Evgeni Nabokov has been dominant against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He may be about to get his first chance of the season to continue that success.
With San Jose Sharks coach Ron Wilson unhappy with Vesa Toskala's latest effort, Nabokov could get his first start in two weeks Friday in a matchup with the last-place Blue Jackets.
San Jose (36-20-1) struggled against one of the NHL's top teams on Wednesday night, losing 5-0 at Nashville while missing a chance to pass Anaheim for the Pacific Division lead.
Toskala gave up two goals in the first 10:02 before being lifted for Nabokov, who kept it a two-goal game before giving up three in the third period in his first action since suffering a groin injury against Dallas on Feb. 1.
"I didn't like the two goals," Wilson said of pulling Toskala. "And I don't care if they are exact shots. In a game like this, you're going to need saves."
Although Toskala has led the Sharks to victory in both meetings with the Blue Jackets (22-30-5) this season, his poor play of late could lead Wilson to give Nabokov his second start of the month. Toskala has a 4.75 goals-against average in his last four starts, stopping only 65 of 80 shots.
Nabokov hasn't won a game since Jan. 15, but the seven-year veteran is 11-2-0 with a 1.51 GAA and three shutouts in 14 games against Columbus.
San Jose had won the first two games of its season-high eight-game road trip before Wednesday's loss. The Sharks are 18-9-0 away from HP Pavilion, tying them with the Predators for the second-most road wins in the league.
San Jose's league-best power-play unit got only three chances Wednesday. The Sharks have converted 23.4 percent (69-for-295) of their opportunities with the man advantage and have been particularly effective against the Blue Jackets, going 7-for-17 (41.2 percent).
Five power-play goals in nine chances lifted San Jose to a 5-2 win over Columbus on Jan. 6 in the teams' last meeting. Ryane Clowe had his first three-goal game and Joe Thornton got three assists for the Sharks.
Thornton has three goals and 14 assists in nine games against the Blue Jackets. He ranks among the league leaders with 74 points (15 goals, 59 assists).
Center Mark Smith (groin) has missed the last five games for San Jose and his status for Friday is uncertain.
Columbus, at the bottom of the Central Division, has lost five of six. The Blue Jackets have dropped three of four on a six-game homestand, the longest in franchise history, after winning three straight at Nationwide Arena.
Columbus fell to 13-13-3 at home with a 4-2 loss to St. Louis on Wednesday night. The score was tied at 2 at the 7:07 mark of the third period.
"We had a lot of good efforts, but unfortunately they scored on their chance in the third period," Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said.
Rick Nash scored for just the second time in 18 games. He leads the team with 15 goals this season, and has six in 11 games against the Sharks.
Blue Jackets goaltender Pascal Leclaire struggled Wednesday in his first start since Dec. 22, stopping 13 of 16 shots. He missed 21 games because of knee surgery.
Leclaire has allowed seven goals in two career games against San Jose, losing both.