The San Jose Sharks have proved virtually unbeatable at the HP Pavilion this season, but they have experienced difficulty with their next opponent as the New York Rangers visit in a bid to complete a three-game sweep of their West Coast road trip on Saturday.
San Jose (25-4-3) is 16-0-2 at HP Pavilion, outscoring opponents 68-37 and winning all four of its games against Eastern Conference opponents thus far. But the Atlantic Division-leading Rangers (22-11-2) have gone 5-0-0 with one tie in the last six meetings against San Jose, including a 3-1 win last season at Madison Square Garden.
New York has also earned three wins and one tie in its last four games in San Jose, but has played once there in the last five seasons - a 3-1 victory on Nov. 2, 2006.
The Rangers also come into Saturday's game having won three straight, including wins at Anaheim and Los Angeles. The Sharks, meanwhile, are trying to rebound from consecutive defeats - including their worst loss of the season - and overcome the fatigue of traveling more than 5,200 miles in less than a week.
San Jose ended a three-game road trip Thursday with a 6-0 thumping at Detroit - its first regulation loss since a 4-2 defeat Nov. 9 at Phoenix. That followed a 2-1 overtime defeat Wednesday in Columbus and 3-2 shootout win Monday in Los Angeles.
"We can use the excuse that we had three games in four nights, but that's just an excuse," Sharks forward Ryane Clowe said.
San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov pulled back-to-back duty and tied a dubious season high in giving up six goals. Nabokov had gone 12-1-2 in his previous 15 games and allowed two goals or fewer in 10 of those.
Nabokov, who has allowed 12 goals in his past three starts, also has lost three straight to the Rangers despite giving up two goals in two of those games. Backup Brian Boucher has a slightly better record against New York at 4-2-0, but hasn't faced the Rangers since Oct. 28, 2002.
San Jose boasts one of the league's top offenses, featuring arguably the most potent scoring line in Patrick Marleau, Devin Setoguchi and Joe Thornton. The trio, though, has accounted for only one goal the last two games while the Sharks have gone 0-for-7 on the power play.
That doesn't bode well against the Rangers, who have used strong goaltending and one of the league's best penalty killing units to get back on track.
Wednesday's 3-2 overtime win over Los Angeles was the third for New York in its last four road games.
"Getting two wins is huge. It's everything we could have hoped for coming out here. It's going to be a tough test on Saturday. They have a good team," Chris Drury said. "We're just finding ways to win. Not every game is going to be lopsided. You're not always going to have a two- or three-goal lead. You just have to gut it out and win."
The Rangers have killed off 123 of 136 power-play opportunities (90.4 percent), including 32 of their last 34 .
Henrik Lundqvist and Stephen Valiquette have combined to allow five goals in the three straight wins, stopping 87 of 92 shots.
While the Rangers missed out on signing veteran center Mats Sundin, they might not need him if they keep up their play of late. New York has scored at least three goals in five consecutive games, and one power-play goal in the last three.
Drury has goals in consecutive games and five points in his last four contests. Nikolai Zherdev, who has a team-leading 31 points, has six in his last four.
C - SJS
G: 1 | A: 2
D - SJS
G: 0 | A: 2
LW - SJS
G: 1 | A: 1