(SAN JOSE) -- Coming off another loss on Tuesday night, their 14th defeat in their last 18 games, the San Jose Sharks are looking dimly at their postseason chances from the outside of the playoff party, currently.
If the Sharks want to avoid another long off-season answering questions about falling short and being the only California team without a Stanley Cup championship, they better get their game in gear soon.
San Jose's 11-8-6 record places ninth in the Western Conference right now, out of the postseason slots with just 23 games left on their schedule. They host the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings (14-9-2) tonight at HP Pavilion, starting at 7:30 p.m.
The Kings hold the fourth spot in the conference, despite being only two points ahead of the Sharks in the standings. Eight teams out West have between 28 and 30 points in the standings, and San Jose -- along with the Nashville Predators -- are the two teams out of luck currently.
But wins -- and the important two points they bring to the standings -- change everything in a hurry, and that's why the Sharks need to start winning again. Since their seven-game win streak to open the season, they've been struggling and blowing very winnable games routinely.
With so many teams bunched so closely in the standings, every loss hurts. Every missed opportunity hurts. And sooner or later, there won't be enough games left in the season to matter. Leaving points on the ice? Unforgivable.
On Tuesday, San Jose lost in St. Louis, 4-2, and they had yet another typical Sharks lapse: trailing by one goal near the end of the second period, they gave up a goal with just seven seconds left in the middle frame to fall behind 3-1 right before the second intermission.
Goals like that are deflating, and while San Jose did get the first goal of the third period, they couldn't overcome the deficit in the end as Blues rookie goaltender Jake Allen made 39 saves to keep the Sharks at bay.
Tonight, San Jose gets to face Jonathan Quick (9-8-2, 2.60), the Kings' Cup-winning goalie who hasn't been himself this year, in truth. The Sharks could have a great chance to get a desperately-needed win against a longtime nemesis in this one.
Quick is 8-4-4 in the regular season against the Sharks over his National Hockey League career, even though San Jose knocked Los Angeles out of the playoffs in 2011.
But that's a distant memory now as the Kings parade around the league with their Cup championship in tow.
For the Sharks, that's their quest in 2013. And they'd be wise to start chasing it tonight with reckless abandon.