SAN JOSE -- It's not that the Sharks should look at any stretch of their NHL schedule as a promising place to turn around their faltering season. Not with only two regulation wins in their last 20 games, and with particularly dismal efforts against cellar dwellers such as the Columbus Blue Jackets and Calgary Flames.
But the next three games -- a home-and-home series against the Los Angeles Kings starting Thursday night at HP Pavilion and a Honda Center matchup with the surging Anaheim Ducks -- seem especially daunting for a team already on a four-game losing streak.
Sharks coach Todd McLellan isn't playing down the challenge of facing a Los Angeles team on a 9-3-0 run even if it lost its most recent game, 5-2 to the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday.
"They're the Stanley Cup champions," McLellan said. "They went through their phase where they're figuring things out, and now they're playing like that. Great test for us."
The Sharks flew home after Tuesday night's 4-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues with mixed emotions. They came away empty-handed but did take heart from the fact that they found a higher gear that enabled them to apply more offensive pressure than they had in weeks.
"We've got to build on that, for sure," forward Scott Gomez said. "Losing's no fun, but you can also learn from it. If we don't come out and play like we did this game the rest of the way, we're just cheating ourselves and the fans."
Gomez was part of McLellan's experiment to have injured defenseman Brent Burns return to action as a forward.
Taking a pass from Gomez, Burns scored San Jose's first goal against St. Louis.
The Sharks did catch a bit of a break with the announcement Wednesday that Anaheim forward Corey Perry has been suspended for the Ducks' next four games for a late and illegal hit on Jason Zucker of the Minnesota Wild.
Still, Anaheim is a solid second in the Western Conference with 41 points and is 12-1-2 in its last 15 games.