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Red-hot Sharks head to Chicago

by Brian Compton
SHARKS (25-11-5) at BLACKHAWKS (26-13-6)


Last 10: San Jose 7-1-2; Chicago 4-4-2.

Season Series: This is the third of four meetings between the teams. They split the first two games, as Chicago avenged a 1-0 loss at San Jose on Nov. 23 when Patrick Sharp scored in overtime to give the Hawks a 3-2 victory on Dec. 11 at the United Center.

Big Story: The new calendar year has been very kind to San Jose thus far. With Saturday night's 2-1 win at the Columbus, the Sharks improved to 6-0-1 in 2012. They're also 10-1-2 over the last month. That success has allowed them to pick up ground in the race for the Western Conference lead, as they'll enter Sunday's action just four points behind No. 1 Vancouver. The Sharks -- who have earned at least a point in eight straight games -- were in eighth place on Dec. 13.

"We're starting to do the things we're capable of doing -- not necessarily offensively, but defensively," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "We're happy with the way it is going. We know we have a lot of work to do in a lot of different areas. Both of the strings coincidently came after five- or six-game losing streaks, so maybe that was the wakeup call we needed." 

Team Scope:

Sharks: Just when it seemed the Sharks and Blue Jackets were destined for overtime, Patrick Marleau broke a 1-1 tie with just 2:57 remaining in regulation to lift San Jose past Columbus at Nationwide Arena. Thomas Greiss made 25 saves and beat the Jackets for the second time in a span of nine days.

"Both games had their moments. Last game they had a couple of 2-on-1s right at the get go and this one was almost all the other way around," Greiss said. "They had more at the end. It was a pretty tough game at the end."

Blackhawks: Chicago received a strong effort from Corey Crawford on Saturday afternoon in a 40-save performance and Jonathan Toews erased a 2-1 deficit in the final minute of regulation. But, in the end, the Blackhawks left Detroit with just one point as Todd Bertuzzi scored in overtime to lift the Red Wings to a 3-2 victory at Joe Louis Arena.

Toews' goal allowed the Blackhawks to remain one point ahead of Detroit in the Central Division.

"We're not going to beat ourselves up about it," Toews said. "We knew that game wasn't over until the end and we stuck with it and got a goal in the last minute. It's unfortunate we couldn't find a way to get the extra point in overtime."
Who's Hot: Marleau has 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) in his last eight games. … Toews has a goal and 2 assists in his last three contests.

Injury Report: San Jose is expected to be without Martin Havlat (hamstring), Jim Vandermeer (hand) and Colin White (lower body). … Patrick Sharp (hand), Daniel Carcillo (knee) and Marcus Kruger (concussion) are likely out for Chicago.

Stat Pack: With Saturday's win, the Sharks improved to 18-1-3 when leading after two periods. … Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane has only 2 goals in his last 16 games.

Puck Drop: "You look at our division, you've got four teams all way up there. Every game is critical, every point is vital. Winning your division, the reward is going to be huge, because you know you had to do a lot of good things to attain it. Let's concentrate on trying to be there and know that it's a long rest of the season. But that's definitely our primary focus the last half of the year." -- Chicago coach Joel Quenneville
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