The San Jose Sharks feel they are back to playing the kind of hockey the last two games that has them atop the Western Conference.
They’ll try for a third straight victory Saturday night when they look to again slow down the high-scoring Sedin twins and the Vancouver Canucks in a matchup of division leaders.
San Jose (45-19-10) was concerned during a 0-5-1 stretch capped by a dismal 5-1 loss at league-worst Edmonton on Sunday. The Sharks, though, have finally looked like themselves the last two outings, winning 4-1 at Minnesota on Tuesday and 3-0 over Dallas on Thursday.
“We’re definitely a better team than we were three games ago, that’s for sure,” defenseman Dan Boyle(notes) said. “I think obviously our goalie needs to get credit, (but) I think our forwards have been the biggest difference. Speaking as a defenseman, they determine how aggressive we are back there and the last two games they have done a great job of coming back.”
The Sharks, who have recorded their fourth straight 100-point season and clinched a playoff berth, lead Phoenix by two points in the Pacific Division and Chicago by one in the West.
San Jose has split two meetings with Vancouver (45-25-7) this season, holding the Sedins without a point. Henrik Sedin(notes) leads the NHL with 99 points as he tries to reach 100 for the first time while Daniel has 22 points in his last 15 games, registering at least one in every contest except a 3-2 win over San Jose on March 18.
“Knowing Henrik the way I know him and knowing Danny the way I know both those guys, they know that for them to be useful for our team, they’ve got to produce points,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “But they want to win, that’s the bottom line.”
The Canucks lead Colorado by five points atop the Northwest Division.
Roberto Luongo(notes) is expected to be back in net after Andrew Raycroft(notes) made 30 saves in a 4-1 victory over Anaheim on Wednesday. Henrik Sedin had three assists and Daniel had a goal and two assists.
Luongo has a 3.48 goals-against average during a 1-2-1 stretch, and is 2-4-1 with a 2.71 GAA in his last seven starts against the Sharks.
“You’re not going to give him up for any of the 29 other goalies in the league that are starting,” Raycroft said of Luongo. “And that’s the reality of this whole thing.”
Nabokov, meanwhile, was 7-0 with a 1.28 GAA in seven starts against the Canucks before losing to them March 18. He’s 4-0 with a 0.99 GAA in his last four starts at home against them.
“It’s a building process, getting ready for the playoffs,” Nabokov said. “I think that’s more important, and that’s what we wanted to do.”