The San Jose Sharks hope a pair of franchise-record winning streaks can help them reclaim first place in the Pacific Division on Sunday when they visit the slumping Minnesota Wild.
The Sharks (39-21-8), owners of the best road record in the NHL at 23-8-3, tied two team records with a 3-2 victory over Chicago on Friday, winning their eighth in a row overall and their sixth straight on the road.
|Patrick Marleau has scored four goals in his last three games, two of them game-winners.. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
The victory also moved San Jose one point behind division-leading Dallas, which lost 3-1 at Colorado on Saturday. The Stars, who are also second in the Western Conference, complete the home-and-home set against the Avalanche on Sunday.
"We're still not where we want to be," said Sharks center Patrick Marleau, who had a goal against the Blackhawks. "It's coming for us. We just have to keep working at it because it's still pretty tight and we want to get has high as we can."
Marleau has been a key player during the win streaks, scoring four goals in the last three games. The last two have been game-winners, including one in overtime in a 3-2 victory over Ottawa on Wednesday.
Joe Thornton, the team-leader with 81 points, is also doing his part to help put San Jose in position to move atop the Pacific for the first time since Jan. 31. The All-Star center, who had two assists Friday, has two goals and 11 assists during the eight-game streak.
He has a goal and five assists in the Sharks' five-game winning streak against the Wild (37-26-6), including a two-assist performance in the last meeting, a 3-2 victory at Xcel Energy Arena on Dec. 31.
Evgeni Nabokov made 19 saves in that contest to extend his personal winning streak at Minnesota to three games with a 1.00 goals-against average.
The goaltender has been outstanding in winning five consecutive road games, posting a 1.58 GAA. He became San Jose's single-season wins leader Friday, making 17 stops for his 38th victory.
The Wild, tied with idle Calgary and Colorado for first in the Northwest Division, are looking to avoid a fourth consecutive loss. They lost their third straight Friday, 3-2 in a shootout at Atlanta after squandering a pair of one-goal leads in the third period - including one with 44.9 seconds to play.
"It's going to be a battle to the end," Wild left wing Brian Rolston said. "It's probably going to be won by one point or two points. It's going to go down to the last weekend."
Minnesota's slide has coincided with Marian Gaborik's three-game goal drought. He does, however, have three assists in that stretch, giving him a goal and five assists in his last five games after failing to record a point in the previous four.
Gaborik, the Wild's leader with 34 goals and 69 points, has been held to only two assists in four games against the Sharks - all losses.
Niklas Backstrom is likely to be back in net Sunday after making 24 saves - none in the shootout -against the Thrashers for his second consecutive losing start. He is 0-3 with a 3.77 GAA in three career games against San Jose.