The San Jose Sharks owning one of the league's best records was expected. That they have achieved it with the fewest home wins in the NHL is very much a surprise.
The surging Sharks try to win consecutive home games for only the second time this season on Thursday night when they take on the Vancouver Canucks in a matchup of division leaders.
After setting franchise records with 51 wins and 107 points in 2006-07, San Jose (16-9-4) entered this season with very high expectations.
The Sharks started slowly, going 7-7-2 in their first 16 games, but have put together a 9-2-2 run to take over the top spot in the Pacific Division. The only Western Conference teams with more points than San Jose (36) are league-leading Detroit (46) and Vancouver (37).
One of the few negatives for San Jose has been its surprisingly poor play at home, where it is 5-6-2 after going 25-12-4 there last season. The Sharks are tied with Phoenix and Montreal for the fewest home victories.
After it suffered an embarrassing 7-1 home loss to Buffalo on Saturday, San Jose rebounded with a convincing 4-1 victory Tuesday over Minnesota.
Steve Bernier scored twice and Evgeni Nabokov made 26 saves, leading the Sharks to their fifth win in six games overall.
"I expected us to bounce back," coach Ron Wilson said. "We didn't even talk about that game. We focused on the things we need to do, and we did them."
Nabokov followed one of his worst games of the season with his usual strong performance, holding an opponent to two goals or fewer for the 22nd time in 29 starts. Nabokov has anchored a defense that has allowed an NHL-best 66 goals.
The Sharks have won both meetings this season against Vancouver, and are 5-1-2 in the past eight meetings overall.
Center Joe Thornton has two goals and two assists this season versus the Canucks. He has six goals and 18 assists in his last 16 games against Vancouver.
Vancouver (17-11-3) avoided a season-high third straight loss with a 3-2 victory over Anaheim on Wednesday, as Curtis Sanford turned aside 34 shots in a stellar performance.
Sanford made his second consecutive start in place of Roberto Luongo, who sat out because of a rib injury.
"It feels good just to be able to contribute and to be relied upon to make big saves," Sanford said.
Injury fill-ins Mason Raymond and Jason Jaffray assisted on each other's first NHL goals, and Daniel Sedin also tallied for the Canucks, 6-2-1 in their last nine games.
Vancouver also played without center Brendan Morrison, whose 542-game playing streak - the longest current run in the NHL - was snapped. Morrison, fourth on the team with 20 points, will be sidelined indefinitely with a wrist injury that will require surgery.
"It's not great for the Canucks to hear that he's going to be out for a while," Jaffray said. "I'm definitely not a guy who's going to fill his shoes, but I'm a guy that's been brought in to maybe soften the blow a little bit. If I can provide offense and create scoring chances, that's kind of what I do."
Unless Luongo makes a very quick recovery, Sanford will make his first career start against San Jose. All five of Sanford's starts this season have come on the road.