SAN JOSE (CBSMiami/AP) – The Florida Panthers had a very hard time scoring goals during the first few weeks of the season but managed to get by due to being one of the top defensive teams in the league.
While goals have started to come for the Panthers, the team can certainly sympathize with their Thursday night opponent having those same issues.
The San Jose Sharks’ offense fell on hard times during a long trip.
They hope opening a homestand Thursday night against the struggling Florida Panthers’ defense helps reignite their scoring.
San Jose (10-9-2) completed a 3-4-0 trip with a 4-1 loss Tuesday to last-place Buffalo. The Sharks, who are 2-3-0 at home with the NHL’s most road-heavy schedule thus far, are starting a six-game homestand.
They ranked second in the NHL last season with 63 points at home.
“It’s hard to really get a good judge because we’ve been on the road so much, but when you think about how much we’ve been on the road, it’s not too, too bad,” forward Patrick Marleau told the team’s official website. “It could be a lot better, it could be a lot worse, so if we can string some home wins together and start racking up those points, it will be good.”
San Jose claimed a 30-14 advantage in shots against Buffalo, but Brent Burns scored the lone goal on a second-period power play. It marked the club’s sixth straight game with two goals or fewer after it had averaged 3.1 during an 8-5-2 start.
Burns’ goal is the Sharks’ only power-play score on 13 opportunities in the last five games. They were tied for fourth in the NHL with 14 goals on 53 power plays (26.4 percent) in the first 16.
“I think we’re figuring out who we are and I don’t know if we like it at this point,” coach Todd McLellan said. “We’ve got to improve in a lot of areas. We’re going home now for a little while. We’ll get some practice time, but individuals have to pick it up.”
Those individuals likely include the likes of Logan Couture and Marleau. Couture has one point in his last six games while Marleau has gone five straight without one – his longest drought since a six-game stretch Feb. 26-March 9, 2013. He had a goal overturned Tuesday.
Joe Thornton has been one of San Jose’s few productive players lately, scoring four goals with four assists during a seven-game point streak.
The Sharks lost 4-1 at Florida on Nov. 11 as Roberto Luongo stopped 25 shots for the Panthers. Luongo owns a 1.73 goals-against average while winning three of his last four starts versus San Jose, which has lost six of seven in the series.
Florida (6-5-5) has lost four of five away from home, and Tuesday’s 5-2 defeat in Los Angeles was the third time in six games in which it allowed at least four goals.
The Panthers, whose last four defeats have all come despite an advantage in shots, were outscored 4-0 in the second period and gave up three goals on six power plays.
“In the first and third periods, I thought we matched them shift for shift and did some really good things,” said forward Rocco Grimaldi, who also played for the club’s AHL affiliate in San Antonio earlier in the day. “We had some good grind shifts and were playing strong defensively. Obviously, they’ve got a good power play over there, and they got a few on us that kind of put the dagger in us.”
Jussi Jokinen, who leads Florida with 12 points, has a goal and four assists in his last five against San Jose.
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