SAN JOSE – One of the biggest storylines for the San Jose Sharks so far this season has been their consistency -- or lack thereof. It's an aspect of their game they found at the beginning of December when they won eight of 10 contests and pieced together five wins in a row.
But it's a key-to-the-game that came into question yet again when the Sharks struggled against the LA Kings and Arizona Coyotes the weekend before the Christmas break.
As it turned out, their first opponent after the holiday layoff appears to be in a similar boat.
Like the Sharks, the Anaheim Ducks enter Thursday's Pacific Division standoff having dropped their last three contests -- a blemish on a post-Thanksgiving record that included a five-game winning streak. While dealing with injuries to key players and relying heavily on their goaltending, Anaheim has had an equally uneven season before making a push early in the month of December.
Now, after a league-mandated three-day break away from the ice, both teams return looking to turn things around and gain ground in an increasingly competitive division race. But despite being in similar situations headed into Thursday's contest, the Sharks and Ducks bring different things to the table. Keeping the focus on getting their own game in check could be the key to a Sharks' victory.
One area where San Jose has a clear advantage is on the shot clock. The Sharks continue to outshoot the opponents, registering 405 in the month of December alone over the opposition's 331. The Ducks are a different story, notching 287 shots to their opponents' collective 314. Perhaps then it's no surprise San Jose is, in fact, scoring more goals than they're giving up.
On the flip side, Anaheim has an edge between the pipes.
Netminder John Gibson has been connected to early Vezina buzz as his 2018-19 campaign continues to be the backbone of this season's Ducks team. He visits the Tank on Thursday with one of the best stat lines among regular starters with a 2.52 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. He's 1-0-1 against the Sharks so far this season and has only given six goals on 82 total shot attempts through those two games.
This record is, as you may expect, a stark contrast to that of Sharks' starter Martin Jones, who after making vast improvements at the start of December enters Thursday's game with a 2.86 goals-against average and .899 save percentage.
So what does San Jose have to do to get back into the win column against a team so close to them in the standings?
The Sharks got away from the detail-orientated defensive game they like to play last weekend when they played the Kings and the Coyotes.
With the Ducks coming into town, scoring the fourth least goals in the league -- being without Rickard Rakell and Cam Fowler no doubt plays a role there -- San Jose needs to take advantage and get that defensive effort back on track.
Logan Couture explained to the media just last week that better defense leads to better offense. (Which was evident over San Jose's five-game winning streak.) Focusing on their defensive game could go a long way to keep the Ducks off the scoreboard and get the puck past Gibson. Plus, registering that win can give San Jose a boost before they hit the road for three games -- but we can focus on that after Thursday night.