March 31, 2014

With the New York Rangers mired in a three-game losing streak, coach Alain Vigneault claims goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is his best player now.

The San Jose Sharks have yet to lose with Martin Jones as their starting goalie.

Jones is expected to return to the crease for the visiting Sharks on Monday night in his first career appearance against the struggling Rangers.

New York (3-2-1) started the season with a victory over reigning Stanley Cup champion Chicago as part of a 3-0-0 start before going 0-2-1 in its next three following Sunday's 2-1 overtime defeat to New Jersey.

Vigneault was blunt in his assessment of his club.

"You gotta be on top of your game," he said. "It should be quite obvious to our players at this time that we're not on top of ours and we need to find our game.

"Right now we've got in my estimation one player on top of his game, and that's Henrik Lundqvist."

Lundqvist has started every game and could start again despite a back-to-back since Sunday's contest was in the afternoon. He started both meetings last season, as New York outscored San Jose 7-1 in two victories.

The Rangers, who are 1 for 16 on the power play, scored 12 goals during their unbeaten start before managing two in this slide. Oscar Lindberg scored four times in the win streak and has no goals since.

"I think the first couple of games, we were finding the back of the net every time and now we've kind of went on the other end of it," center Derek Stepan said.

They could find it difficult to break through against Jones, who has posted a 0.49 goals-against average in winning his first four starts with his new club. He posted back-to-back shutouts before Friday's 2-1 shootout win over the Devils.

''My focus is to take the game as it comes and just focus on the process, whether it's a 1-1 game or a 5-0 game," Jones said. "The process needs to stay the same.''

Jones has never faced the Rangers, though he was a backup to Jonathan Quick as a rookie with Los Angeles in 2013-14 when the Kings beat New York in the Stanley Cup Final.

Jones gave way to backup Alex Stalock in the second half of a back-to-back Saturday. San Jose (4-1-0) lost for the first time, 6-3 to the New York Islanders.

Defenseman Paul Martin sat out with a lower-body injury suffered Friday, though he could return for this contest.

"I don't anticipate it being serious, but I don't know yet," coach Peter DeBoer said. "It's a lower-body injury, it happened in the game (Friday), he finished in the game with it so we'll see how it looks going forward."

The Sharks' Ben Smith took a puck to the head Saturday and didn't return while fellow winger Joonas Donskoi has missed the last two games with a lower-body injury. Logan Couture is out for a month after he broke his leg in practice on Thursday.

Rangers star Rick Nash is still searching for his first goal after finishing third in the NHL with 42 in 2014-15.

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