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Sharks set to finish trip against Blackhawks

by John Kreiser

SHARKS (13-2-5) at BLACKHAWKS (13-3-4)


Last 10: San Jose 5-1-4; Chicago 7-2-1

Season series: This is the first of three meetings between the San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks this season. Chicago won all three games in 2012-13.

Big story: Two of the top teams in the Western Conference are passing each other in the night as they prepare to meet at United Center. The Sharks are concluding a five-game road trip; the Blackhawks are playing their final home game before the annual "Circus Trip"; this season’s version is a seven-game trek that will keep them out of town until early December.

Team Scope:

Sharks: After going past regulation in three consecutive games, the Sharks managed to beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 in 60 minutes Friday night, completing San Jose's first three-game sweep of the Western Canada teams in franchise history.

The Sharks continue to get production from rookie Tomas Hertl, who is showing his four-goal game against the New York Rangers in the first week of the season was no fluke. Hertl had the tying goal in the 2-1 overtime victory against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday and the game-winner Friday. He leads all rookies with 12 goals.

"Tommy has picked up right where [injured forward] Brent Burns left off," said captain Joe Thornton, who assisted on Hertl's goal against the Oilers. "He is very competitive and shoots the puck well. The line seems to be going well. It just seems to be rolling right now. I have a lot of confidence at the moment."

San Jose figures to have former Blackhawk Antti Niemi back in goal after backup Alex Stalock beat the Oilers.

Blackhawks: Chicago had its 7-0-1 streak ended emphatically by the Nashville Predators on Saturday. The Predators, playing their first home game after a seven-game, 17-day trip, walloped the Blackhawks 7-2, handing Chicago its worst loss of the season.

"We got outworked," captain Jonathan Toews said. "We didn't do the things we needed to. We didn't win our battles, especially in the right areas we needed to win them in."

Forward Kris Versteeg, who was traded for salary-cap reasons after the Blackhawks' 2010 Stanley Cup victory, makes his return to United Center after being reacquired from the Florida Panthers on Thursday.

Who's hot: Thornton has one goal and eight assists during a seven-game point streak. He set up two of the Sharks' three goals Friday. … Patrick Kane had a goal in the loss at Nashville, extending his point streak to six games. He has four goals and nine points during that span.

Injury report: Burns is progressing from facial injuries that have kept him out since late October. Adam Burish (back surgery) and Raffi Torres (knee) are nowhere near returning. … Chicago goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin left the game in Nashville with a lower-body injury and didn't return; he’s likely to miss time. Marian Hossa sat out Saturday with a lower-body injury, though coach Joel Quenneville hopes he'll be ready to go against the Sharks. Michal Handzus (upper body) was moved to the injured reserve last Thursday.

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