(MCT) — CHICAGO — In theory, the last team the Sharks should want to face right now is the Chicago Blackhawks.
Ten of their 13 games have been played on the road, but more than one-fourth into a shortened season, the Blackhawks are 10-0-3 and the only NHL team to never leave an arena empty-handed. They lead the NHL with 23 points.
Talk about confidence building.
“It’s tough to say we don’t have any weaknesses, but it’s tough to find one in our game right now,” Blackhawk forward Patrick Kane said Thursday when asked what part of his team’s game topped the list of things Chicago was doing right.
The Sharks, on the other hand, have gone six games without a win and know their biggest weakness — lack of scoring. The task of turning things around doesn’t get any easier as they face the Blackhawks in two of the next three games, starting Friday night.
Some Sharks play down the challenge a struggling team faces going against the red-hot Blackhawks.
“Going into games, I don’t think about a losing streak,” Logan Couture said. “If we were winning or losing going into this game, it’s a big game.”
Others, such as Adam Burish — who knows the Chicago mindset well, having been a member of its Stanley Cup-winning team in 2010 — see Friday night’s game as an opportunity, as well as a challenge.
“When they’re undefeated like they are, it’s a big target on your back,” he said. “Coming in, it’s always fun to knock down the top team and that’ll be our mindset.”
Even in a scoring funk, Burish indicated, the timing isn’t necessarily bad.
“You need to play against a great team and you need to have a big win like this,” Burish said. “That can turn things around pretty quick and give you some confidence pretty quick.”
That confidence is key, according to Burish, who got together with Kane and other former teammates Wednesday as both squads had the day off.
“When you’re on a streak like that, like us at the start of the season, you just have a feeling there’s no way we’re going to lose,” he said.
Burish may be playing with a little more confidence himself. Still looking for his first point as a Shark, he likely will be playing at center on a newly constructed fourth line with Marty Havlat and TJ Galiardi.
Havlat was dropped from his usual Top Six role, and the three generated multiple scoring chances in San Jose’s 1-0 overtime loss in Nashville on Tuesday.
Before the game, Burish said, the three players talked about the team’s current slump.
“Yeah, everybody’s nervous, everybody’s tight, everybody’s upset with the way things are going, but what are you going to do?” he said. “Are you going to be mad, or be sad and feel sorry for yourselves? Or are you going to have fun and play loose and play free? We kind of did that the last game in Nashville.”
Havlat, who ended up playing 15:36 in Nashville because of his role on special teams, stayed tight-lipped about being moved off one of the top lines.
“I’m just a player, so I do whatever the coach tells me to do. I can’t control things,” Havlat said. “Whatever line I’m on, I’m just trying to do my best and use whatever I’m good at, and I was successful all my career.”
McLellan, too, sidestepped questions about putting Havlat, who earns $5 million a season, on the fourth line. “Do you think they were our fourth line the other day? They didn’t play like it,” he said.
The coach was less subtle during Thursday’s hourlong practice when it came to working his players out of their offensive-zone doldrums.
One late drill had every player take a breakaway shot. If he didn’t score, the rest of the team did a quick sprint from the red line to the faceoff dots and back; if he did score, nobody had to skate.
Few scored, many skated.
“We needed a good, hard skate today and we got that in,” McLellan said. “It gives us a chance to look at the whole team in a shootout situation with them not even knowing it. It gives the goalies a lot of work — a lot of purpose to the drill, a lot of hidden purpose, too.”
McLellan said he hoped his team would be self-motivated to get the win and not need the added bonus “of knocking Chicago off for the first time.”