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'Canes must contend with surging Sharks @NHL

SHARKS (9-4-1) at HURRICANES (2-7-3)

Last 10 -- San Jose 7-2-1; Carolina 2-5-3

Season series -- This is the only meeting between the teams this season. They met once in 2008-09, with Carolina winning 4-3 in a shootout at San Jose. San Jose hasn't won at the RBC Center since a 3-2 victory on Oct. 24, 2000. San Jose is 2-4-0 all-time at Carolina since the Hurricanes franchise moved from Hartford in 1997.

Big story -- The Hurricanes are as cold as the Sharks are hot. Saturday's 6-1 loss at Philadelphia left the 'Canes with an eight-game losing streak; at 2-7-3, they're off to the worst start since arriving from Hartford 12 years ago.

In contrast, the Sharks are on a roll. They headed East after a dominating 3-1 victory over Colorado at home on Friday night -- a game in which they outshot the Avs 46-25. San Jose has won four in a row and six of seven to move into first place in the Pacific Division.

Team Scope:

Sharks -- The happiest Shark after Friday night's win over Colorado was forward Ryane Clowe, who ended a 21-game goal drought that stretched back to March 5 by connecting with 5.9 seconds left in the second period -- on San Jose's 32nd shot.

"I just got a pat on the back and a 'Good job' from the coach," Clowe said. "It was nice to see the other guys on the ice because they were more excited than I was."

The Sharks have gone back to the style that worked well for them during the early going last season -- pound pucks at the net and go after the rebounds. It worked against the Avs; only Craig Anderson's heroics kept Colorado in the game.

"When you're getting that many shots on the net you feel good about yourself and the team," Clowe said. "It was only frustrating because they had us pinned down for a couple of minutes before we scored."

Hurricanes -- Expect Cam Ward back in goal for the Hurricanes after coach Paul Maurice gave Michael Leighton his first start of the season against the Flyers.

"I felt a little rusty the first part of the game, but I felt good the second half," Leighton said. "I let up a couple of goals early and I gave up some rebounds that I usually don't give up."

Coach Paul Maurice said he thought Leighton needed game action after Ward started the first 11 games.

"Leighton's been looking good in practice,'' Maurice said. ''He's played well in this situation before."

Who's hot --
San Jose's Patrick Marleau is off to the best start of his career and has 5 goals and 8 assists for 13 points during a seven-game points streak. Dany Heatley has three goals in his last four games, including the winner on Friday.

Injury report -- Carolina is still without forward Erik Cole, who's out with a broken leg. San Jose forwards Devin Setoguchi and Ryan Vesce have missed the Sharks' last three games with leg injuries.

Stat pack -- Last year's game at San Jose marked the first time the Sharks and Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers had ever played to a tie after 60 minutes. The first 24 meetings between the teams were decided in regulation.

Puck drop -- North Carolina has never been a particularly enjoyable place for the Sharks to visit, but they're catching the Hurricanes at the right time. The 'Canes look nothing like the team that went to the Eastern Conference Finals last spring, while the Sharks look more and more like the club that tore up the NHL for the first three months of '08-09.

-- John Kreiser,

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