Struggling Sharks will find going tough vs. Rangers

With just over two weeks left before postseason play starts, the San Jose Sharks are in the midst of their longest losing streak, one that knocked them from the top of the Pacific Division.

Their hopes of avoiding a seventh straight loss will be harder without a key to their offense and special teams hitting the ice in the immediate future.

With Logan Couture sidelined after a gruesome facial injury, the sputtering Sharks return home on Tuesday night to meet the New York Rangers, who are in position to secure a playoff spot.

The Sharks' losing streak grew with a 7-2 setback at the hands of the Nashville Predators on Saturday. San Jose has been outscored 23-7 over the past six games, with rookie goalie Aaron Dell and All-Star Martin Jones allowing 13 goals over the past two contests.

"You don't want it to happen at any time. Right now, we should be tightening up everything," defenseman Brent Burns told the NHL's official website. "We've still got to fight. You're fighting for your lives, and we've got to figure it out pretty soon."

Time is not a luxury for San Jose (42-26-7). The Sharks are tied with the Edmonton Oilers for second place in the Pacific Division, two points behind the Anaheim Ducks. The Calgary Flames are fourth in the Pacific, one point behind San Jose and Edmonton.

After this contest, the Sharks will have six games remaining, including two each against the Oilers and Flames.

However, San Jose will first have to figure out how to win without Couture, who reportedly lost several teeth after taking a deflected puck to the face against Nashville. In a tweet Monday evening, Couture thanked fans for get-well messages and added, "I'll be back as soon as possible."

Couture is third on the team with 52 points, and 11 of his 25 goals have come on the power play.

"You can't replace him, so it would be really tough," Patrick Marleau told CSN Bay Area. "But if that is the case, then guys are going to have to pull up the slack."

That would include Burns and Joe Pavelski, who have combined for three assists during the losing streak. Burns leads the Sharks with 45 assists and 72 points while Pavelski has a team-best 28 goals and is second with 64 points.

Besides Couture, San Jose will be without center Michael Haley after he was handed a one-game suspension on Monday for roughing Nashville's Calle Jarnkrok over the weekend. Haley has two goals, nine assists and a team-high 110 penalty minutes in 54 games.

The six-game losing streak matches the Sharks' longest since 2005.

Despite a goal and three assists from Pavelski, San Jose dropped a 7-4 decision to the Rangers on Oct. 17 at Madison Square Garden, its fourth loss in five matchups overall. The Sharks have beaten New York in two of the last three meetings at SAP Center, including a 9-2 rout on Oct. 8. 2013, when then-rookie Tomas Hertl scored four goals in his third NHL game.

New York (46-26-4) will become the fourth Metropolitan Division team to clinch a playoff spot with a win, and the odds appear to be in their favor. The Rangers lead the league with 27 road victories and are 21-6-0 versus Western Conference opponents this season.

After blanking the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday in the opener of its California road trip, New York looks to bounce back from Sunday's 6-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.

"At the end of the night, we had too many guys who brought a 'C' game," New York coach Alain Vigneault told the league's official website after the Rangers' fifth loss in seven games.

Rick Nash extended his goal-scoring streak to four straight games and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 28 of 33 shots in his first game back after missing seven with a hip injury.

"I know Henrik, we all do. He's going to get better," Vigneault told the league's website.

After winning five straight starts in early February, Lundqvist is 4-5-1 with a 2.77 goals-against average and .914 save percentage. He's alternated losses and wins in five career games at SAP Center.

Kevin Hayes leads the Rangers in scoring on the road with 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists), followed by J.T. Miller with 26 points (10 goals, 16 assists). Mats Zuccarello also has 26 points, including a team-high 21 assists away from home.

Only Zuccarello has been producing on the road recently with five assists in his last five games. Zuccarello had a goal and two assists versus San Jose in October.

Hayes has one assist in his past four games on the road while Miller has three assists in his past 10 away from New York.
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