Behind the scorching stick of Patrick Marleau, the San Jose Sharks are one win away from their best start in franchise history. Standing in the way are the Vancouver Canucks, a team they've had trouble with over the past two seasons.
The Sharks will try to remain one of the league's three unbeatens Sunday when they host the Canucks, who have 10 of the last 13 meetings including playoffs.
San Jose (4-0-0) has matched its start from 2008-09, when it went on to claim the Presidents' Trophy. Chicago and New Jersey, both also in action Sunday, are the only other clubs without a loss.
Marleau has been a huge reason for the success, outscoring the Sharks' opponents on his own 8-7. He had two more goals Saturday in a 4-0 win against Colorado to join Ottawa's Cy Denneny in 1917-18 as the only other player to open a season with four straight multigoal games.
The franchise's all-time leader in goals, Marleau had never totaled more than three in his first four games of a season. He also has three assists in his last three contests.
"I don't know if he can keep scoring two goals every night. But he can keep his play up the way it's been," coach Todd McLellan said of Marleau, the first NHL player to post four straight multigoal games at any point in a season since Alexander Mogilny did it in five in a row for Buffalo in 1992-93.
"He's been skating extremely well. A ton of confidence. He's prepared to shoot the puck. He's engaged physically. It's a great reward for him. He came focused to play."
In addition to Marleau leading the league in goals, San Jose also boasts the top two assist men in Joe Thornton (nine) and Joe Pavelski (eight). The trio has helped anchor a power-play unit that has converted 10 of 24 chances (41.7 percent).
The Canucks (2-1-1) have been vulnerable on the penalty kill, yielding five goals on 14 chances, but they tightened up defensively in a 5-0 victory at Anaheim on Friday, their second straight win. Vancouver scored three goals on the man advantage, improving to 6 for 22 after finishing fourth in the league last season at 19.8 percent.
Daniel Sedin has an assist in each game this season along with two goals, with five of his six points coming on the power play.
Cory Schneider stopped all 30 shots he faced Friday for his fifth career shutout. He gave up five goals on just 14 shots six days earlier in the Canucks' 7-3 season-opening loss to the Ducks, but has stopped 64 of 66 shots in two starts since.
"I'm not going to feel bad for myself," Schneider told the league's official website. "I don't need pats on the shoulder all the time to say it's going to be all right. Part of your job is to bounce back mentally and be the one that repairs (himself). Other people can't do it for you. I like to think I got past the point a while ago, but you've got to put it in practice sometimes."
The Canucks should feel confident against San Jose, having gone 10-1-2 in this series - including a five-game victory in the 2011 Western Conference finals - since the start of the 2010-11 season. Henrik Sedin has totaled 19 points in those games, which include four straight regular-season victories for Vancouver at HP Pavilion.
Center Manny Malhotra is expected to rejoin the Canucks for Sunday's game after he missed Friday's contest to be with his wife as she gave birth to the couple's third child.
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