Sharks-Blue Jackets Preview

The Associated Press

They were riding high at the end of January, but this month has been a different story for the San Jose Sharks.

Perhaps a visit to the Western Conference-worst Columbus Blue Jackets is just what they need to get back on track.

The Sharks will try to snap a four-game skid on Monday night when they open a six-game road trip against the struggling Blue Jackets.

After averaging 3.86 goals per game during its franchise-best 7-0-0 start, San Jose (7-2-2) has struggled to score while going 0-2-2 over its last four games.

The Sharks were blanked for the first time this season in a 1-0 shootout loss to Phoenix on Saturday, leaving them with just five goals in their last four games.

"We still need to bear down around the net, but there are things we can build upon heading out on the road,'' captain Joe Thornton said.

It hasn't helped that San Jose has struggled on the power play, scoring once in its last 25 opportunities after going 0 for 4 against the Coyotes.

Patrick Marleau has cooled off after a sizzling start, with no goals and one assist in his last six games after tallying nine and five in his first five contests.

Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture have tried to pick up the slack with a combined eight goals over the past seven contests.

Couture scored twice in San Jose's most recent visit to Columbus, a 6-3 loss on Feb. 21 that snapped San Jose's four-game winning streak in the series.

The Sharks, however, may be able to jump-start their offense against the Blue Jackets, who rank near the bottom of the West in goals allowed (38).

Columbus (3-7-2) looks to wrap up a season-high six-game homestand on a positive note after going 1-3-1 in the first five.

Sergei Bobrovsky lost his third consecutive start in a 3-1 loss to Edmonton on Sunday, allowing two goals on only 13 shots.

R.J. Umberger finally scored his first goal of the season for the Blue Jackets, who registered a season-high 40 shots but went scoreless on seven power-play chances.

"Tonight was definitely our highest-scoring chance game that we created," coach Todd Richards said. "The goalie was the difference in the game."

Umberger had a goal and an assist to key the victory over San Jose last February, but has just three goals in 17 career games in the series.

Columbus had scored nine goals in its previous three games before Sunday, but the power play has struggled most of the season, going 4 for 46 over the past 10 contests.

It may not be any easier against the Sharks, who have improved their penalty killing. After allowing a power-play goal in each of its first three games, San Jose has killed 34 straight short-handed situations.

Offense could also be hard to come by against Antti Niemi, who is 3-1-2 with a 1.58 goals-against average in his last six starts.

He's also won four of five career starts with a 2.64 GAA against the Blue Jackets.

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