ST. LOUIS -- Sharks coach Todd McLellan delivered a less-than-subtle message Monday when he assigned Logan Couture and Brent Burns the teal practice jerseys that designate skaters on the third and fourth lines. Whether that's where the two top-six players end up Tuesday night when San Jose faces off against the St. Louis Blues remains to be seen, as McLellan said that decision hadn't been made.
"There's some players that haven't produced that we really count on a lot," McLellan said. "And maybe it's an opportunity to shake things up a little bit."
The Sharks definitely could use some sort of a wake-up call, as they have dropped five of their past six games, scoring only 12 goals over that stretch. Things don't get any easier, as they finish this trip with games against Western Conference powers St. Louis and the Los Angeles Kings.
Couture has 10 goals for the season but only two in the past 15 games and none over the past six. Burns, who has eight goals in 20 games, scored a hat trick against the Blues on Nov. 29 in San Jose but hasn't found the back of the net in eight games since then.
With 28 shots in the past six games, Couture is getting involved in the offense. But at this point, McLellan indicated, that isn't enough.
"He's getting a lot of shots off, and he's been snakebit as far as the metal goes, the posts and crossbars," McLellan said. "But when it's all said and done, it's like putting in golf. You can keep lipping out and your score isn't very good. You've got to sink those putts."
Couture, the coach added, "has risen to the point where he's one of our go-to players, and that's the pressure that you deal with when you're one of those guys. You have to produce on a consistent basis for the team to be successful."
As for Burns, McLellan said, "His commitment level to working and getting through it is never questioned, but are you under control enough to be effective?"
Burns, he added, has the same go-to guy responsibility as Couture and "has to find a way to produce. We have to help him. We have to look at where he's getting his shots from. Is he getting second opportunities? Is he in the play or out of the play?"
Couture acknowledged his frustration with his own game as of late.
"It's been a frustrating year. I've hit the post a lot. I've had a lot of chances where I should have scored," he said. "I'm trying to work my way out of it. I think if I keep getting chances, keep shooting, you have to think positively that they'll start going in."
But he didn't read too much into the fact that he was wearing a teal practice jersey, not the usual white one.
"Our lines change all the time. Who knows what our lines are going to be tomorrow?" he said. "If I'm in teal, if I'm in white -- if I'm in the lineup, I'm going to work as hard as I can and do the same things."
Monday's practice featured a series of "battle" drills with an emphasis on puck pursuit and puck protection.
At the end, for example, McLellan paired off players in the center ice faceoff circle, one trying to hold onto the puck, the other trying to take it away in a confined area. The action got a little intense as players pushed, hacked away and climbed over each other.
What McLellan needed to see was more intensity than was on display in Saturday night's 3-2 loss at Nashville.
"Coming in here, going to L.A., it's not going to be even close if we play like that, and we've got to adjust quickly," McLellan said.
Sharks (20-7-6) at St. Louis (22-6-4), 5 p.m. CSNCA