With just 18 games to go in the regular season, the San Jose Sharks find themselves in an unfamiliar position — fighting for their playoff lives.
It’s a weird spot for the Sharks, who have won four consecutive Pacific Division titles and haven’t been lower than a No. 5 seed since the lockout.
Heading into Monday night’s action, they sit eighth in the Western Conference, one point up on ninth-place Los Angeles.
So yeah, unique times.
“I think our players fully understand where we’re at,” Sharks assistant Jamie Woodcroft told CSN Bay Area. “Certainly if you look at the standings board in the Western Conference its real tight. That provides all the motivation our team needs.”
The Sharks sound concerned — though not panicked — about their current state, and there seems to be a realization across the board that while talented, they don’t always work hard enough.
“We are obviously in a funk,” defenseman Douglas Murray said. “We need to get out of it. We have to work hard, it is the same old cliche, but we just have to get it going.”
“The one thing you can control is your work ethic,” alternate captain Dan Boyle added. “Some nights the puck is not going to bounce in. But you can work, you can control that.
“With the talent we have in this locker room, I think if we work harder than other teams, we’re going to win most nights.”
What the Sharks really need to work on is finding the back of the net. They’ve scored just 16 goals in their last nine games and are 2-7-0 over that stretch, though some of that can be chalked up to working a trio of new forwards — Dominic Moore, T.J. Galiardi and Daniel Winnik — into the lineup.
The Sharks are also very cognizant of their current reality. If they don’t turn things around soon, they’ll miss the playoffs for the first time since 2003.
“It seemed like it was always the race for 1, 2 or 3,” said Ryan Clowe, who has been to the playoffs in each of his six seasons in San Jose. “Now it’s the race to get in there. If we go on a run, we’ll set ourselves up nice. But the important thing is that you don’t want to wait until that last minute.
“We’ve got to put it together right now.”