After faltering during their previous road trip, the San Jose Sharks are hoping for a more positive outcome on their next one.
The Sharks open a four-game swing Monday night, seeking their fourth straight win overall and their seventh in eight visits against the Dallas Stars.
San Jose (40-8-9) owns the league’s best record with 89 points, one ahead of Eastern Conference-leading Boston, which is idle until Tuesday.
A big reason for the Sharks’ success has been their play at HP Pavilion, where they are an NHL-best 26-2-3 following Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Atlanta that completed a 3-0 homestand.
Before this winning streak, however, they had lost six of seven with four of those defeats coming during a 1-1-3 road trip earlier this month that dropped them to 14-6-6 away from home. Last season, the Sharks were a league-best 27-10-4 on the road.
“When we go on the road, we’ve got to find ways to put teams away,” said forward Ryane Clowe, who ended a seven-game goal-scoring drought with his 21st Saturday. “We’ve got to establish some leads. I don’t think we even got a first goal on that last trip.”
His assessment was accurate, as the Sharks failed to score first in each of those five games. Additionally, Clowe - fourth on the Sharks with 48 points - was limited to four assists in that span.
Scoring hasn’t been a problem most of this season for San Jose, which is fourth in the league with 3.5 goals per game and has outscored opponents 11-5 over the last three contests.
The Sharks have ridden their potent offense to a 3-0 record this season against the Stars (29-22-7). San Jose has outscored Dallas 11-4 in those three matchups and is 8-4-0 in the series since March 4, 2007.
The Sharks have won six of the last seven in Dallas, including 3-1 on Dec. 29 in the teams’ latest matchup.
Dallas was 13th in the West when it last faced San Jose, but has since gone 14-7-2 to move into sixth place. A strong home record has fueled that surge for the Stars, who are 9-2-1 in their last 12 at the American Airlines Center.
They won the opener of their season-high six-game homestand against Edmonton on Thursday, but fell 3-1 to Chicago on Saturday despite another stellar effort from Marty Turco. He made 33 saves in his 29th consecutive start, but couldn’t help the Stars secure their third straight victory overall.
“(The Blackhawks) played a good game but in our situation we have little room for error,” coach Dave Tippett said. “If you have five, six guys not pulling their weight, that’s a problem. We looked like a tired, frustrated team chasing the game. We can’t have any weak links.”
That’s particularly true because Tippet’s club is dealing with the absences of several key players, including second-leading scorer Brad Richards, who landed on the injured list after breaking his right wrist last Monday in Columbus. He’s expected to miss six to eight weeks.
The Sharks, meanwhile, got healthier Saturday, with veteran center Jeremy Roenick recording his 700th career assist after returning from a 28-game absence due to torn cartilage in his shoulder. Fellow forwards Tomas Plihal and Jody Shelley were also back after each sat out with a lower-body injury.
San Jose defenseman Brad Lukowich could also return Monday after missing 18 straight contests following sports hernia surgery.