Stars hope to make it three straight against Sharks
SHARKS (20-8-7) at STARS (15-9-11)
: San Jose 4-3-3; Dallas 4-2-4.
: The Stars lead the season series, 2-0, after taking two 3-2 shootout wins at the Shark Tank on Nov. 12 and Dec. 11.
: With both teams battling to get out of slumps, the Sharks will look to get their first win against the division-rival Stars this season, as San Jose fights to stay on top of the Western Conference.
: At the start of the season, San Jose once again shot out of the gate and jumped atop the standings, but the Sharks have struggled lately, losing five straight before ending the skid with a 4-1 win over Anaheim Thursday. Despite the recent troubles, San Jose still sits in a four-way tie for the most points in the West, but with Chicago, Nashville, Los Angeles and Colorado staking their claims for conference supremacy, it's getting awfully crowded up top.
A prolonged slump could drop the Sharks down the West's hierarchy quickly, but Thursday's victory might have signaled a reversal of fortune courtesy of a breakout performance by Patrick Marleau. The franchise's all-time scoring leader had three points against the Ducks after tallying only one over San Jose's five-game losing streak. If Marleau continues to heats up and Evgeni Nabokov maintains his strong play in net -- the goalie has held the opposition to two goals or less in five of his last six starts -- the Sharks could be headed for another hot streak to separate themselves from the pack.
: Dallas, too, has been slumping, winning only two of its last seven games. The Stars might want to attribute that to having been on a five-game road trip recently, and reasonable excuse or not, a return to the American Airlines Center appears to be agreeing with them. In their first game back home the Stars knocked off the Red Wings Saturday, 4-3, to climb into a tie with Detroit for the final playoff spot in the West.
While James Neal
tallied his team-leading 15th and 16th goals of the year in the win Saturday, the game-winner came from an extremely unlikely source, as defenseman Karlis Skrastins
potted his first two goals of the season. Offense, however, has not been the issue for Dallas. Marty Turco has been uncharacteristically poor of late, chalking up a 3.19 goals-against average in his last six starts. The Stars will need Turco to go back to playing like his old self if they're to stay in the top eight.
: In San Jose, League scoring leader, Joe Thornton has eight points in his last four games, while defeseman Dan Boyle has a five-game point streak. Dallas' Loui Eriksson
, meanwhile, has nine points in his last six games.
: Dallas will be without Trevor Daley
, who was placed on IR with a shoulder injury Thursday. Mark Fistric
is out indefinitely with a concussion. San Jose's Brad Staubitz is listed as questionable with a broken right cheekbone.
: After going to a shootout in their two previous meetings this season, it will come as no surprise if the Stars and Sharks have another three-pointer. Dallas has gone to the shootout nine times this season, while San Jose is right behind them with eight, the second and third highest totals in the League. The Stars and Sharks have also gone to a shootout six times in their history, the second most shootouts between any two teams in League history. That doesn't bode very well for San Jose, however, as Dallas has gotten the extra point five times.
: With both teams trying to get back on the winning track, the Stars and Sharks could both be in desperation mode. Despite being in first in the Pacific, San Jose could need the points just as badly as Dallas -- the Sharks are only six points from dropping out of the West's logjammed top eight. If the Sharks stay away from overtime, they might have the edge. San Jose has won five of its last six meetings with Dallas that ended in regulation.