The San Jose Sharks’ first shootout win of the season seems to have come at just the right time.
One day after ending a three-game skid, the Sharks face another squad looking to snap a losing streak when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks.
San Jose (37-22-1) has made it a habit of deciding its games in regulation this season, playing in a league-low two shootouts. The Sharks dropped their first one to Dallas on Jan. 30, but beat Washington 3-2 in a shootout Wednesday.
The victory snapped San Jose’s season high-tying three-game losing streak during which it was outscored 13-2. It looked like the Sharks were on their way to extending that skid when Washington took a 2-0 lead, but they rallied with goals from Patrick Rissmiller and Matt Carle.
“It could have been easy to throw up a white towel,” said Sharks coach Ron Wilson, whose squad dropped seven of its eight shootouts last season. “It was close by.”
“There comes a point where you have to leave everything (bad) behind you,” said Cheechoo, whose team is 4-6-1 in its last 11 games. “Everyone stayed real positive.”
Nabokov stopped 24 shots and may get the nod again with Vesa Toskala resting a sore groin. Patrick Marleau, who leads the Sharks with 29 goals, was sidelined Wednesday with food poisoning and his status is uncertain for this matchup.
Joe Thornton has a team-best 75 points, but has just one in the last four contests. His play has not been as strong on the road, where he has 29 points in 30 games compared to 46 in 30 home games. The Sharks are tied for the NHL lead with 19 road wins and are 3-3 on their current season-high eight-game trip.
The Blackhawks (22-29-9) are opening a four-game homestand, where they are 1-6-3 in their last 10 contests. They are trying to avoid a fifth straight overall defeat after losing 4-2 to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday.
“We just didn’t find the net,” said Blackhawks coach Denis Savard, whose squad is last in the NHL with 2.45 goals per game. “They know how to finish. They’re a very experienced team. They know how to play in situations that keep them in the game. They’ll hang on enough to finish it.”
Blackhawks forward Rene Bourque returned Wednesday after being out since New Year’s Eve because of a cracked bone in his ankle, but has failed to record a point in three career meetings with San Jose.
Chicago netminder Nikolai Khabibulin is 15-8-1 with two ties and a 2.37 goals-against average in 27 career games versus the Sharks, but Patrick Lalime could get the start Thursday since the Blackhawks are playing on consecutive days.
Marleau scored the go-ahead goal in San Jose’s 4-2 victory over the Blackhawks on Feb. 3, its fourth straight win over Chicago.