SAN JOSE -- As head coach Pete DeBoer made very clear, the Sharks need to elevate their game no matter who their opponent is.
"This isn't about who we're playing," he said at Friday's morning skate. "It's about getting our game right.
Friday's opponent is a visiting Jets team whose season hasn't started out much better than San Jose's has -- and Winnipeg has had most of the week to stew over an ugly 7-4 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.
DeBoer is looking for the Sharks to play a heavier and harder game on their six-game homestand, and Friday's game against the Jets is a good place to start.
Sure, Winnipeg might have a slightly better record (6-7-0), but in addition to being below .500, the Jets currently are battling through a number of injuries that have thrown their lineup out of whack.
#NHLJets injuries so far:— Mike McIntyre (@mikemcintyrewpg) October 31, 2019
-Niku, Vesalainen in car accident
-Little, Beaulieu in final exhibition game
-Morrissey by teammate in pre-game skate
-Appleton by catching football in pre-practice warmup
-Laine by colliding with teammate in practice
-Letestu with heart condition#wfp
While the Jets only have nine players that have appeared in every game so far this season, they also aren't getting any extra help from their goaltending. Starting netminder Connor Hellebuyck had what probably was the worst start of his career Tuesday in Anaheim, surrendering five goals on 19 shots before getting the hook. His backup, Laurent Brossoit, has had a rough beginning to the season, clocking a .852 save percentage through four starts.
Oh, and Winnipeg's special teams haven't been very good. The Jets' power play is clicking at only 15.6 percent, and their penalty kill ranks as the worst in the league.
Long story short: If the struggling Sharks are looking to snap their losing streak and take their frustrations out on an opposing team, there's no better place to start than with the laboring Jets.
One of the few things going well for the Sharks has been their special teams. With the Jets' struggling penalty-kill unit in the building, San Jose should be able to take advantage. Surely the Sharks wouldn't mind if Evander Kane adds to his power-play goal tally, which has him tied for third in the NHL with six.
While the Jets might present the Sharks with an opportunity to get their groove back, it's still up to San Jose to seize it. The Sharks lately have been critical of themselves for a failure to respond to adversity. DeBoer has made it clear that's what he wants to see from the team moving forward.
"We've been here before," he said. "Every group is different and I think those other groups looked in the mirror and figured it out and turned it right and there was still a lot of hockey to be played and they turned it into a good season. Now it's this group's turn to see what they're made of."