Sharks seek to snap out of slump against Blackhawks

The San Jose Sharks aren't exactly peaking for the playoffs.

The Sharks, who have lost six games in a row (0-5-1), have dropped six points behind Calgary in the chase for the Pacific Division lead and the best record in the Western Conference as they get ready to play host to the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.

San Jose's past three losses have come against teams ranked 30th, 29th and 25th in the NHL in points. That includes a 3-2 loss at home to Detroit on Monday that wasn't that close, as the Sharks scored the final goal with four seconds remaining.

"It's work. It's desperation," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer told the San Jose Mercury News. "I don't know if there's a complacency about where we're sitting in the standings or what. But we've got to get out of it. The only way to get out of it is to work out of it."

The Sharks have suffered some key injuries late in the season, with forward Joe Pavelski (lower-body injury) missing the past four games and defenseman Erik Karlsson (groin) out for the past 12.

Defenseman Radim Simek doesn't have the name recognition of Pavelski or Karlsson, but his absence has coincided with the recent slump. The Sharks were 31-9-3 since Simek was paired with Brent Burns in early December.

Second-year defenseman Joakim Ryan has been paired with Burns with Simek out after suffering torn ligaments in his right knee. Ryan committed what he called a "bad turnover" at center ice on Detroit's second goal Monday.

"I need to be a little more consistent," Ryan told the Mercury News. "Can't really make many mistakes. Just got to be aggressive every night and ready to go. I think consistency is the biggest thing."

Ryan, whose penalty led to the go-ahead goal early in the third period of a 4-3 overtime loss at Anaheim last Friday, has been benched for the final 14-plus minutes of each of the past two games.

"Some guys are dropping opportunities," DeBoer told the Mercury News. "We're making decisions on who can help us in the playoffs and who can't. There's ice time that guys are getting now that isn't going to be there in a week or two. Guys better take advantage of them because they don't go on forever."

The Blackhawks' playoff hopes took a hit with a 1-0 loss Tuesday at Arizona that left them five points back of the Western Conference's second and final wild-card berth with six games remaining.

Chicago has lost four of its past five games.

"That one hurts. We needed that one," Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We could have used a little extra urgency earlier on. We weren't bad, but obviously, they score on the power play and we don't. That's the game."

Corey Crawford, who has started the past 10 games in net for Chicago, stopped 28 of 29 shots.

"We played well. We got some good chances late there to tie it up, but just kind of snake bitten a little bit," Crawford told NHL.com. "It was a fun game to play in. It was high intensity. We did a lot of good things. We're showing we can play in those tight games but, I don't know, we've got to find a way to win that."

--Field Level Media
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