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Sharks’ start filled with early tests and time on the road

The Sharks got “a good message” after playing five playoff teams in its first six games.

San Jose Sharks v New York Rangers Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

SAN JOSE — Seven of the Sharks’ first ten games this season are against teams who made the playoffs a year ago. That mark is tied for second in the division, fourth in the conference, and seventh across the league. Head coach Pete DeBoer is not upset with those challenges.

“I think it’s great. That’s what we want,” DeBoer said. “We want our game at that level right off the bat. We’ve seen when it hasn’t been at the right level of [competing] and attention to detail, you lose. You might get away with that against non-playoff teams, but against good teams you’re not going to get away with that. When we’ve slipped, that’s been the case. I think it’s a good message to get that early.”

San Jose got that message on its recently completed road trip. They finished the road trip 2-3, and lost three of four games against teams that made it to the postseason last year. They trailed by two or more goals in two of those losses, including a 3-0 loss in Detroit on Saturday.

“We didn’t play well in Detroit. [There’s] no way around that,” Sharks center Logan Couture said. “The big thing the coaches stressed today was that we didn’t compete. It’s a frustrating thing, but it’s an easy thing to fix.”

Adding to the challenging early season schedule is a lack of practice time. Today’s practice was the Sharks’ second since opening against Los Angeles 12 days ago, and the first since leaving for their five game road trip ten days ago.

“We’ve been on the road for a long time, [and] haven’t been home a whole lot,” winger Mikkel Boedker said. “It was just a good eye-opener that we have to compete every game.”

Despite a difficult starting schedule and a lack of practice time, the Sharks have been one of the league’s best puck possession teams. They sit second and third in score-and-venue adjusted CF% and FF%, respectively. Given those previously mentioned challenges, DeBoer said he is mostly happy with how his team has played so far.

“I think we’ve controlled large amounts of almost every game we’ve played, other than maybe the Detroit game,” DeBoer said. “I don’t think it’s any time to panic. We’re not looking to blame it on lack of practice or travel or schedule. We’re working through it. We’re not in a bad place, but we know we can get better.”

DeBoer said the Sharks have to take advantage of the “rare” opportunities they have to practice, given their schedule. San Jose will play five of its next six games at the SAP Center, before embarking on another long road trip. Three of those games are against playoff teams, including rematches with two postseason opponents: the Nashville Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Sharks, though, are focused inward, according to Couture.

“We don’t really worry about the other team,” Couture said. “It’s about us and how we play the game. We realize we need to be better.”