Sharks fish for another win against Blue Jackets
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The San Jose Sharks are firing on all cylinders up and down the bench heading into the final weeks of the season.
The Sharks will look to extend two winning streaks when the face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif.
San Jose (35-21-9) took the first two contests of a season-high six-game homestand in impressive fashion. The Sharks followed Tuesday's 5-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers with a 7-2 drubbing of the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday.
"We've been talking all year about getting our four-line game going and getting four lines of contributions," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "I feel now that we've got guys slotted in the right spots (to create offense)."
Second-place San Jose is eight points behind the Vegas Golden Knights, although the Pacific Division leaders have a game in hand. The Sharks and Golden Knights will meet twice this month.
San Jose will also try to beat Columbus for the fifth consecutive time. On Feb. 2, Kevin Labanc notched a goal and an assist in the Sharks' 3-1 victory in Ohio.
Leading the way in the last two games for San Jose is Joe Pavelski with three goals and three assists.
"This is his time of year. He always finds another level this time of year," DeBoer said of the Sharks' captain, who is tied with defenseman Brent Burns for the team lead with 52 points.
But Pavelski is not the only player showing up multiple times on the last two scoresheets. Chris Tierney has a goal and an assist, and Timo Meier and Logan Couture each have two goals. Joonas Donskoi and newly acquired Evander Kane add three assists apiece, and Mikkel Boedker has two assists.
"It's good to see guys do it the right way a lot of nights step up and get rewarded," said Pavelski, who has four goals in his last three home games versus the Blue Jackets.
Martin Jones (21-16-6, 2.50 goals-against average, three shutouts) has yielded four goals while winning each of his last three starts against Columbus, including last month's victory at Nationwide Arena. Aaron Dell (14-5-3, 2.71, two shutouts) has never faced the Blue Jackets.
San Jose is 6 of 15 on the power play in its last four games against Columbus (32-28-5), which is trying to avoid a winless California swing. After losing 5-2 to the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, the Blue Jackets dropped a 4-2 decision to the Anaheim Ducks on Friday.
"It's that time of the year where every team is going 100 percent, playing physical, so we've just got to expect it at this point," said winger Sonny Milano, who scored for the second time in three games for Columbus.
The Blue Jackets are tied with the Carolina Hurricanes for fifth in the Metropolitan Division and are outside the top eight in the Eastern Conference playoff race, thanks in part to a 13-17-3 road record. But coach John Tortorella said he's not concerned.
"You get ready to play the next one. That's all you can do. You can't get down. You can't overthink it," he said Friday.
Blue Jackets winger Artemi Panarin has scored 11 of his team-high 18 goals on the road, but he has two in his last 10 away from home. He has logged three points (goal, two assists) in three career games in San Jose.
Center Mark Letestu, acquired last Sunday in a three-team deal involving the Edmonton Oilers and Nashville Predators, has four goals in 11 career games at SAP Center. No current member of the Blue Jackets has scored more than twice in northern California.
Since the trade, Letestu has one goal in three games.
Sergei Bobrovsky (27-21-5, 2.45, four shutouts) is expected to start in goal for the Blue Jackets. The two-time Vezina Trophy winner is 3-2-0 in his career in San Jose, allowing 14 goals.
Columbus is going for its fourth win in 12 games against Pacific Division opponents this season. San Jose is 7-6-0 versus the Metropolitan Division in 2017-18.
Updated March 3, 2018