The San Jose Sharks have lost in their last three visits to Carolina, and haven’t won there in nearly a decade.
Now, though, the way the Sharks are surging and the Hurricanes are faltering, that drought could very well come to an end.
San Jose tries to win its fifth straight overall Sunday afternoon, when it opens its three-game trip against a Hurricanes team that’s drawing close to the longest losing streak in franchise history.
The Sharks (9-4-1) haven’t won in Carolina since a 3-2 victory on Oct. 24, 2000, but arrive at RBC Center this time with six wins in their last seven games.
San Jose, which is looking to win five in a row for the first time since a 9-0-0 stretch last Nov. 13-Dec. 4, improved to 4-0-1 at home with Friday’s 3-1 victory over Colorado.
The Sharks fired a season-high 46 shots but didn’t score until 5.9 seconds remained in the second period, when Ryan Clowe tallied his first goal of 2009-10. He had a career-high 22 last season.
“Nobody realizes how hard (Ryan has been) working,” coach Todd McLellan told the Sharks’ official Web site. “We’re happy for him.”
Jamie McGinn(notes) also scored his first goal of the season, while Dany Heatley(notes) found the back of the net for the ninth time. Heatley had two goals and an assist in four games versus Carolina last season while playing for Ottawa.
Patrick Marleau(notes), who leads San Jose with 10 goals and 19 points, looks to extend his point streak to eight after notching two assists Friday. He has five goals and eight assists during the run.
Marleau has four goals and seven assists in his last nine games against the Hurricanes, including a goal and an assist in the Sharks’ last victory at Carolina.
Nabokov - 8-3-1 with a 2.53 GAA this season - will likely get the start Sunday, when Carolina tries to avoid a ninth straight defeat.
Since a 7-2 victory over Florida on Oct. 9, the Hurricanes (2-7-3) have been outscored 31-16 while losing eight straight, including a 6-1 loss Saturday at Philadelphia.
“We really didn’t make a lot of mental mistakes, like blown coverages or not competing,” coach Paul Maurice said. “We were better in so many areas, but I know it’s hard for me to sell that to you. I’ve been telling you that for the past three or four games. When you get beat 6-1, you can’t say you were right there, because you weren’t.”
The franchise’s longest losing streak was 10, by the Hartford Whalers from Feb. 15-March 8, 1983.
“I felt a little rusty the first part of the game, but I felt good the second half,” Leighton said. “I let up a couple of goals early and I gave up some rebounds that I usually don’t give up.”
Leighton is 1-1-0 with a 2.91 GAA in his career against San Jose, while Ward is 1-0-0 with a 4.00 GAA versus the Sharks.
Hurricanes forward Ray Whitney(notes) will be honored prior to Sunday’s contest for playing in his 1,000th career game. Whitney, a second-round pick for San Jose in 1991, had 48 goals and 73 assists for the Sharks from 1991-97.
San Jose has won two straight and four of five on the road.
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