The San Jose Sharks are among the Western Conference’s elite teams. Their coach believes they can be even better.
Looking for their season-high fifth win in a row, the Sharks head to Staples Center to meet the struggling Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.
This is the second meeting in four days between the Pacific Division rivals. On Thursday, Patrick Marleau recorded his second career hat trick and Jonathan Cheechoo added two goals in the Sharks’ 7-3 win in Los Angeles.
San Jose (13-5-0) managed a season-low 18 shots Saturday, but came away with a 2-1 win over Phoenix. Vesa Toskala, substituting for the injured Evgeni Nabokov, stopped all 25 shots he faced over the over the final two periods to improve to 9-1-0.
Toskala made 35 saves in Thursday’s win over the Kings and improved to 4-0-0 with a 2.10 goals-against average in four career starts against them.
The Sharks have yielded just 39 goals this season—2.16 per game—but coach Ron Wilson said there’s room for improvement.
“Our defense is doing an outstanding job, but we need to clean up some little things,” he said. “The wingers are turning the pucks over and that’s not acceptable. Sure, we picked up the two points, but have to figure out how we can do things better and improve.”
Nabokov stopped 13 of 14 shots before exiting with a stiff neck.
“Getting outshot is not a significant factor,” said Nabokov, who isn’t expected to miss any time. “It’s the quality chances that you want to eliminate, and then it’s up to the goalie to see the puck and make the save. So far, our defense has been solid, and that makes my job easier.”
Marleau’s goal just past the midway point of the second period proved to be the winner. He has five goals and two assists during a three-game point streak, and leads San Jose with 11 goals and 20 points.
Los Angeles (5-10-4) will be trying to avoid its third loss in a row and fourth straight at home. In a 3-2 shootout loss Saturday to Minnesota, Michael Cammalleri tied the game with 8:46 left in regulation, but Mathieu Garon gave up the winner to Todd White in the sixth round.
“We respect their game. You have to with their record and the way they play,” Cammalleri said. “They play a team game and everyone’s on the same page, so that’s tough to play against.”
The Kings have lost all four games this season that have gone past regulation.
If Garon starts Monday, he’ll need to show vast improvement over his outing against the Sharks on Thursday. He gave up four goals in 5:14 span midway through the first period, turning a one-goal lead into a three-goal deficit.
With that in mind, coach Marc Crawford could go with Dan Cloutier over Garon. Cloutier has won his last three starts against San Jose while posting a 1.32 GAA.