Sharks aim for season sweep of Isles
A return to home ice appears to have done wonders for the San Jose Sharks while the New York Islanders are still trying experience sustained success on the road.
The Sharks will try to sweep the season series from the Islanders on Friday when the teams meet at SAP Center.
The Sharks (11-8-1) appear re-energized playing in front of the home fans after losing the final three games during to split their longest road trip this season. San Jose opened a five-game homestand Monday with a 4-0 win over the New Jersey Devils, and followed by getting a power-play goal from Logan Couture and a short-handed tally from Joel Ward in Wednesday's 2-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
While they may be happy not to travel, scoring continues to be an issue for the Sharks, who are in the bottom third of the league with an average of 2.35 goals per game — and just behind the Islanders at 2.42.
“Sometimes the goals are there, sometimes they're not right now. You know, you're always looking for that extra one to get a little breathing room and we haven't found it on a nightly basis,” captain Joe Pavelski said after the win over Chicago.
San Jose is 8-1-0 when scoring at least three goals a game, but 3-7-1 when it fails to reach that mark. Defense is what's keeping the club near the top of the Pacific Division — the Sharks' 2.15 goals per game allowed is second in the league behind the Minnesota Wild (1.89).
San Jose is 7-2-2 in its last 11 matchups with the Islanders, including a 3-2 win on Oct. 18 in New York behind Pavelski's game-winning goal with 2:11 to play and 21 saves from backup goaltender Aaron Dell — his first NHL win and only one in three games this season despite a 1.90 goals-against average and .932 save percentage.
Pavelski has a goal and three assists in a four-game points streak, but has been held without a point in three of five games against the Islanders in San Jose.
Martin Jones has stopped 59 of 60 shots on the homestand and is 6-2-0 with a 1.50 GAA and .940 save percentage at SAP Center. He's surrendered just five goals in the six home wins, but tagged for six goals in the two losses.
“I'm not doing anything different. I don't feel any different,” Jones said Wednesday night.
Jones last faced the Islanders on Nov. 10, 2015, and it didn't go well. He stopped just one of three shots and was pulled after 3:30 of the first period in the Sharks' 4-2 loss.
The Islanders (6-9-4) are wrapping up a three-game swing through California looking for their second win in seven games overall.
New York, currently last in the Metropolitan Division, dropped to 1-5-1 on the road this season after a 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday. With less than three minutes to play and the score tied 1-1, the Islanders surrendered three straight goals, including an empty-netter, in just 44 seconds.
New York has managed just 13 goals on the road with two each from Nick Leddy, Anders Lee and Brock Nelson. Both of Lee's goals came in the loss to the Kings.
“Whether you shake your head or say screw it, you have to keep going,” Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic told Newsday. “You have to find a way to move forward. We've got no choice.”
One player who's struggled away from Brooklyn is John Tavares. The Isles' captain has taken 20 shots over seven games, but has managed only two assists and is a minus-6.
Tavares has a team-leading 14 points, but has only five goals in 19 games, putting him on pace for only 22 this season. His career low is 24, set as a rookie in 2009-10 and matched in 2013-14 when a knee injury limited him to 59 games.
Backup goaltender Thomas Griess, a healthy scratch against Los Angeles, may get the chance to face his former team. A third-round pick by the Sharks in the 2004 NHL Draft, Greiss had 17 wins over four seasons with San Jose between 2007 and 2013.
Griess opened this road trip by making 39 saves and surviving a 14-round shootout in a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday. He is 3-3-0 with a 2.66 GAA and .919 save percentage in six starts this season.
If Jaroslav Halak gets the start between the pipes, he'll again seek his first win since Nov. 7. Halak has given up at least three goals in each of his last five starts, posting an 0-3-2 record.
Halak was in net for the Isles' 3-2 loss to the Sharks on Oct. 18 in New York. He's 1-2-0 with a 3.58 GAA and .876 save percentage in four career starts at the SAP Center.
The San Jose Mercury News reported that center Melker Karlsson could return to the Sharks for this game or Saturday against the Ducks. Karlsson, who injured his left foot in a 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Nov. 12, has two goals and two assists in 15 games this season.