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Blackhawks-Sharks Preview @NHLdotcom
Blackhawks-Sharks Preview

GAME: Chicago Blackhawks (18-29-7) at San Jose Sharks (24-21-8).

TIME: Wednesday, 10:30 p.m. EST.

Wins have been rare this season for Chicago Blackhawks. Back-to-back wins have been more rare.

The Blackhawks will try to win consecutive games for the first time in two months as they meet the San Jose Sharks to continue a six-game road trip into the Olympic break.

Radim Vrbata and Martin Lapointe scored 84 seconds apart early in the second period, and Craig Anderson made 23 saves Tuesday during Chicago's 3-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes.

The victory snapped a three-game slide and was only the Blackhawks' second win in 10 road games.

"So much of this game is mental," Anderson said after recording his first win since Nov. 19. "If you get mentally prepared and you're practicing the way you should, then the games are easy. It's just a mind-set. Work hard in practice and the game becomes easy."

Anderson had been claimed on waivers by the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues in a 12-day span last month before the Blackhawks reacquired him Saturday.

Chicago has not won two in a row since defeating the New York Rangers on Dec. 7 and the Atlanta Thrashers on Dec. 11. The Blackhawks also have just one win in their last nine visits to San Jose.

The Sharks, meanwhile, are looking for their first win on a five-game homestand that wraps up Friday against the Pacific Division-leading Dallas Stars.

San Jose lost its third in a row and saw its eight-game unbeaten streak against Calgary end with a 4-3 loss Monday to the Flames.

Patrick Marleau staked San Jose to an early 1-0 lead, but goaltender Evgeni Nabokov allowed four straight Calgary goals before Milan Michalek and Johnathan Cheechoo scored late to make it close.

"They capitalized on our penalties," said Nabokov, who stopped 25 shots. "We need everyone on the same page, and it starts with me. One mistake ends up costing us the game. This seems to be the story all season."

The first two goals allowed by Nabokov came with the Sharks shorthanded.

On Tuesday, the Sharks prevented Nabokov and Cheechoo from testing free agency at the end of the season by signing them to contract extensions.

Cheechoo, who got a five-year extension, has improved his game since San Jose acquired Joe Thornton at the end of November from the Boston Bruins. Cheechoo has scored a league-best 25 goals since Dec. 2, three ahead of Marian Gaborik of the Minnesota Wild.

Nabokov, given a four-year deal, holds every major franchise record for goalies, including games played (298), wins (135) and shutouts (27). He won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie in 2000-01 and won 31 games with nine shutouts in leading San Jose to the Western Conference finals in 2003-04.

STANDINGS: Blackhawks - 43 points, 4th place, 34 PB, Central Division. Sharks - 56 points, 5th place, 21 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blackhawks - Mark Bell, 19 goals; Tyler Arnason, 26 assists and 38 points; Matthew Barnaby, 129 PIM. Sharks - Cheechoo, 32 goals; Thornton, 56 assists and 74 points; Mark Smith, 73 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Blackhawks - Power play: 12.8 percent (37 for 289), 30th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.1 percent (328 for 390), 10th. Sharks - Power play: 17.0 percent (56 for 329), 20th. Penalty killing: 79.6 percent (214 for 269), 25th.

GOALTENDERS: Blackhawks - Adam Munro (3-3-2, 1 SO, 2.73 GAA); Anderson (3-8-1, 0, 3.69). Sharks - Nabokov (14-15-6, 1, 2.95); Vesa Toskala (5-5-2, 0, 3.25).


LAST MEETING: Oct. 15; Sharks, 4-3. At San Jose, Calif, Marleau tallied two power-play goals less than three minutes apart in the second period and Nabokov finished with 24 saves. Jim Dowd had two assists for Chicago.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blackhawks - 8-16-4 on the road; Sharks - 14-7-5 at home.

Associated Press

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