Struggling Sharks, reeling Ducks look for glimmer of hope

By Thomson Reuters Feb 29, 2024 | 12:27 AM

Two of the bottom three teams in the NHL will try to find some positives when the San Jose Sharks host the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night.

The Ducks have lost three in a row and six of eight since the All-Star break, while the Sharks have dropped four in a row and five of six since the break.

Anaheim is coming off a 4-2 defeat against the visiting Nashville Predators on Sunday evening, a setback made more unpleasant for first-year coach Greg Cronin because the Ducks seemed to play better for longer stretches than Nashville.

“Those hurt,” he said. “We deserved a better fate.”

On the bright side, Anaheim can build off the four power plays it killed against Nashville and the high number of scoring chances it generated.

“I think that you go back to the effort and compete level, the ability to get pucks and cycle pucks, we did a good job there, we defended well,” Cronin said. “There’s a lot of good things to take out of it.”

Cronin felt the same about the performance against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, when the Ducks outplayed the hosts for most of the evening before losing 3-2 in a shootout.

“I said to (general manager) Pat (Verbeek) after the (Nashville) game, ‘We get one point out of these two games when arguably you could have got the four.’ ” Cronin said. “So, it’s just a crappy result with two good performances.”

Brett Leason likely earned a spot in the lineup against San Jose after contributing a goal and an assist against the Predators. He was a healthy scratch the previous six games, but entered the game for forward Troy Terry, who’s day to day with an upper-body injury sustained late in the game against the Kings.

“I felt good, didn’t know how the legs would feel after being out for a bit,” Leason said. “Made some good plays and ended up with a goal and an assist, but wish we could have gotten the win.”

Leason has an idea for how the Ducks can generate more offense.

“I think we’ve just got to shoot the puck more and get in front of the goalie’s eyes,” he said. “Make it more difficult on him.”

This will be the last of four meetings between the Ducks and Sharks this season. Anaheim has won two of three so far.

The Sharks are familiar with long losing streaks this season.

They lost the first 11 games of the season (0-10-1) before a 0-12-0 skid from Dec. 15 to Jan. 9.

“Regardless of the outcome scoring-wise, we want the other team to say, ‘Hey, we had to work really hard for what we got tonight,’ ” Sharks center Nico Sturm said. “And I thought (Tuesday) we were just way too easy to play against.”

It’s unclear who will start in goal for San Jose after Mackenzie Blackwood left late in the first period of a 7-2 loss to the visiting New Jersey Devils on Tuesday because of a lower-body injury. Blackwood was placed on injured reserve and the Sharks called up Magnus Chrona to take his spot on the roster.

Kaapo Kahkonen replaced Blackwood and surrendered all seven goals on 31 shots.

Kahkonen has dropped 13 of his past 14 starts, including a 3-2 overtime loss to the Ducks on Jan. 31, but overall he’s 5-1-4 in his career against Anaheim with a 2.84 goals against average .905 save percentage.

–Field Level Media