SUNRISE (CBSMiami/AP) – While the Florida Panthers are enjoying their longest homestand of the season (three games), the San Jose Sharks are in the midst of a tough stretch of games on the road.
San Jose has to push through one more long road trip before finally being able to get comfortable at home, but the amount of travel could be threatening to take its toll on the Sharks.
They’ll play their third game in four days Tuesday night as they visit the Florida Panthers, who have been allowing goals at an alarming rate lately.
San Jose (8-6-2) plays 16 of its first 21 on the road, and this will be its third stop on a seven-game trip – its third of at least three games. After beating Dallas 5-3 on Saturday to begin the trip, the Sharks gave up three first-period goals in a 5-2 loss to Chicago the following night.
“I saw a team that wasn’t prepared to compete, lacked catalysts, guys that were going to settle the game down and make us play the right way and, as a result, we’re down by three,” coach Todd McLellan said.
“We adjust and talk about it between the first and second, then we start to play the way you have to play against that team to win, but I was really disappointed in our group in the first period.”
Joe Pavelski scored twice to bring the Sharks within one, but it marked another inconsistent effort during a 2-2-1 stretch.
“There’s not a whole lot (of positives),” Pavelski said. “We have to learn from it. We have a system set in place and we have to do it the right way.”
San Jose will try to bounce back against a Panthers team that has dropped three straight after Saturday’s 6-4 loss to Calgary. Florida (4-4-4) entered having scored an NHL-low 16 non-shootout goals but had experienced some success due to solid defense.
The Panthers have allowed 10 goals over the last two games after giving up 11 in the previous eight.
“I didn’t like the way we defended compared to most of the season,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “It’s too bad we score four goals and can’t win a game.”
It was only the second time the Panthers had more than two goals. Scottie Upshall scored twice for Florida, which held a pair of two-goal leads.
“The Stanley Cup isn’t won on 6-4 track meets; it’s won on 2-1 hockey games,” captain Willie Mitchell said. “Early on in the season we’ve managed that pretty well, but the last couple of games we’ve let that slip.
“Maybe we needed a good slap in the face like we got. We just have to reset the dial and make sure we play the right way.”
Upshall’s three goals are tied for the team lead with Brandon Pirri, who has missed the last four games with a concussion. The Panthers are hoping Pirri, Dave Bolland (groin) and Sean Bergenheim (lower body) could return this week.
Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov will miss at least the next two games with a knee injury suffered against the Flames.
Upshall scored and Roberto Luongo made 52 saves in a 3-2 win over the Sharks in the last meeting March 18, giving the Panthers their fifth victory in six matchups.
Luongo, who is 4-1-2 with a 1.82 goals-against average in his last seven starts, had Saturday off and likely will be back in net.
The Sharks could go back to Antti Niemi, who made 32 saves against the Blackhawks.
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