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Blue Jackets look to beat Sharks fifth time in row

by John Kreiser

BLUE JACKETS (29-23-5) at SHARKS (36-16-6)


Last 10: Columbus 6-3-1; San Jose 6-4-0

Season series: The Columbus Blue Jackets will try to extend their four-game winning streak against the San Jose Sharks when they face off for the first time this season. The Sharks come to Nationwide Arena on March 13.

Big story: It's the last game before the Olympic break for both teams, with the Blue Jackets needing a win to jump into a Stanley Cup Playoffs berth in the Eastern Conference and the Sharks trying to edge closer to the slumping Anaheim Ducks for first place in the Pacific Division.

Team Scope:

Blue Jackets: Columbus had a chance to get two points against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday but had to settle for one in a 2-1 overtime loss. Jack Johnson scored a power-play goal 1:40 into the game to put the Blue Jackets ahead, but they couldn't get another shot past Jonathan Quick.

Coach Todd Richards was disappointed with the outcome but pleased with the way his team stood up to a big, strong Kings team.

"It figured to be a physical game," he said. "I thought the guys answered the bell by fighting through checks. My message after the game was that I was very proud of them.

"That one point was a big point. We have three periods left to play before the break. We have to put this one behind us; we're going to be facing a really good San Jose team that's rested."

Sharks: Todd McLellan will set a franchise record when he steps behind the bench against Columbus. It will be his 435th game as coach of the Sharks, surpassing Darryl Sutter for the most in team history.

It would be a happier night for McLellan if the Sharks' power play would start clicking again. San Jose was 0-for-3 against Dallas and is mired in a 1-for-24 slump.

"We have work to do," he said after practice Thursday. "We practiced it today. Do we have enough time to fix it? We'll see. I do know we'll focus a lot on it during the Olympic break."

The Sharks haven't played the Blue Jackets this season, and Columbus is coming to San Jose after a tough game in Los Angeles, but McLellan isn't expecting an easy night.

"They didn't start the way they wanted to, but for the last month, month and a half, they've been one of the better teams in the League," he said. "They're fast, hard and have a very good power play right now, plus world-class goaltending."

Who's hot: Blue Jackets forward Ryan Johansen had an assist Thursday, giving him six points during a four-game point streak. He leads the team with 23 goals and 44 points. … Sharks backup goaltender Alex Stalock stopped 19 Dallas shots to improve to 8-4-0 and lowered his goals-against average to 1.67.

Injury report: Blue Jackets defenseman Ryan Murray left the game against the Kings after being hit during the second period but returned later in the game. Richards hopes he'll be ready to go. Forward Blake Comeau (knee) is day-to-day. Forwards Marian Gaborik (broken collarbone) and Jared Boll (ankle) are out. … The Sharks will be without forward Matt Nieto (foot), who left the game against Dallas. Defenseman Jason Demers (groin) is expected to return. Forward Tyler Kennedy (lower body) remains out. Left wing Raffi Torres (knee), who has not played this season, is almost ready to return. Center Logan Couture (hand) won't be back until after the Olympic break. Center Tomas Hertl (knee) is also out.

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