The San Jose Sharks and host Pittsburgh Penguins meet Saturday before both clubs head into the All-Star break.
San Jose will be playing on a second consecutive night and winding up a five-game road trip. The Sharks have lost four in a row and seven of eight (1-4-3).
That includes a 5-4 overtime loss at Carolina on Friday, when San Jose blew a two-goal lead with less than two minutes remaining in regulation. The outcome left the Sharks reeling and frustrated because it was too similar of a storyline.
"We're in every game we play almost -- maybe three games this year we knew we weren't going to win," said Sharks forward Nick Bonino, who scored against the Hurricanes. "We're in every game, and we find ways to lose them. It's just not good enough."
San Jose veteran defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic was scratched Friday because of an illness but could be available against Pittsburgh.
This time of year, when teams are struggling, changes are likely, and San Jose has followed suit.
On Jan. 6, they claimed forward Michael Eyssimont off waivers from Winnipeg, and on Wednesday they acquired young players Martin Kaut and Jacob MacDonald from Colorado for Ryan Markley and Matt Nieto.
Eyssimont had a goal and two assists against the Hurricanes. MacDonald made his Sharks debut, with two hits and a blocked shot.
"The first thing I thought of was just coming here for the opportunity to come here and play and show what I can do," MacDonald, a defenseman, said.
The Penguins, meanwhile, have a six-game point streak (3-0-3) and are coming off a 3-2 shootout loss Thursday at Washington.
That game illustrated something Pittsburgh would like to get past -- a poor or slow start.
The Capitals pelted a sluggish Penguins team in the first period, racking up 22 shots, and Pittsburgh came out of that period down 1-0 on a classic Alex Ovechkin blast from the left circle. It could have been much worse if not for stellar work from backup goaltender Casey DeSmith.
DeSmith is expected to start Saturday against San Jose. No. 1 Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry is out because of an unspecified injury, and coach Mike Sullivan said Jarry won't play until after the All-Star weekend break.
Regardless of which goalie is in net, Pittsburgh would like to come out stronger and eliminate the need to come back in games.
"It's not good," center Evgeni Malkin told The Athletic, but he added that it isn't a lack of effort. "We try, but it feels like we're following all the time. The other team gets ahead and we follow. I don't know why."
Even Sullivan struggled to identify a common thread for the slow starts that have plagued his team off and on all season.
"I don't have an answer for you," Sullivan said. "We've got to be ready to play."
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who leads the team with 23 goals and 58 points and is riding a six-game point streak, is as frustrated as anyone.
"You want to get a lead or get momentum, and we haven't done it consistently. It's really important," he said. "When you're down one, you're one mistake away from putting yourself in a really bad spot."
--Field Level Media