The streaking Sharks, still without a regulation loss at HP Pavilion in 2008-09, continue a four-game homestand Thursday night when they face the Northwest Division-leading Flames, winners of three straight.
Consistency has been a key in keeping San Jose (32-5-5) atop the standings - it currently holds a one-point edge on Eastern Conference-leading Boston (68 points) for the best record in the NHL - but the biggest factor has been absolutely dominating play at home.
The Sharks are an almost unimaginable 20-0-2 at the HP Pavilion and have collected at least one point there in 31 consecutive regular-season games. They haven’t dropped a regulation decision at home since losing to Edmonton last Feb. 14.
San Jose kept that streak intact Tuesday night, opening the homestand with a 7-1 victory over road-weary Tampa Bay. Six players finished with at least two points, Joe Thornton provided two goals and an assist, and Milan Michalek finished with a goal and two assists for the Sharks, who held a four-goal lead after two periods en route to their third straight win.
“After three goals, we said let’s get a fourth, fifth and sixth. No lead is safe in this league,” Thornton - the Sharks’ leader with 41 assists and 52 points - told the team’s official Web site.
San Jose will play six of its next seven games at home, with a matchup against Central-leading Detroit set for Saturday.
But before facing the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Sharks take on the surging Flames (26-12-4), winners of four of the teams’ last five meetings. San Jose routed Calgary 6-1 at home Nov. 13, but fell 5-2 on the road Jan. 6.
Just over a month ago, Calgary trailed first-place Vancouver by two points. But in winning 10 of 12 games (10-1-1) since Dec. 16, it now owns a seven-point advantage over the Canucks in the Northwest.
Like the Sharks, the Flames have been tough to beat at home, securing a seventh straight victory there Tuesday night, 3-1 against St. Louis as Michael Cammalleri scored two goals for their third straight win overall.
“We’re using (the standings) as a source of motivation right now to keep our focus and keep on improving,” said Cammalleri, second on the team with 17 goals and 38 points. “We’re well aware of the spread right now and the games in hand and what’s going on with Vancouver in our division and we’d love to keep this roll going as long as we can.”
And although Calgary will not have the benefit of a Pengrowth Saddledome crowd at its back Thursday night, it has also been strong on the road, winning seven of its last 10 contests there (7-2-1). It has won in two of its last three visits to San Jose.
Former Shark Miikka Kiprusoff has compiled a 3.37 goals-against average in Calgary’s last five games against San Jose, but has a 2.55 GAA in winning eight of nine starts overall.
The Flames will look to contain the playmaking ability of Thornton, who has three goals and 14 assists over his last 10 contests, and three goals and nine assists during a five-game point streak at HP Pavilion. He has been kept off the scoresheet, however, in four of the last five against Calgary.
The Sharks’ Evgeni Nabokov made 24 saves Tuesday, and boasts a 1.93 GAA in winning 17 of 18 home starts. But he has struggled against the Flames, against whom he’s allowed 16 goals on 85 shots in losing four straight (0-2-2). He was replaced by backup Brian Boucher 21:26 into the defeat earlier this month.