The Sharks seek their season-high fifth straight victory Saturday night when they play host to the Buffalo Sabres for the first time in almost five years.
Nabokov has been one of the league’s top goalies for the past six seasons, but appears to be making the jump to elite status in 2007-08. He leads the NHL in wins (15), ranks third in goals-against average (1.93), and is tied for second in shutouts (4).
The Phoenix Coyotes can attest to how good Nabokov has been this season after they were shut out by the San Jose netminder for the third straight time, 1-0 on Friday.
Nabokov stopped 27 shots for his 38th career shutout, and Milan Michalek scored with 15 seconds left in the second period as San Jose (15-8-4) moved into a tie with Dallas atop the Pacific Division.
“Incredible goaltending from the first game of the season right up to game 26,” Sharks defenseman Craig Rivet said. “What can I say? He’s been the backbone for us all year. He gives us confidence.”
Nabokov is the only goalie in the NHL to start all of his team’s games this season. Rookie backup Dimitri Patzold has made only two relief appearances - none since Oct. 26.
Each of the Sharks’ wins during their current streak have been by one goal with the first three coming by 3-2 scores.
Joe Thornton assisted on Michalek’s goal to extend his point streak to five games. Thornton has four goals and seven assists during his run and seven goals with 14 assists in his last 15 games against the Sabres.
Michalek has points in four straight games, tallying two goals and three assists in that span.
While Friday’s victory was San Jose’s league-leading 11th on the road, it’s only 4-5-2 at home. The Sharks ended a three-game winless skid at HP Pavilion with a 3-2 victory over Colorado on Nov. 30.
The Sabres started their three-game road trip having won six of seven, but have been badly outplayed in losses at Anaheim and Los Angeles.
Buffalo (12-13-1) followed a 4-1 loss to the Ducks on Wednesday by allowing the first seven goals in an embarrassing 8-2 loss Thursday to the Kings.
Jocelyn Thibault allowed four goals on 14 shots before he was replaced by Ryan Miller at the start of the second period. Miller didn’t fare much better, giving up four goals on 19 shots over the final 40 minutes.
Miller, who is expected to make his second career start against San Jose, is 1-2-0 with a 3.56 GAA in his last four games overall.
The Sabres are 0-4-1 with four ties in their last nine games at San Jose since a 7-1 victory in their first visit there on Nov. 12, 1991.
This will be Buffalo’s first road game against San Jose since the teams skated to a 2-2 tie on Jan. 16, 2003. The Sharks won the most recent meeting 5-0 at Buffalo on Dec. 2, 2005.