Sharks host red-hot Jets (Nov 25, 2017)
Prior to a challenging week-long road trip, the San Jose Sharks are eager to end their recent struggles at home. That means beating a team that's been red-hot for the last month to emerge as one the NHL's surprises.
Looking to avoid their fourth straight loss at SAP Center, the Sharks meet the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night in the first of three meetings.
San Jose (11-8-2) is 6-6-1 at home, but 1-3-1 in its last five there. The Sharks have been limited to four goals in the four losses, and are near the bottom of the league with 2.52 goals per game.
Meanwhile, Winnipeg has given up only four goals in a four-game winning streak against the Pacific Division. The Jets are 6-2-0 this season against that division, and trail the Western Conference-leading St. Louis Blues by two points.
Last season, the Sharks took all three games from Winnipeg, including a 5-2 win on Jan. 16 in San Jose.
The Sharks hit home ice after falling 5-4 in overtime to the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday. San Jose rallied with three straight goals in the second period to tie the score, 4-4, but Aaron Dell couldn't stop Jonathan Marchessault's game-winner.
"There's still a lot of things we can improve on. We're playing well. The only thing we have to fix is we have to play 60 minutes," San Jose forward Joonas Donskoi told the league's official website.
One positive to come out of the loss was Brent Burns finally scoring his first goal of 2017-18 in his 900th career game. He led all defensemen with 29 goals last season to win his first Norris Trophy.
San Jose forward Joel Ward is on the verge of a milestone as he needs one point for 300 in his career. The 11-year veteran has a goal and an assist in his last two games, and four goals with three helpers in 16 games this season.
On Friday, Martin Jones was replaced by Dell 10 seconds into the second period after giving up a power-play marker to William Karlsson. Jones halted 11 of 14 shots, while Dell was reached for two goals on 19 shots and dropped to 2-3-1.
"We didn't help Jonesie out at all," San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said. "I got him out of there because I didn't want to have him play a whole night in front of that. ... It was a track meet, it was pond hockey out there."
Jones won his only start and Dell picked up the other two wins over the Jets last season.
This is the Sharks' final contest before a road trip in which they will play Philadelphia, Florida, Tampa Bay and Washington in a seven-night span starting Tuesday.
Winnipeg (14-5-3) closes a four-game road trip looking for its seventh win in eight games after defeating the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 on Friday. Nikolaj Ehlers scored twice within the first five minutes and had an assist, while linemate Bryan Little added a goal and two assists.
"It's always nice scoring goals and getting the win. I think our line especially hasn't been producing and playing the way we've wanted to," said Ehlers, who has 10 goals and needs one more to tie Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine for the team lead.
Ehlers has four points in his last two games to match his total over the previous nine contests.
Connor Hellebuyck stopped 30 shots to improve to 12-2-2 with a 2.36 GAA and .928 save percentage. The Michigan native is 11-0-1 with a 1.49 goals-against average and .953 save percentage when allowing two or fewer goals as a starter.
"No one's taking a night off, no one's taking a shift off, and you can tell we're supporting each other up and down the ice and I think that's key," Hellebuyck said.
In his only career appearance in San Jose, Hellebuyck stopped 27 shots in a 4-1 win on Jan. 2, 2016. But after Friday's win, Jets coach Paul Maurice said backup Steve Mason would start against the Sharks.
Mason (2-3-1, 3.31 GAA, .907 save percentage) has lost each of his last three starts in Northern California despite giving up only seven goals. However, in each of his last two starts, the 2009 Calder Trophy winner held Arizona and Los Angeles to a total of two goals en route to two wins.
"He knows what he's doing. He's a veteran. He's going to give himself the best possible chance to win every single night and I think he shows that every day in practice," Hellebuyck said.