Blackhawks-Sharks Preview

The San Jose Sharks couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season’s second half.

The Chicago Blackhawks just dominated the NHL’s best team, too.

San Jose tries to keep building Saturday night against the visiting Blackhawks, who are seeking a sixth win in eight matchups in the series.

The Sharks (26-17-6) defeated league-leading Anaheim 6-3 on Thursday in their first action since the All-Star break. Barclay Goodrow, Patrick Marleau, Matt Irwin, James Sheppard and Brenden Dillon all scored in the second period as San Jose posted its highest goal total in 22 games.

"The unusual suspects came up big, and when you win as a team you need that too," coach Todd McLellan told the team’s official website. "Barclay, Shep, Dillon, Irwin, those are all guys who haven’t really put the puck in the net. To get the monkey off their back is a big thing."

Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl each finished with two assists while Antti Niemi made 25 saves. The Sharks, 4-1-1 in their last six, climbed to within 12 points of the Ducks for first place in the Pacific Division.

"We’re really proud of our guys showing up and hopefully we keep going from here," Sheppard said.

Doing so could prove difficult against Chicago, which has had the Sharks’ number of late. The Blackhawks took this season’s first meeting 5-2 on Nov. 9, improving to 5-0-2 in the series dating to February 2013.

All but two of those games, however, came in Chicago. The Blackhawks are 1-3-2 in their last six visits to San Jose.

Chicago (31-16-2) opened a three-game stretch in California with Wednesday’s 4-3 loss to Los Angeles before bouncing back to beat the Ducks 4-1 on Friday. Patrick Kane stayed hot with two goals and an assist while Patrick Sharp assisted on all four goals, matching a career high.

Duncan Keith also scored to become the fifth defenseman in Blackhawks history to reach 400 points. Chicago has outscored foes 15-8 in winning three of four.

"They’re the best team in the NHL this year, (but) we knew they were coming off a back-to-back games and three in four nights," said Kane, who is second in the league with 56 points. "We played a perfect road game. It was a fun game."

Kane and Sharp have combined for six goals and 12 assists over the last five games. Kane has scored 14 of his 25 goals in the third period.

"Kaner has had the hot stick all season long," Sharp said. "I feel comfortable with him, and we’ve had a good stretch of games."

The Blackhawks are expected to turn to Antti Raanta in goal after Corey Crawford made 21 saves Friday. Raanta hasn’t started since stopping 35 shots in a 6-1 win over Arizona on Jan. 20, and is 6-1-0 with a 1.81 goals-against average in his last eight games. He has never faced San Jose.

Niemi is 4-0-1 over a five-start stretch for the Sharks. Niemi, who spent the first two seasons of his career in Chicago, is 2-6-1 with a 3.30 GAA against his former team since December 2011. He’s allowed at least three goals in seven of those starts.

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who scored Friday, had a goal and an assist in the Nov. 9 victory. He has 29 points over 28 games against the Sharks, including playoffs.

Chicago is in the midst of seven consecutive road games.