The San Jose Sharks were nearly unbeatable on the road for most of last season, but spent most of the first half of their schedule struggling to win at home.
So far in 2008-09, they’ve had no such trouble.
One of two teams unbeaten in their own arena, the Sharks will try to post their fifth win at HP Pavilion on Tuesday night when they return home from a three-game road trip to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins.
San Jose (7-2-0) had the league’s best road record in 2007-08, going 27-10-4 while capturing the Pacific Division title. But the Sharks had problems winning at home, going 6-9-3 through December before finishing on a 16-4-3 tear.
They don’t seem to have any interest in starting slowly this season. San Jose has gone 4-0-0 at HP Pavilion, outscoring opponents 17-8.
After winning five of its first six—including the four home wins—the Sharks hit the road for three games in four days. All-Star Evgeni Nabokov was in net as San Jose split the first two games of the trip, but after a loss in Florida on Friday night, backup Brian Boucher got the call on Saturday.
The veteran responded by posting his second shutout in as many starts this season, stopping 22 shots in a 3-0 win over the Lightning.
“Right now, it’s been two wins and two shutouts, but I wouldn’t look too much into it,” Boucher said. “It’s more of a byproduct of the guys playing well.”
Boucher’s presence has been critical as Nabokov has struggled early. The Vezina Trophy finalist started 3-0-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average, but he’s just 2-2-0 with a 4.41 GAA in his last four starts.
Nabokov may find his luck better when the Penguins (5-2-2) come to town. He’s 6-1-0 with a 1.96 GAA in seven career starts against Pittsburgh, including a 2-1 shootout win at Mellon Arena last season.
The Penguins began a four-game road trip Saturday with a 3-2 shootout loss to the New York Rangers, but Pittsburgh felt like it should have walked away with a 2-1 victory in regulation.
“We were 8 seconds away from it, so when you look back it bugs you, but that’s hockey,” Penguins forward Miroslav Satan said. “We still got one point out of it, that’s the positive thing.”
Despite the presence of stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh’s offense has yet to click. The Penguins have scored just 23 goals in nine games, and they’ve yet to score more than four in any game. They scored five or more 12 times last season.
Pittsburgh’s had trouble finding any secondary scoring behind Malkin (three goals, 11 assists) and Crosby (three goals, nine assists). Satan is the only Penguins player other than Malkin and Crosby with six points.
One of those players is Joe Thornton, who’s led the NHL in assists for the past three seasons. Thornton has a goal and seven assists in his first nine games, and he’s thrived against the Penguins in his career. In his last 19 games versus Pittsburgh, Thornton has 12 goals and 29 assists.
The Penguins, who haven’t visited San Jose since Nov. 4, 2006, have lost five straight there.