A franchise-record winning streak has helped the San Jose Sharks take over the top spot in the very competitive Pacific Division. To increase their lead, however, they'll have to make sure they don't overlook one of the NHL's worst teams.
The surging Sharks go for their 11th straight victory and a season series-sweep against the slumping St. Louis Blues on Friday night at the HP Pavilion.
|Evgeni Nabokov (left) is 9-0-0 with a 1.85 GAA since February 21 and 2-0-0 with a 0.50 GAA versus the Blues. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)|
San Jose (41-21-8) posted its franchise-record 10th consecutive win with a 2-1 victory at Nashville on Tuesday. The Sharks, who became the fifth franchise to accomplish that feat since 2000-01, have a one-point over second-place Dallas and are two in front of third-place and defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim.
Joe Pavelski and Milan Michalek scored and Evgeni Nabokov turned aside 26 shots in his career-high 40th victory for the Sharks, who have won four straight by one-goal margins.
"We really came out flat, but we picked it up in the second period," Sharks defenseman Doug Murray said. "The guys did a good job of taking over the game. We don't want games to be tight like this. We need to play for 60 minutes and put teams out of it early."
Nabokov is 9-0-0 with a 1.85 goals-against average in nine starts since Feb. 21. The league leader in wins, Nabokov is 2-0-0 with a 0.50 goals-against average and a shutout this season versus St. Louis.
San Jose has won all three matchups against St. Louis this season, shutting them out twice. The Sharks are also 11-2-2 against the Blues since the start of 2003-04. A win on Friday, though, would give San Jose its first sweep of the Blues.
After spending the better part of the previous three weeks on the road, the Sharks play seven of their final 12 games at home, where they are only 16-13-5. San Jose has won three of its last four at home against the Blues, and seven of its last 10 overall at HP Pavilion.
St. Louis (29-30-11) has lost the first four games on its season-high nine-game road trip following a 4-3 overtime loss at Edmonton on Tuesday. Brad Boyes had a goal and an assist for the Blues, who dropped to 1-8-2 since Feb. 21.
St. Louis has dropped a season-high eight straight on the road - its longest skid since going 0-7-3 from Dec. 29, 2005-Feb. 1, 2006.
The Blues, owners of the second-worst record in the Western Conference, are in danger of missing the playoffs for a third straight season.
Boyes, the Blues' leader with 37 goals, has tallied five with an assist during a three-game points streak. Boyes' lone goal in four games against the Sharks came in a 4-1 loss at San Jose on Jan. 24.
Blues goaltender Manny Legace is 1-7-2 with a 3.06 GAA in his last 11 starts overall, and hasn't beaten San Jose since a 31-save shutout in 1-0 win on Jan. 20, 2007. If backup Hannu Toivonen gets the start, it will be his first ever against the Sharks.