Maple Leafs-Sharks Preview
The arena dubbed "The Shark Tank" has been one of the NHL’s most feared stops in recent years with the San Jose Sharks regularly playing their best hockey on home ice.
Their results at home this season have been nothing short of streaky.
San Jose looks to avoid a fourth consecutive home loss as it begins a seven-game homestand Thursday night against the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Sharks (23-16-5) haven’t suffered more than 12 regulation home losses in a season since posting 13 in 2007-08. They went 29-7-5 at SAP Center last season, but have already matched that regulation loss total with a 10-7-2 mark in ’14-15.
San Jose dropped six of its first eight at home and followed that stretch with an eight-game win streak before being outscored 13-4 during the current home skid.
After falling 3-1 at home to the New York Rangers on Saturday, San Jose got a rare goal from defenseman Brenden Dillon in the third period for a 3-2 win at Arizona on Tuesday.
"Any win is a good win, no matter how you get it," coach Todd McLellan said. "Putting points in the bank is essential at this time of the year, and it will eventually get to the point where if you can keep winning, other teams will run out of time. We have to do our own work."
The Sharks are just 4-5-1 overall following a season-best five-game winning streak, but they’ve remained confident even while allowing the first goal in four straight.
"When we fall down early, the guys don’t quit and we keep going," said Joe Pavelski, who scored against the Coyotes and has five goals and three assists over his last seven. "It was good to cash in quickly there in the second (period Tuesday) and know that we were all ready to go. There were good chances."
Pavelski had two goals and an assist, and Joe Thornton added three assists in a 6-2 home win over Toronto in the most recent meeting March 11 that was the Sharks’ third straight victory in the series.
This trip to San Jose may be just as difficult for the Maple Leafs (22-19-3) if they can’t find their offense. They’ve been outscored 14-2 during a four-game road skid and haven’t found the net to start a four-game trip, falling 2-0 to Los Angeles on Monday before Wednesday’s 4-0 loss to Anaheim.
Toronto has lost five of six overall and fell to 1-3-0 under interim coach Peter Horachek, who took over for the fired Randy Carlyle on Jan. 6.
"We have a lot of firepower, (and) we will find ways to score," forward James van Riemsdyk said. "If you look at the games, the scoring chances have been pretty even the last couple here. We’re pretty happy with our process. We just have to capitalize on our chances."
Jonathan Bernier made 21 saves against the Ducks, leaving the possibility that James Reimer could start in net to complete the back-to-back set. Reimer, though, has a 4.30 goals-against average while dropping four straight starts – all on the road – with the most recent a 5-1 loss to Winnipeg on Jan. 3.
Antti Niemi has posted a 1.67 GAA in his last three starts against the Leafs and is likely to be in net for this contest. He made 27 saves against Arizona after going 1-3-0 with a 4.56 GAA in his first four starts of 2015.