After finishing second in the Pacific Division and advancing to the Western Conference finals last season, the San Jose Sharks entered the new campaign considered a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
However, after 15 games, the Sharks head into Tuesday night's home game with the Chicago Blackhawks in last place in the Pacific, and their nine points are tied with the Minnesota Wild for the fewest points in the West.
San Jose brings a five-game losing streak into the contest, having been outscored 22-8 in that span. The Sharks come in off a 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night, when they fell behind 2-0 in the first period and trailed 4-0 after just 25:11.
Slow starts have played a big part in the disappointing beginning to the season for Peter DeBoer's squad, which has allowed the first goal a league-high 11 times in 15 games.
"I think (they're the) same problems that have plagued us a lot of the year," DeBoer told reporters. "We get behind early. Usually one of the first two or three chances ends up in the net, and then you are playing from behind all night. ... It's tough to play that kind of hockey. Then you are trying to open it up and catch up, and that never works.
"Everybody has to look in the mirror, goalies, coaches, players -- everybody. We've got to find a way. This is our group. There is no cavalry coming."
Center Logan Couture said, "No one in this league feels sorry for the San Jose Sharks. No one. We need to get that swagger, that confidence back that we've had here for so many years. It's tough when you're losing."
Couture said there hasn't been any finger-pointing done so far in the locker room.
"There's no blame going on in the room," he said. "Everyone's looking at their own game. Individually, we all need to be better. Once that happens I think, as a team, we'll play better."
Defenseman Brenden Dillon added, "We have a lot of time left, but at the same time, every game that goes by is an opportunity missed."
One positive for the Sharks is that defenseman Radim Simek, who formed one of the league's best defensive pairings with 2017 Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns before tearing his ACL and MCL last March in a game against the Winnipeg Jets, practiced with the team on Monday and is expected to make his 2019 debut on Tuesday night.
Chicago will be playing the finale of a four-game road trip. The trek began with a 3-0 loss at Nashville on Oct. 29, then included a 4-3 overtime loss at Los Angeles on Saturday, and most recently saw the Blackhawks win 3-2 over Anaheim in overtime Sunday.
Patrick Kane scored the game-winner 24 seconds into OT off a nice feed by Jonathan Toews against the Ducks to give the Blackhawks just their second victory in the past eight games.
"It's nice to score, nice to score in overtime, nice for the team to get a win," Kane, the team's co-leader with four goals and the leader with eight assists, told reporters. "Three of four points in this California swing so far. It's a good start."
This is the second meeting of the season between the teams. San Jose, behind a pair of goals from Patrick Marleau, won the first one 5-4 on Oct. 10 in Chicago.
--Field Level Media
Sharks limp into matchup with Blackhawks on 5-game skid