When the season began, there seemed little reason to doubt that San Jose and Anaheim would be battling for the Pacific Division title. Instead, they appear to be headed in opposite directions.
The undefeated Sharks - off to the best start in franchise history - take on the winless Ducks Friday night at Honda Center in the second meeting between the division rivals this season.
San Jose (4-0-0) and Anaheim (0-4-0) have been two of the league's elite teams the last few years, with the Sharks finishing with 99 or more points in each of the last four years and the Ducks having 100 or more in the last two, while capturing the Stanley Cup in 2006-07.
Expectations were high for both teams entering this season, and the Sharks have so far lived up to them, opening with four straight wins under new coach Todd McLellan. The Ducks, meanwhile, are trying to avoid going winless in their first five games for the first time since opening 0-4-1 in 2003-04.
San Jose defeated Anaheim 4-1 in the teams' respective season opener on Oct. 9, and hasn't slowed since, outscoring its next three opponents 9-3. Patrick Marleau had two goals and Evgeni Nabokov stopped 31 shots to lead San Jose to a 5-2 home win over Columbus on Tuesday.
Marleau, who had a disappointing 48 points last season, is tied for the team lead with four points in four games.
"It's nice to get those (goals), but 4-0 is a pretty good feeling right now," said Marleau, the team's career scoring leader. "It's a good feeling in the room here. As a team, it just goes to show that everybody is kind of buying in here. We still have to work on it and build off it, but it's definitely a great feeling."
McLellan, trying to become the first coach to go 5-0 in his debut season since Marc Crawford with the 1994-95 Quebec Nordiques, said the start has yet to impress him.
"There are a whole lot of teams that are going to have four-game winning streaks," McLellan said. "Ours just happened at the start of the year."
Anaheim is coming off a 3-2 loss to visiting Edmonton on Wednesday, its first one-goal defeat after losing its first three games by two or more.
Poor special teams and undisciplined play have both been a problem for the Ducks, who have given up seven power-play goals on 25 opportunities. They also have been whistled for 102 penalty minutes, one of the league's highest totals.
"I think the frustration level is starting to show, we expect more from that group than what we've got," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. "We're going to have to work with them to find a way to bounce one in off a shin pad or something to get the ball rolling."
Goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who did not start Wednesday, if off to a slow start, allowing 13 goals in three games for an ugly 4.31 goals-against average. He was 7-0-1 in his previous eight starts against the Sharks before yielding four goals on 41 shots in the season-opening loss to them.