The season is a little more than two months old and the San Jose Sharks and New Jersey Devils are still battling to find consistency.
In their final meeting of the season on Monday night, the Sharks go for their fourth win in five games while the Devils look to bounce back from a frustrating loss.
San Jose (15-11-3) returns to SAP Center after falling by one goal to the Dallas Stars on Friday before a 5-3 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday. Lukas Radil, playing in just his sixth game after three seasons in the KHL, broke a 3-all tie with his first NHL goal late in the third period.
“We needed something like that. We needed a fourth-line goal or somebody big to come off the bench and give us something,” coach Peter DeBoer said of the 28-year-old Czech native.
But the team has been inconsistent from the start of 2018-19 when San Jose alternated wins and losses in its first five games. The club later surrendered 20 goals during four straight setbacks on a recent road trip and failed on three occasions to extend a winning streak to three games.
“The common theme is we’ve let games get away from us,” DeBoer said before Saturday’s game. “It’s been a couple minutes of adversity and instead of sticking with it and hanging in there … we’ve overreacted to that adversity and the games ran away from us.”
DeBoer, who led the Devils to the Stanley Cup finals in 2012, said afterwards that the Sharks aren’t out of the woods yet.
“It just seems like right now the opportunities we give up are ending up in our net and putting a lot of pressure on us. I think there’s a lot more good than bad, but there is still some work to do,” he said.
San Jose may discover a calming influence at home against New Jersey. The Sharks have won the last two meetings in California by a combined score of 10-2, and seek a season series split after falling 3-2 on Oct. 14 in Newark.
One player for San Jose who has been consistent all season is Joe Pavelski. The captain scored against Arizona and needs one goal to reach 20 for the 10th time in 13 seasons. Through 31 games, Pavelski is three goals shy of matching his total in 82 games last season and he’s scored in three straight matchups with New Jersey (10-12-6).
The Devils head to the Bay Area looking for only their second win in nine games. Marcus Johansson scored the tying goal in the final minute of regulation after New Jersey gave up three goals and fell 6-5 in a shootout to the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night.
“Those were a little bit odd tonight. It’s situations where you have to find a way to overcome. It’s not something that you can let deflate you,” coach John Hynes said.
After putting up 97 points last season, the Devils are at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division and tied with the Ottawa Senators for the fewest road wins this season with three.
One bright spot for New Jersey on the road trip is Kyle Palmieri with two goals in each of the first two games. He leads the club with 14 and has one goal in 10 career games in San Jose.
Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall leads the Devils with 22 assists and 30 points and needs one goal for 200 in his career. A former top overall pick by the Edmonton Oilers in 2010, Hall has three markers in his last two games at SAP Center.
Meanwhile, longtime San Jose center Joe Thornton keeps chugging along. The top overall draft pick by the Boston Bruins in 1997 needs two assists to tie Marcel Dionne for 10th all-time with 1,040 and has six helpers in his last three home games.