A franchise-record winning streak helped the San Jose Sharks move atop the Pacific Division, but it hasn’t been enough to keep them there.
The Sharks go for their 10th straight win and try to again take sole possession of the division lead as they visit the playoff-hopeful Nashville Predators on Tuesday night.
A 3-2 shootout victory in Minnesota on Sunday moved the Sharks (40-21-8) into first place in the Pacific - but only for a few hours. They dropped back into second, one point behind Dallas, after the Stars beat Colorado 3-0 later that night.
The Sharks have the league’s best road record at 24-8-3, but All-Star goaltender Evgeni Nabokov said they must remain focused.
“Obviously, we’re playing well, but it’s such a competitive league that you can’t get too comfortable,” said Nabokov, who leads the NHL with 39 wins. “If you’re going to take time off, you’re going to find yourself losing two in a row and fighting for that eighth playoff spot.”
Nabokov is 3-0-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average versus Nashville (35-27-8) this season, including a 22-save effort in a 3-0 win on Oct. 20.
“This feels good, but I think we all know we have to keep winning our games,” Marleau told the Sharks’ official Web site. “We can’t sit back. Everyone is fighting for something and we have to keep playing hard and keep getting the wins.”
A victory Tuesday would not only give the Sharks a season sweep of Nashville for the first time, but also would make San Jose the fifth franchise with a 10-game winning streak since 2000-01, and first since Buffalo won 15 straight from April 8-Oct. 26, 2006.
After reaching the playoffs each of the last three seasons with an average of nearly 103 points, the Predators are trying to sneak back in.
Nashville is one of five Western Conference teams with at least 20 home wins, and will play seven of its final 12 at the Sommet Center. Additionally, eight of its last dozen games are against teams currently out of the playoff mix.
Still, Nashville comes into this game trying to avoid its first three-game home skid of 2007-08. The Preds went 3-3-0 on their six-game road trip, capped by a 4-3 loss to league-leading Detroit on Sunday.
“We came out in the third period and got our feet going,” Predators center Scott Nichol said.
Erat has excelled for the Predators since they acquired fellow Czech forward Jan Hlavac from Tampa Bay at the Feb. 26 trading deadline.
During the road trip, Erat had four goals and three assists, including his first career hat trick in a win over Edmonton last Monday. Hlavac had a goal and four assists in that stretch.
J.P. Dumont, however, has been perhaps the top player for Barry Trotz’s team when playing at home. The right wing has points in 15 of his last 16 games in Nashville, totaling eight goals and 15 assists. Dumont leads the Preds with 26 goals, and his 62 points are two behind Jason Arnott for the team lead.
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