After relying solely on their outstanding road play early this season, the San Jose Sharks are finally looking like the elite team they were expected to be, regardless of location.
First place in the Pacific Division will be on the line Saturday when the red-hot Sharks host the Dallas Stars.
While San Jose has put together an impressive 11-3-2 road record, it had struggled to match that success at home, winning only three of its first 10 games (3-5-2) at HP Pavilion. The Sharks, though, have won three of four at home, and have at least a point in six of their last eight games there.
That home success continued Thursday with a 5-2 victory over Vancouver, as Joe Thornton had a goal and an assist in support of a very strong defensive effort.
Milan Michalek, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski scored for the Sharks, who won consecutive home games for just the second time all season to stay in a first-place tie with Dallas. The win also moved them ahead of Vancouver for second place in the Western Conference standings.
"It feels good we got some wins at home, and it's going to continue like that," Michalek said. "We were talking about it before the game, (how) we had to come out hard on them because they played the night before."
San Jose (17-9-4) has won six of its last seven overall games, and has recorded 20 of a possible 26 points.
"We're second in the Western Conference, and that's all that really matters," coach Ron Wilson said. "We keep playing like this going forward, and we don't have to worry about what our record was at home in the first two months of the regular season."
Evgeni Nabokov only needed to make 15 saves Thursday because his defense tightened up after allowing 30 or more shots in the previous two games. Nabokov leads the NHL with 17 wins and ranks second with a 2.00 goals-against average.
While Thornton is on pace for a third straight 100-point season, he wasn't getting much help the first two months. Lately, though, Pavelski, Marleau and Steve Bernier have contributed offensively as well.
Pavelski has two goals and two assists in three games, Marleau has two goals and two assists in five games and Bernier has three goals in his last two contests.
The Sharks have won four of their last five overall meetings against the Stars, including three of four this season. Dallas, however, has won four straight at San Jose, outscoring the Sharks 13-5.
The Stars (17-11-4) hope to continue their momentum on the opener of a four-game road trip after consecutive home wins over Edmonton and Los Angeles.
Mike Ribeiro and linemates Brenden Morrow and Antti Miettinen combined for four goals and five assists in Thursday's 4-1 victory over the Kings.
That trio has combined for 14 points in the two games they've played as a line.
"It was the offensive spark we needed for sure," coach Dave Tippett said. "That whole line was really feeding off each other. They were excellent in creating. We wanted someone to come in and take charge so we challenged our veteran leadership. They really took it to heart."
Since struggling during a three-game winless streak in November, goaltender Marty Turco has been very sharp lately. He is 6-2-0 with a 1.97 GAA in his past eight starts.
Turco is 10-3-0 with two shutouts and a 1.97 GAA lifetime at San Jose.