DALY CITY — The answer to the San Francisco Bulls' problem right now is obvious.
“We need to score goals,” coach Pat Curcio said.
Curcio's club is tied for last in the ECHL in goals scored with the Bakersfield Condors, averaging 1.6 goals per game heading into Friday's game against the Idaho Steelheads at the Cow Palace. The Bulls are 4-1-2 this season when they put the puck in the net at least twice; they haven't scored more than three goals in a contest yet this season.
The team registered 39 shots on goal against the Ontario Reign on Sunday and 33 against the Stockton Thunder on Monday, but scored a combined two goals in the contests.
“I don't have an answer,” Curcio said. “I think that skill is a big-important factor, but when you look at these guys and the numbers that they've had in the past, they should have enough skill to score goals.”
One explanation for the Bulls' offensive struggles is the absence of Dale Mitchell (back) and Ryan McDonough (concussion). Mitchell is still tied for third on the team in scoring (six points), despite missing the last five games, and McDonough is expected to be one of the team's top playmakers after scoring 87 points in 87 games with the Hannover Indians in Germany over the last two seasons.
Another reason for the team's offensive woes is its ineffectiveness on the power play. The Bulls are currently ranked 17th in the ECHL on the power play (10.3 percent) after finishing 14th last year with a 17.5 percent conversion rate.
“The power play creates momentum,” Curcio said. “When you get scoring chances on the power play for some reason it gets easier to score five-on-five.”
Curcio said the Bulls (4-8-2) spent a lot of time in practice this week trying to work out the power play's kinks, focusing on moving the puck, shooting the puck and getting to the net.
The losses of Mitchell and McDonough are particularly noticeable on the power play as both players were part of the squad's top unit. But Curcio isn't offering excuses.
“You can only ride that so long until you have to produce going with what you've got in the lineup,” he said.
Both players are expected back from injured reserve next week, but their returns to the lineup are uncertain because of the ambiguous nature of their injuries.
The Bulls' coach and president said the team could receive help the Worcester Sharks next week and he's expecting several players around the league to become available because of player movement between the AHL and ECHL.
Another option is to attempt a blockbuster deal similar to last season's five-player Justin Bowers trade.
“I don't think you'll see anything like that,” Curcio said. “We still need to figure out what we have.”
For now, Curcio will try to find chemistry by tinkering his lines. Dean Ouellet will skate on the top line Friday with Mark Lee and Luke Judson. Kyle Bodie will center a line with Chris Crane and Kris Belan and Jordan Morrison will play alongside Rob Linsmayer and Brett Findlay.
Tyler Gjurich, who joined the Bulls on Wednesday, will be the team's roving forward.
Curcio said Gjurich, who was offered a full scholarship to play at the University of Maine, could be an X-factor.
“He decided that school wasn't something that he wanted to do,” Curcio said. “[Former NHLer] Mike Peca, who was his coach, spoke highly of him, which is why we brought him in.”
Gjurich led the Ontario Junior Hockey League in points (97) and goals (53) last season with Peca's Buffalo Jr. Sabres.
Defenseman stays home: Defenseman Jason Lepine, who the Bulls acquired from the Toledo Walleye earlier this week, decided to stay on the East Coast.
“He's not going to report west,” Curcio said.
Curcio said the Bulls will try to move Lepine next week when he has a better idea of what his roster is going to look like moving forward.