NHL

Sharks-Flames Preview

The San Jose Sharks utilized a successful homestand to prove themselves against the NHL's top teams and keep pace in the competitive Western Conference.

Following a tough loss, the Sharks hit the road for the first time in more than three weeks Wednesday night against the upstart Calgary Flames, who have won seven of nine.

San Jose (27-17-7) finished its seven-game homestand 4-1-2 and defeated league powers Los Angeles, Anaheim and Chicago in consecutive games before falling to Edmonton on Monday 5-4 in a 13-round shootout.

"We get 10 points out of 14, we'll take it," coach Todd McLellan told San Jose's official website. "We have to be pleased with that ... At the other end of the spectrum, we're really disappointed. Our team has to find that medium where we don't get too high and we don't get too low. Even the high part we'll take. This low part is unacceptable."

Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton have led the Sharks offensively. Pavelski, who leads the team with 46 points, has five goals over his last five games, while Thornton has recorded 10 points in six games.

The successful homestand has distanced the Sharks in the Pacific Division from Los Angeles and Vancouver, who each were within one game of San Jose following its most recent road game Jan. 13.

The Sharks, however, have been unable to create separation from Calgary (28-20-3).

The Flames topped Winnipeg 5-2 on Monday for their seventh win in nine games. They currently sit in the Western playoff picture, only two points behind the Sharks.

"We have nothing to celebrate," coach Bob Hartley told Calgary's official site. "We can be proud of the way we play. We can be happy with where we're at. But there's still way too much hockey to be played to get complacent."

Mark Giordano got his team-leading 43rd point in Monday's win and Sean Monahan scored his 17th goal of the season.

Monahan has played a significant offensive role during the current hot spell. He snapped a 13-game goal drought Jan. 15 and now has six goals in eight games, including the overtime winner in Calgary's 4-3 win over San Jose on Jan. 17.

The Flames also topped the Sharks in their previous trip to San Jose on Nov. 26, but fell in the last matchup at Calgary 3-2 on Dec. 6.

Logan Couture has scored in each of the Sharks' last two matchups with Calgary, and his 43 points rank behind only Pavelski and Thornton for the team lead. However, he has gone cold lately, failing to earn a point in each of San Jose's last two contests.

"We have to get better," Couture said. "We're facing a Calgary team in our next game on Wednesday that's going to be hungry and they're right behind us."

Antti Niemi figures to start for the Sharks. Niemi has started all three previous meetings with Calgary this season and owns a 2.55 goals-against average in 38 starts. He'll likely be opposed by Jonas Hiller, who has a 1.58 GAA in his last five.

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