There have been very few bright spots for the Sharks this season, but Evander Kane is having an especially strong 2021 campaign.
The 29-year-old scored his team-leading 17th goal in the Sharks' 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center on Friday night.
Dating back to the start of the 2019-20 season, Kane leads all Sharks players with 43 goals in 107 games. Logan Couture and Timo Meier are the next closest, each having scored 30 goals since the beginning of last season.
But it's improvements in Kane's on-ice discipline that have led to his success this season.
"Kaner's had a good year for us and he's a guy who always seems to have legs and brings it every night," coach Bob Boughner told reporters on a video conference call after Friday's game. "He plays fast and I think that's a big advantage for him. I thought tonight he got involved in the game physically and I had a talk with him yesterday about making sure that's part of his game. We've clean up their area, the discipline, the after-the-whistle stuff, but being a little harder to play against and he did that tonight and I think he was ready to play. He was good all night."
This season, month by month, Kane has reduced his penalty minutes and allowed himself to be on the ice more.
In January, Kane spent 20 minutes in a sin bin. He cut that down to 10 minutes in February and six minutes in 17 March games. He stayed out of the box Friday and has just four penalty minutes in eight April games.
Those early-season penalty minutes were becoming a problem, but Boughner is happy Kane was able to clean up that part of his game.
"It's helped him a lot. It was a bit of a distraction," Boughner said. "He's such a good player that if you're expending your energy and constantly having to be in the middle of all the antics and everything, I think it's just, he goes, he plays hard, he kills penalties, he's on the power play, he's playing against the top lines.
"He's been a good player for us all year. He's still involved and he's still trash-talking a little bit and he's still throwing a body around, but he's staying within himself and I think that's helped his 5-on-5 game for sure."
Following Friday's loss, the Sharks sit in sixth place in the West Division with an 18-21-4 record and have 13 regular-season games remaining.
The path to the Stanley Cup Playoffs looks bleak for the Sharks, but if they find a way to climb into the top four in the division, it largely will because Kane is leading the way on offense.