The San Jose Sharks, who have won four straight road games, are set to return to home ice, where they have dropped three consecutive contests.
The Sharks, who haven’t won a home game since Jan. 27, will play host to the slumping Florida Panthers on Monday afternoon.
Florida, which won six straight games before being interrupted by the All-Star break, had the NHL’s No. 1 offense during that streak.
Now, the Panthers are in quicksand, sporting a 2-6-1 record since their win streak ended. Their once high-flying offense has scored just 18 goals in their past nine games.
San Jose coach Bob Boughner adds intrigue to Monday’s matchup since he was fired by the Panthers on April 7, 2019.
Boughner, though, is likely more focused on how well his team has played on its current two-game winning streak, including Saturday’s 2-0 win over the host Minnesota Wild.
“They threw a lot at us,” Boughner said of Minnesota. “But we defended well.”
Indeed, Martin Jones made 39 saves for his first win since Dec. 28. It was also his first shutout since March 11, 2019.
The Sharks earned the shutout despite playing without Eric Karlsson, the two-time winner of the Norris Trophy, which is awarded annually to the NHL’s top defenseman. Karlsson is out for the season after suffering a broken thumb in Friday’s win over the Winnipeg Jets.
San Jose is also without Evander Kane, who has 21 goals but is serving the second game of a three-contest NHL suspension for elbowing Jets defenseman Neal Pionk on Friday. Kane has scored at least 20 goals for five straight seasons.
Two other Sharks top-six forwards are out: Tomas Hertl (knee) and Logan Couture (upper body).
Kane leads San Jose in goals (21); Karlsson tops the team in points (40), and Hertl and Couture have combined for 30 goals and 72 points.
Florida’s injury list is not as long — bottom-six center Brian Boyle’s upper-body injury is the biggest concern.
Even so, the Panthers are surely going through some mental anguish after getting held scoreless in the first two periods in each of the past two games. Forced to make up multi-goal deficits, the Panthers lost both games, including a 4-1 decision to the Connor McDavid-less Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.
“We lost all our gravy going into the break, and now we’re chasing it,” Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. “But there’s still an opportunity — a really good one — in front of us.”
Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who missed Saturday’s game due to an illness, could be back in time to face San Jose. But Bobrovsky has been slumping anyway, going 0-4-1 in his past five games and failing to live up to the seven-year, $70-million contract he signed in July.
Jonathan Huberdeau, who leads Florida with 70 points, scored his team’s only goal on Saturday. Given just a sliver of space to shoot for, Huberdeau fired the puck over goalie Mikko Koskinen’s right shoulder and into the back of the net.
Quenneville has to find a way to rev his offense back up, and he also has to decide on Monday’s goalie. It could be Saturday’s starter, rookie Sam Montembeault (5-3-1, 3.30 goals-against average, .890 save percentage) or Bobrovsky (20-17-5, 3.32 GAA, .896 SP).
San Jose could go back to Jones (14-17-2, 3.15 GAA, .894 SP) or rest him and go with Aaron Dell (12-11-2, 2.85 GAA, .911 SP).
–Field Level Media