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Jackets Conclude Their Tour of California With A Trip To The Shark Tank

by Staff Writer / Columbus Blue Jackets

San Jose (AP) - The performance of the San Jose Sharks' new top line is making coach Ron Wilson look like a genius.

The Sharks look to build on one of the wildest wins in recent memory Saturday when they face the Columbus Blue Jackets at HP Pavilion.

With his team having lost a season-high three straight and coming off an ugly 8-0 loss to Phoenix, Wilson decided to juggle his lines for Sunday's game at Dallas. He put top center Joe Thornton in between veteran forward Mike Grier and Patrick Marleau, the team's second-best player.

That line responded with two goals and four assists Sunday in a 4-2 victory over the Stars. The trio was even better Thursday, accounting for three goals and eight assists as the Sharks (27-14-0) scored nine straight goals in a 9-4 rout over visiting Detroit.

Whether the line remains together long-term remains to be seen.

"I hope it's a long-term marriage," Thornton said. "Patty's really got speed. You peek up with your head after getting the puck and he's already halfway down the rink."

Grier had gone seven consecutive games without a goal before scoring two of San Jose's franchise-record six power-play goals.

Thursday marked the first time the Sharks won after overcoming a three-goal deficit since Jan. 13, 1996, in a 10-8 victory at Pittsburgh. It was also their second straight game with a four-goal period.

"It started the last game and continued to this game," said right wing Jonathan Cheechoo, who has two goals and two assists in the last two contests. "We had the confidence to come back. We corrected our mistakes."

Marleau finished with a goal and three assists Thursday, making him San Jose's career scoring leader. With 454 career points, Marleau - in his ninth season with the Sharks - moved past Owen Nolan's record of 451.

"It's nice to get recognized like that, and that it came in a win, that makes it much better," said Marleau, who is also one goal shy of Nolan's franchise record of 206.

The only bad news to come out of Thursday's win for the Sharks was the performance of goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who was pulled in the first period after allowing three goals on 12 shots. Nabokov has been pulled in two straight starts, yielding six goals on 18 shots.

Vesa Toskala, who replaced Nabokov twice in his last three games, likely will start Saturday. He stopped 23 shots in a 3-0 victory at Columbus at Oct. 23.

Columbus (16-21-4) is coming off one of the most unlikely wins in the franchise's relatively brief history.

The Blue Jackets erased a three-goal deficit in the third period, scoring four times in an 8:32 span in a 4-3 victory at league-leading Anaheim on Friday.

Defenseman Rotislav Klesla had two goals and Manny Malhotra scored the game-winner with 80 seconds to play.

"They had some guys out, but we played a pretty solid game and everybody was skating," Klesla said. "They got the 3-0 lead, but it's never over. All we needed was a couple of goals to get back in it."

The victory snapped a five-game road losing streak for Columbus, which managed only seven goals during that stretch.

Left wing Rick Nash has been held without a goal in seven straight games, but does have four goals in his last three contests against San Jose.

The Sharks have won all nine home games against the Blue Jackets except a 3-2 overtime loss on Jan. 8, 2004. San Jose is 15-5 with one overtime loss all-time against Columbus.

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