SAN JOSE – It's a weekend series that has no doubt been circled on the Sharks' calendars for a while now.
A home back-to-back including visits from the Vegas Golden Knights and the Calgary Flames – a team that has given San Jose a hard time all season, and the team San Jose was battling for first place in the Western Conference just a couple of weeks ago.
Those couple of weeks ago, this tough two-games-in-two-nights against the Knights and Flames promised to be highly entertaining. At the time, the Sharks were riding a six-game winning streak and could take on any team that came their way. Now, after losing their seventh straight contest, San Jose appears to have a much tougher task ahead of them with the two Pacific Division rivals paying SAP Center a visit.
Of the problems the Sharks currently have – inconsistent special teams, key players out with injuries – getting off to rough starts has been a key factor in this current string of losses. In losses to the LA Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings, and Chicago Blackhawks -- all of which aren't playoff-bound teams, the Sharks have given up the first goal early and had to fight to come from behind.
In Thursday's game against Chicago, San Jose found themselves in a 3-0 hole before they were able to rally back – although they did eventually lose 5-4. It's a trend that head coach Peter DeBoer believes is fixable.
"You can't play behind in this game every night, and I think that's the one thing," he told the press after the most recent loss. "If we can get that fixed, I think the rest of the stuff will roll into place."
If there's a time for those things to start rolling into place, it would be this upcoming weekend. Both Calgary and Vegas are good at taking advantage of their opponents' small mistakes and then putting the puck in the back of the net, which doesn't play well for the Sharks as they keep giving up break-away goal.
The Sharks showed a good response to adversity in the second person on Thursday against Chicago, but since they were already chasing the game, it made it harder for them to level the playing field. Getting a leg up on the scoreboard early on could give the Sharks a much-needed boost to start off two games against two tough teams.
Perhaps one of the few signs of hope is that both Calgary and Vegas have gone on recent losing skids themselves. Heading into their respective Friday contests, Calgary has lost two straight and Vegas three straight – and to the same non-playoff-bound teams that San Jose struggled against, no less.
While neither opponent has lost seven in a row, neither is visiting San Jose on a hot streak, either.
There's no mistaking that this weekend's back-to-back is going to be a big test for the Sharks. That's not to say they can't turn things around against two tough teams.
Given the recent skid the Sharks have been on, however, makes the back-to-back an even bigger challenge.