San Jose entered the All-Star break coming off a victory that snapped a three-game skid. With the league-worst Columbus Blue Jackets in town, the Sharks return to action with a good chance to start a streak in the positive direction.
The Sharks look to win consecutive games for the first time in more than two weeks when they try for a fourth straight victory over the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.
San Jose (27-14-6) has been held to one goal in three of its last four contests, but that was enough to win 1-0 at Calgary last Tuesday and enter the break with a two-point Pacific Division lead over Los Angeles. Benn Ferriero scored with 8:25 remaining in regulation and Antti Niemi made 25 saves to help the Sharks avoid a fourth straight loss.
"It's a big win for us," Ferriero said.
Though the Sharks have lost four of six since a 6-0-1 stretch, their latest victory could provide some momentum for the final months of the season. Facing the Blue Jackets (13-30-6) also could help San Jose as they try to take control of the Pacific.
With an NHL-low 32 points, Columbus has scored five goals during its current four-game skid. The Sharks have won three straight meetings with Columbus, all by one-goal margins including a pair of 2-1 victories this season.
San Jose All-Star Logan Couture has two assists in his last three games against the Blue Jackets, including one in the teams' most recent meeting Jan. 14 at Columbus.
Couture, who also has a team-leading 21 goals, had an assist while playing for Sharks coach Todd McLellan in Sunday's All-Star game at Ottawa. The third-year center, who has three goals and an assist in his last three games, took some expected ribbing after he was the final player selected in the All-Star draft last week.
"I had fun with it. You can't take it personally,'' said Couture, who was awarded a new car for the being the last player chosen.
Niemi had fun in last Tuesday's victory after allowing four goals in each of his previous two starts - both losses. He is 3-1-0 with a 2.89 lifetime goals-against average against the Blue Jackets, but has yet to face them this season.
Backup Thomas Greiss has stopped 48 of the 50 shots he's faced in two victories over Columbus in 2011-12. Vinny Prospal and Rick Nash recorded the only two goals Columbus has scored against Greiss and the Sharks this season.
Nash failed to record a point in the Blue Jackets' 4-2 loss at Tampa Bay last Tuesday.
"We battled until the end,'' Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "You're looking for the energy, and I know there's circumstances that make it difficult at times, but I still thought for a 60-minute game that we could have and should have been better in certain areas.''
In the midst of a stretch of six straight road games, the Blue Jackets dropped the first three prior to the break and return with a three-game run through California. Columbus has lost five in a row on the road, where it is 5-17-3 this season.