The San Jose Sharks have struggled at home in recent weeks. Those woes could end at the expense of their next opponent.
San Jose looks to continue its dominance over the Toronto Maple Leafs when the teams meet on Tuesday night at SAP Center.
The Sharks will be looking for their ninth win in a row over the Maple Leafs and 13th in the last 14 encounters dating back to Dec. 3, 2005. For the first time over that span, San Jose needed to play past overtime to get its latest win in the series as Logan Couture scored the lone shootout goal to lift the Sharks to a 3-2 victory on Dec. 16.
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After winning eight of nine between Jan. 16 and Feb. 2, San Jose has gone 3-1-5 including three straight losses at home, all after regulation. It’s the Sharks’ longest skid at SAP Center since a four-game slide from Dec. 1-Dec. 28, 2015.
Despite their recent shortcomings on home ice, San Jose begins play atop the Pacific Division, five points in front of the Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers with two games in hand over both clubs.
San Jose (36-18-7) returned from its bye week with a 4-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.
“It’s two big points for us in the division race and we have to keep getting points,” said Mikkel Boedker, who was one of four goal-scorers for the Sharks.
Brent Burns had an assist to give him five goals and three assists in a five-game point streak. Joe Thornton failed to record an assist for a second straight game and remains two helpers shy of becoming the 13th player in NHL history with 1,000.
There’s a good chance he could reach the milestone in this contest — in his last six home games versus the Maple Leafs, “Jumbo Joe” has five multi-point games while racking up 13 points (goal, 12 assists).
Toronto (28-20-13), which holds the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, begins a three-game swing through the Golden State hoping to avoid its third straight loss. Rookie star Auston Matthews knows the team faces a daunting task.
“Those are three pretty tough teams,” Matthews told the Toronto Star. “We’ve played all three and we haven’t beaten those California teams. Those are tough buildings to go into. They are tough, physical teams. A good test for us.”
Matthews scored both goals for Toronto in its 3-2 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. That gives the top overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft 30 goals with 17 coming on the road.
Matthews had a goal and an assist in the Maple Leafs’ loss to the Sharks in December. He needs five goals to surpass Wendel Clark for the most by a Toronto rookie.
The Maple Leafs also bolstered their defense on Monday by picking up veteran Brian Boyle from the Tampa Bay Lightning for minor leaguer Byron Froese and a second-round in the 2017 NHL Draft.
Boyle, who has 13 goals in 54 games, is expected to make his Maple Leafs’ debut Tuesday. He is looking forward to playing for one of the league’s improving teams.
“The potential and the opportunity is there, and I think the skill level is for sure there,” Boyle told the league’s official website. “Post-trade deadline last year when they started playing some of those younger guys, they were a tough team to play against then and then obviously this year as well, they’re just going to keep getting better and better with the coaching staff they have there.”
Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner has two goals and five assists in a four-game point streak. He drew an assist against the Sharks earlier this season.