After enduring an awful stretch that significantly cut into their once-comfortable lead atop the Western Conference, the San Jose Sharks hope the enthusiasm of their oldest player can provide a spark and help them string together some wins.
The Pacific Division-leading Sharks look to build off their latest victory, which featured a fight from 43-year-old Claude Lemieux, Thursday night when they host the Los Angeles Kings, who are trying to win six consecutive road games for the first time in more than 34 years.
San Jose (38-8-9) led Detroit by eight points on Jan. 29 in the race for the top seed in the West, but that lead is down to just one.
The Sharks picked up a needed victory Tuesday, defeating Edmonton 4-2 to snap a three-game losing streak and won for just the second time in eight games.
Patrick Marleau scored two goals to lead San Jose, giving him six goals and three assists in his last five games, but the game’s biggest play came from Lemieux, who has yet to record a point.
With the Sharks leading 3-2 in the second period, Lemieux dropped the gloves and fought with 21-year-old Theo Peckham. Lemieux, who has played in 11 games since his return from a 5 1/2-year retirement, didn’t win the bout, but he helped inspire a listless team.
“It’s not about fighting,” said Lemieux, a noted antagonist who helped Montreal, New Jersey and Colorado all win Stanley Cup titles. “It’s about being physical and being intense. Coming home from a long road trip, teams sometimes have a tendency to play flat, but we have to work through that. Being a veteran player, you learn some things over time about how to inject some passion into the game.”
After losing four games on their five-game road trip, the Sharks improved to a league-best 24-2-3 at home.
The Kings (25-22-9) likely won’t be intimidated by San Jose’s record at HP Pavilion, as they’ve won seven of eight on the road.
Los Angeles, three points back of eighth-place Edmonton in the West, opened a stretch of playing seven of eight games on the road Wednesday with a 4-3 victory at Anaheim, its fifth straight win away from Staples Center that also ended a three-game overall losing streak (0-1-2).
Anze Kopitar had a goal and an assist against the Ducks after tallying two goals and two assists in Monday’s 7-6 shootout loss to Atlanta.
The Kings, who in the midst of their longest road winning streak since Oct. 29-Nov. 14, 1984, haven’t won six consecutive road games since reeling off a franchise-record eight in a row from Dec. 18, 1974-Jan. 16, 1975.
“This team has been playing great on the road,” said Jon Quick, who has been in goal for each game during the Kings’ road winning streak, posting a 2.17 goals-against average.
Quick made 28 saves Wednesday and is 9-1-0 with a 2.18 GAA and three shutouts on the road since Dec. 23.
The rookie goalie has never faced the Sharks in his career, and his teammates haven’t had much success against them lately.
The Sharks have won their first three games against the Kings this season, and six of the last seven meetings.
Los Angeles has 10 goals in its last two games but has only three in the three losses to San Jose.
San Jose’s Evgeni Nabokov, who stopped 24 shots Tuesday, made 12 saves in a 3-1 victory over the Kings on Oct. 11—his only start against them this season.
Backup goalie Brian Boucher started the other two games against Los Angels, recording a 0.96 GAA and one shutout.