The San Jose Sharks are on the verge of recording the best regular-season record in franchise history. No player has had a bigger role in that success than reigning MVP Joe Thornton.
Thornton and the Sharks look to win their franchise-record 45th game Wednesday night when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Sharks (44-25-4) appeared on their way to victory Sunday at Colorado when they took a 3-1 lead in the second period. The red-hot Avalanche, however, rallied to tie and Milan Hejduk scored a power-play goal 19 seconds into overtime.
The 4-3 loss ended a four-game win streak for the Sharks, who have at least a point in eight straight by going 6-0-2 in that span.
With one victory in its final nine regular-season games, San Jose will set a team record for wins in a season. The 2001-02 and 2005-06 teams each won 44 games. The 2003-04 Sharks hold the team record with 104 points.
Despite not losing in regulation in its last eight games, San Jose has dropped into fifth place in the Western Conference, one point behind Minnesota, which has won a franchise-record seven straight.
Thornton continued his outstanding play Sunday, scoring a goal for the fourth consecutive game and adding an assist to stretch his point streak to seven. He has four goals and 10 assists during his run and has moved into third in the NHL with a franchise-record 96 points.
A matchup with the Blackhawks (27-36-9) gives Thornton an excellent opportunity to extend his streak. He has three goals and seven assists in five games - all wins - against Chicago since joining the Sharks in November 2005.
After going without a point in his first six games with the Sharks, right wing Bill Guerin has heated up with five goals and one assist in his past four contests. Included in that stretch was his eighth career hat trick during a 7-1 victory against the Blackhawks on March 13.
Guerin, who started the season with St. Louis, has six goals and five assists in nine games this season versus Chicago.
The Blackhawks completed a five-game road trip Tuesday with a 5-2 loss to Columbus. Rene Bourque had a goal and an assist for Chicago, which has lost three of four after opening the trip with a win at Phoenix.
The Blackhawks, looking for their third straight win at the United Center, were officially eliminated from postseason contention for the fourth season in a row with the loss to the Blue Jackets.
"We made a lot of mistakes," Chicago coach Denis Savard said. "We need consistent play from everybody, starting with your best players all the way down."
Poor penalty killing continues to plague Chicago, which has allowed 10 goals while short-handed in the past five games.
With Nikolai Khabibulin stopping 25 shots Tuesday, backup Patrick Lalime could start this game. Lalime, though, has allowed 21 goals during a personal four-game losing streak to the Sharks.
San Jose has won all three meetings against the Blackhawks this season, outscoring them 13-3. The Sharks have won six straight in the series since a 6-3 loss at Chicago on Oct. 7, 2005.