 27. In the last four games, the Sharks have only had one or two power plays each game.
If given the power play opportunities, the Kings are a good team for the Sharks to break their slump against. Currently second to last place in the NHL standings, Los Angeles ranks No. 28 in penalty kill and No. 29 in power play.
“I’ve said since day one, I’m confident that when we look up at the end of the year, we’re going to have a power play that’s helped us more than hurt us. There’s no doubt with personnel and some injuries and stuff, that we’re a little cold right now.”
Meanwhile, the Sharks penalty killing has continued to perform well. The Sharks have the No. 1 penalty kill in the NHL, with a 90.6 penalty kill percentage.
Tomas Hertl update
Tomas Hertl is making steps towards a return, participating in Wednesday’s morning skate and Thursday’s practice. DeBoer said:
“He’s getting closer … I won’t really know until tomorrow. I would say ‘doubtful’ would probably be the best way.”
Wednesday’s loss was the Sharks fourth-straight game without Hertl, who has been sidelined due to an undisclosed injury.
The absence of the second line center has worsened San Jose’s lack of forward depth. For the last four games, DeBoer has scratched a forward to play an extra defensemen — an unconventional lineup of 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
With the Sharks loss to the Jets, a more traditional roster might be used against the Kings. DeBoer said:
“That’s something that we’re going to discuss. I thought we hit the wall a little bit last night, so we might have to change that up.”
With 21 points this season, Hertl is tied for second in scoring for the Sharks. After Thursday’s practice, Hertl said:
“I want to be 100 percent sure I can help them win the game and that I can finish the game too … it’s a big decision and I want to make it right, because we’re not in a playoff race or playoffs right now, there’s still time. But for sure I want to be back and help the guys.”
Preparing for an early start
Set for a 1 p.m. puck drop, Friday’s rivalry match up is a rare afternoon game for the Sharks. Labanc said:
“You just gotta make sure that you’re ready and you’re on time. It might be a little bit of a different routine, but at the same time, you gotta make sure that you’re taking care of your body.”
The Sharks have a quick turnaround as well— they play the Coyotes in Arizona on Saturday. Kane:
“You just wake up and you get to the rink. That’s really about it. Especially on back to backs, it’s nice to get a little extra rest in between that.”
And with Thanksgiving in mind, Labanc said:
“You have the turkey earlier.”