The San Jose Sharks travel to Dallas Tuesday, where they have won five in a row. Evgeni Nabokov is 8-0-0 with a 1.43 GAA in his last nine starts at the American Airlines Center.
This season against the Stars, the Sharks have two shootout losses at home to go with their 4-2 road win. They enter this game on an unimpressive 4-4-1 run despite playing five games at home, four against teams out of the playoff picture, and three more against teams seeded seventh or eighth.
The good news is that Dallas is struggling even more, being 1-5-1 since the Olympic break, and they would have to play more than 25 percent better than Detroit over their final 14 games to make the playoffs.
In other words, they are almost broken. Or are they desperate?
Nabokov cited one problem the team will face down the stretch. "We have to realize one thing—that teams are going to be desperate...(I)f we don't match their work ethic, we are not going to win."
But it is not just a matter of playing desperate teams.
Anaheim is out of the playoff picture (and Sharks fans can take some solace in their team's 5-1 record helping make that a reality), while both Buffalo and New Jersey are in the playoffs—these are not teams in desperation mode, but the Sharks lost to all three in the last nine games.
It is about work ethic.
"Even though we're in a good position, we were in the same position last year. If we're going to coast, we're going to coast downhill," defenseman Dan Boyle said. "Our effort wasn't there tonight. Everybody needs to show up and make a difference. When only half the team shows up, that's a problem."
Of course, any reasonable person understands that this team needs to work harder, and as Boyle eluded to, it is nothing new. This was something the team talked about last season too, and it still reared its head in the postseason.
(For more on this, read my corresponding piece.)
The team has less than four weeks to go to decide if it wants to wear the choker label yet again.
Either they step up their effort, or we will see an entirely new Sharks team next season—12 players become free agents in July.