The Sharks' power play has cooled off after a red-hot start.
San Jose has scored just one power-play goal in its last four games after scoring six in the first three, dropping to the 17th in power-play percentage (20 percent) entering Wednesday.
Coach Bob Boughner indicated the Sharks will make changes on the man advantage, having gone as far as mentioning the "possibility" of splitting up Norris Trophy-winning defensemen Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson on the top unit after acknowledging both units would undergo makeovers.
"It's time," Boughner said of tweaking the power play Wednesday in a video conference with reporters before practice. "I think that we started off as one of the best power plays in the league through the first four [games], and now after game seven we've struggled a little bit -- especially that top unit."
The Sharks allowed a short-handed goal in the second period of Tuesday's 7-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, which Boughner viewed as a two-goal swing. Had San Jose scored on the power play, it would've been a 3-2 deficit rather than 4-1 shortly after the first intermission.
While the Sharks' power-play scoring has dried up lately, that hasn't been for a lack of trying. Entering Wednesday, San Jose was fourth in the NHL this season in 5-on-4 shot-attempt rate (112.09 per hour), shot rate (67.84 per hour) and expected-goal rate (7.8 per hour), while ranking 22nd in 5-on-4 shooting percentage (10.87), according to Natural Stat Trick.
The Sharks' rates with Burns and Karlsson on the ice together are ever-so-slightly behind San Jose's overall rates, but not enough nor in nearly large enough of a sample size -- they've yet to play 25 5-on-4 minutes together -- to raise concern. Plus, the Sharks have scored four of their six power-play goals this season with both players on the ice.
"We were one of the better teams with those two guys running it in the first few games, and every team's gonna go through this throughout a season where their power play goes in a little bit of a drought," Boughner said of Burns and Karlsson. "You've gotta make some adjustments, and there's other adjustments with those two guys you can make, what positions they play on that unit as well."
Boughner didn't specify to reporters which players would be on which power-play unit in Thursday's rematch against the Avalanche, but both units were informed of the changes in a Wednesday morning meeting. "A couple guys" who normally would be on the power play, Boughner said, were given maintenance days Wednesday, so the Sharks could also work on the man advantage during Thursday's morning skate.
The coach is hoping a combination of that practice time, new personnel and improving on the little things will get the Sharks' power play scoring again.
"It's about details, just like our 5-on-5 game, and urgency," Boughner said. "I think our power play, especially our first unit, has been guilty of not out-working the penalty kill. [The Avalanche] have an aggressive penalty kill, just like ours, and we should be ready for that."