Thanks in part to one of the NHL's hottest players and one of the league's best goaltenders, the Columbus Blue Jackets have opened this season with the best start in franchise history.
Rick Nash looks to extend his points streak while Pascal Leclaire hopes to continue his breakout season as the Blue Jackets host the San Jose Sharks on Saturday.
Nash has scored at least one goal in five straight games - his longest run since a six-game scoring streak Dec. 30, 2005-Jan. 11, 2006. He has six goals and three assists during his current streak, and has 13 total points this season.
Leclaire, meanwhile, is near the top of the league with a 1.34 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage.
Together, Nash and Leclaire have helped the Blue Jackets (5-3-1) to their best start since the franchise began play in 2000-01. Before this season, they had never had more than three wins through their first nine games.
"We're off to a good start, but we could be even better," Nash said. "Things are good. We just don't want to look ahead of ourselves."
On Thursday, Nash extended his personal streak with a spectacular goal in the second period of a 3-0 victory over St. Louis. He got the puck off a rebound, then lifted it between his legs and high into the top of the net.
"It was just a perfect situation," said Nash, who has six goals and two assists in 13 career games against the Sharks, but was held without a point in three games against them last season. "I had to find a way to get the puck up into the net as fast as I could. That was the easiest way to do it.
"You do it a lot during practice but not during the game. I practice it for a while but you never think you'll actually use it in a game."
Thursday's win was the league-leading fourth shutout for Leclaire, who entered the season with one previous shutout in 56 career starts. Six games into this season, he's just one shutout shy of the franchise record, set by Marc Denis in back-to-back seasons in 2002-03 and 2003-04.
"It's not that important to me," Leclaire said of blanking opponents. "The important thing is getting the win. I would have been as happy if we won 5-4."
Leclaire is 0-2-0 with a 3.51 GAA in two career starts against the Sharks.
San Jose (5-4-1) is hoping to avoid losing back-to-back games for the first time this season. After outscoring opponents 7-1 in consecutive wins, the Sharks lost 5-1 at Detroit on Friday. They managed only 11 shots on goal, the fewest in a road game in the 16-year history of the franchise.
"They played really, really well tonight, and we played really badly," San Jose forward Joe Thornton said. "That's not a good combination for us."
Thornton, leading the team with 10 points after posting consecutive 100-point campaigns in the past two seasons, has four goals and 14 assists in 11 career games against the Blue Jackets.
San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov, meanwhile, is 11-3-0 with a 1.61 GAA in 15 career games against Columbus - his lowest GAA against any opponent he's faced at least five times.
The Sharks are 17-6-1 all-time against the Blue Jackets, but they're just 6-6-0 all-time in Columbus, where they've lost three of their last four. San Jose, though, outscored Columbus 11-5 in winning three of the teams' four meetings last season.