The San Jose Sharks have been dominant during a four-game win streak against lesser competition. That could change Sunday night when they visit one of the NHL’s hottest teams.
San Jose looks to match a season high with its fifth straight victory and win its franchise-record 45th game when it faces the Colorado Avalanche.
The Sharks (44-25-3) have hardly been challenged during their streak, outscoring opponents 18-2 with two shutouts. Those victories, however, have come against non-playoff contenders Edmonton, Chicago, Phoenix and Columbus.
Colorado (36-29-6), though, figures to present a much more difficult challenge. The Avalanche improved to 7-0-1 in their last eight games with a 6-3 victory Saturday at Phoenix.
“It’s been a very effective couple of days for us,” Avalanche coach Joe Quenneville said. “Now the number’s more realistic. That’s still our goal. We still have to play well and worry about what we can control.”
Stastny’s goals extended his NHL rookie record point streak to 20 games. He has 11 goals and 18 assists during the run, which is still 10 shy of the franchise record for any player, set by Mats Sundin for the Quebec Nordiques at the start of the 1992-93 season.
“Over the course of the year, he’s got really good, a lot better,” Avs captain Joe Sakic said of Stastny. “Right after the start you could see such a smart hockey player who can see the game. Obviously he’s getting a lot more comfortable as the year’s gone on, and he’s going to have a tremendous career.”
Peter Budaj has been in net for each game during the 7-0-1 run, allowing only 16 total goals in that span. Budaj, though, is 0-3-0 with a 3.72 goals-against average in his career against the Sharks.
San Jose matched a franchise record Friday with its 44th victory, 3-0 over Columbus. Vesa Toskala showed no signs of rust in his first start since Feb. 14, stopping 35 shots for his fourth shutout of the season.
“It could be easier to see a lot of shots in your first game back,” Toskala said. “It could be the best for your body to just get back into it. That certainly worked for me this time.”
Toskala hadn’t played since injuring his groin against Nashville more than a month ago. Even after he recovered from the injury, Evgeni Nabokov’s outstanding play kept him on the bench for 14 straight games.
Nabokov had allowed only total four goals in the Sharks’ previous six games, setting the franchise record for consecutive scoreless minutes in the process.
The tandem of Toskala and Nabokov has combined for four shutouts in the last seven games, giving them 11 this season to match the franchise record they set in 2003-04.
With 10 regular-season games still remaining, the Sharks matched the team record for wins they set in 2001-02 and tied last season. San Jose is tied with Minnesota for fifth in the Western Conference.
Joe Thornton’s 19th goal of the season Friday was his 94th point, breaking the club mark set by Jonathan Cheechoo last season. Thornton - the league’s third-leading scorer - has three goals and nine assists during a six-game point streak.
The Sharks have won two of three meetings against the Avalanche this season and five of the last six in the series.