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Sharks need to pick up their pace

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The last time the San Jose Sharks returned from a break, they endured one of their worst stretches in years with eight losses in 10 games.

Another dismal run like that as the Sharks return from four days off from the All-Star break could just about end any hopes San Jose has of making the playoffs.

"We have to learn from our last one," coach Todd McLellan said Monday. "Obviously the Christmas break didn't do anything for us. We took the 48 hours off and then came back and decided we needed a few extra days. It got us into trouble. We have to learn from that. ... We don't have any time to find our way. We have to be producing off the bat."

McLellan tweaked things a little bit at practice Monday from what he did when the team came back from Christmas, spending extra time talking, looking at video and working on the mental part of the game.

This is an unfamiliar position for this time of the season. After posting the second best regular-season record in the NHL over the previous five seasons, San Jose finds itself in a three-way tie for seventh place in the Western Conference after an up-and-down first 50 games this season.

With only the top eight teams qualifying for the playoffs, the Sharks need to worry about just making the postseason instead of things like playoff positioning and staying fresh.

"In the past we've been comfortably in first or at least comfortably in the playoffs and we were worrying about different things at that point, the fatigue factor in the team, the injuries, the placing, whether you have home ice or not. That's not the case right now. We can't worry about any of that. It's about competing for 32 games. Whatever position we're in when it's all over and whatever fatigue factor we'll have, we'll have to deal with that."

The Sharks begin their stretch drive with a home game tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes, who are three points ahead of the Sharks in sixth place in the conference. Then San Jose plays another team its chasing on the road Wednesday with a visit to Anaheim.

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