The Chicago Blackhawks are perfect midway through their annual six-game circus road trip. Unless they can make a break with recent history, that streak could end against their next opponent, the San Jose Sharks.
The Sharks (17-3-1) will be trying for their 13th straight win over the Blackhawks on Wednesday night. Chicago (10-4-5) will also be playing at HP Pavilion, where San Jose is 11-0-1 this season.
The Sharks haven't lost to Chicago at home since March 17, 2003, when they fell 3-2 in overtime, and haven't suffered a regulation defeat to the Blackhawks in San Jose since Dec. 14, 1999.
Those daunting numbers seem to point toward a delay in the Blackhawks securing a winning record on this annual trip for the first time since 1997-98.
Chicago, however, rallied for a stirring 5-4 overtime victory Saturday over Toronto, storming back from a 3-0 deficit with four goals in less than 20 minutes.
"We have the skill to score goals, and we never think we're out of it," said Ben Eager, who tied the game with 7:33 left.
The Blackhawks also trailed the Sharks in the teams' first meeting this season Nov. 16 at the United Center, but overcame a 4-2 deficit with three goals in 7 minutes late in the second period to take the lead. San Jose countered with two third-period goals, including Devin Setoguchi's power-play score with 4:15 left, for a wild 6-5 victory.
Chicago's Kris Versteeg scored twice in that game to start a three-game goal streak, which was snapped against Toronto, and he carries a five-game point streak (four goals, four assists) into Wednesday.
Offense has been the key for Chicago, 7-1-2 in its last 10. The Blackhawks are among the league leaders with 3.63 goals per game.
San Jose is also one of the league's top offensive teams with 3.71 goals per contest. Both clubs are converting more than 21 percent of their power-play opportunities.
Since Cristobal Huet gave up a season-high six goals in Chicago's Nov. 16 loss to San Jose, Nikolai Khabibulin has started every game of the road trip. Huet joined the Blackhawks with a four-year, $22.5 million contract in July, but Khabibulin has returned to form and regained the No. 1 job after being put on waivers Sept. 29.
Khabibulin is 7-1-4 with a 2.51 goals-against average, compared to 3-3-1 and 2.95 for Huet. Khabibulin, though, has gone 0-2-2 with a 3.22 GAA in his last four meetings against the Sharks.
When a lower body injury sidelined San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov, Brian Boucher started seven straight games, going 5-1-1 and climbing among the league leaders with a 1.89 GAA.
Nabokov (10-2-0, 2.72) will return for Wednesday's game and start against a team he has beaten nine straight times.
"He's got to get back into the groove, and we're going to give him the opportunity to do that," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said.
With 23 goals during its four-game win streak, the San Jose hasn't needed great goaltending of late.
Setoguchi, who leads the Sharks with 12 goals and is tied with Patrick Marleau with a team-best 24 points, has scored in three straight games. He has five goals and five assists during a five-game point streak, while Marleau and Joe Thornton have also recorded points in five straight.
San Jose's Dan Boyle, who scored twice Nov. 16, has four goals and five assists in his last six games.
RW - SJS
G: 2 | A: 0
C - SJS
G: 0 | A: 2
C - CHI
G: 1 | A: 1