While the Buffalo Sabres continue adjusting to the loss of their leading scorer, a visit from the Western Conference's top team is probably not what they wanted.
Vanek is expected to miss up to a month following surgery for a fractured jaw, suffered on a slap shot to the face in Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss at Ottawa.
His 32 goals top Buffalo (28-21-6) and he entered the week leading the league with 15 on the power play. Vanek's absence appeared to hurt the Sabres on Wednesday night as they scored only once in 12 man-advantage opportunities - the most by one team in a game this season - in a 3-1 home loss to the Senators.
"It was frustrating," Jason Pominville said after the opener of Buffalo's three-game homestand. "We couldn't find a way. We have to be better at it."
Now Buffalo faces a Sharks team which hasn't allowed a power-play goal in four straight games and seven of eight.
San Jose (37-7-8) is 10-1-2 against the East this season but has two shootout defeats in its past three such matchups, including a 2-1 loss Wednesday night at Pittsburgh.
The Sharks couldn't sustain the momentum from a 5-2 win at East-leading Boston the previous night, missing on three shootout attempts versus the Penguins after Joe Pavelski scored their only goal.
"It was a tough night for us, an emotional win from last night, the travel," said Sharks coach Todd McLellan, whose team dropped to 1-0-2 on its five-game road trip and 14-5-5 away from home.
"They played pretty hard, and I'm not sure we had our gas tanks where we needed them to be. We found a way, at least, to get a point."
The Sharks' streak of eight straight games with a power-play goal ended and it was their fourth loss in five games overall. Though they are second in the West with 178 goals, they have been held to two or less in four of the last six games while their top line has slumped.
Joe Thornton leads the team with 58 points but has two in the last six games, a stretch during which Patrick Marleau has scored only one of his team-best 27 goals. Devin Setoguchi has a goal and two assists in the past seven contests.
Teammates Milan Michalek and Ryane Clowe, however, have produced. Michalek has six goals and eight assists in his last 11 games, and Clowe has a point in 12 of the last 15 games while totaling five goals and 13 assists.
After backup Brian Boucher started against the Penguins, San Jose should look to Evgeni Nabokov, who beat the Sabres 5-0 on Dec. 2, 2005, in the Sharks' most recent trip to Buffalo after losing all 11 previous visits. Nabokov was pulled from the only meeting between the teams since that one - San Jose's 7-1 home loss on Dec. 8, 2007.
Ryan Miller is likely to be in the opposite net, and he would be looking to avoid losing three straight starts for the first time since mid-November. He's given up a combined seven goals in his last five starts.
Offensively for Buffalo, Tim Connolly is riding a four-game point streak and has nine goals and five assists in the last 11 games.