SAN JOSE -- Sharks coach Todd McLellan has been happy with the way his less-experienced players have been competing in recent games, saying Tuesday that their efforts should make for great internal competition when the team's slew of injured forwards get healthy in the coming weeks.

Bracken Kearns has played in 12 straight games since he was recalled from Worcester, and Eriah Hayes has not looked out place in his five games with the Sharks. John McCarthy had just 13 shifts for 7:54 of ice time in Monday's 3-2 win over Calgary but won four of six faceoffs.

Those players have given the coaching staff something to think about when injured forwards such as Logan Couture, Raffi Torres and Adam Burish are ready to go. Marty Havlat and Mike Brown are available to play but were scratched from Monday's lineup.

San Jose Sharks’ John McCarthy (43) tries to get a shot off against Detroit Red Wings’ goaltender Jimmy Howard (35) in the first period at the
San Jose Sharks' John McCarthy (43) tries to get a shot off against Detroit Red Wings' goaltender Jimmy Howard (35) in the first period at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) ( Nhat V. Meyer )

"You don't want your players feeling uncomfortable, but you also want them on notice that there are players pushing," McLellan said. "If you feel like you're in competition with these individuals, you don't want to be looking over your shoulder, but you also want them to know that, 'Hey, I got to get going, too. When all of these guys get healthy, where am I going to be?' "

The Sharks are on a four-game win streak and are 5-2 since Couture's last game Jan. 5. Couture had surgery on his hand Jan. 8 and was projected to miss three to four weeks. Torres and Burish are feeling better, but it is unknown whether either will return before the Olympic break begins for the team Feb. 8.

Couture on Tuesday said he can stickhandle a bit but still is unable to shoot.

"We're going day by day. There have been some very good improvements so far," Couture said. "There isn't a time frame. It all depends on how I feel and what the doctor says."

Couture has been impressed with how the team has responded in his absence. The Sharks entered Tuesday six points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings for second place in the Pacific Division and have three games remaining on their homestand, starting with Thursday's game against Winnipeg.

San Jose Sharks’ Bracken Kearns (38) controls the puck against the Los Angeles Kings in the second period in Game 3 of the Western Conference
San Jose Sharks' Bracken Kearns (38) controls the puck against the Los Angeles Kings in the second period in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals at HP Pavilion on Saturday, May 18, 2013. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) ( Nhat V. Meyer )

"We're moving away from some teams, which is good. With 30 or so games left, it's going to be a sprint to the finish," Couture said. "Any time you can get on a win streak, you enjoy it and hopefully you can keep it going."

  • With 18 goals in his past 20 games, Sharks forward Joe Pavelski almost reluctantly agreed Tuesday that he's playing the best hockey of his professional career.

    Working on a line with Brent Burns and center Joe Thornton, Pavelski has six goals in the past three games and is tied for second in the NHL with 27. His shooting percentage of 19.1 is fourth in the league among players who have at least 12 goals.

    "You look at the shooting percentages, and it's pretty good. So I'm getting a couple good looks and scoring on them," Pavelski said. "That's the biggest thing. You get your looks and you feel that you should score."

    For more on the Sharks, see the Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks.

    thursday's game

    Winnipeg (23-23-5)
    at Sharks (32-12-6),
    7:30 p.m. CSNCA