Blue Jackets-Sharks Preview
The San Jose Sharks and Columbus Blue Jackets have both dropped five of their last seven games. The difference is one team preceded that with a season-opening winning streak and is coming off an encouraging effort, while the other's 2-5-0 span has been a modest improvement, despite having another losing streak in the works.
The Sharks begin a four-game homestand Tuesday night while Columbus faces a three-game West Coast trip that could sink it even deeper into the Metropolitan Division basement.
San Jose (6-5-0) ended a two-game skid with Sunday's 4-3 win over Colorado behind two goals from Brent Burns and an empty-netter from Joe Pavelski that gave him a goal in four straight games. Pavelski also has three goals in his last two against Columbus.
"A big two points, as big as two points can get (11) games into the season," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer told the team's official website. "We needed them. We had done enough to be close, but not enough to earn a win. Whether we had won or not, with the game we played I would have been happy. It's nice to get rewarded.
"It's probably the most honest game we've played for 60 minutes in a long time. You get rewarded for that. We've been close, but we haven't been (rewarded) and I thought we fixed that tonight."
Martin Jones got off to a scorching start with a 0.49 goals-against average and .982 save percentage in four straight wins to begin his time in San Jose, but he's since fallen off with 3.02 and .894 marks over a 2-3-0 span.
The former Los Angeles King gave up five goals in his only game against Columbus - a 5-3 loss in January 2014.
While San Jose has allowed 3.71 goals per game over the last seven, it might be as concerned with a power play that's gone 2 for 18 over the last eight games. Columbus', however, has been even worse.
The Blue Jackets' power play was about the only consistency early on, going 6 for 21 (28.6 percent) through five games, but over the last seven, it's 2 for 26 (7.7).
Columbus (2-10-0) won both meetings with the Sharks last season and has taken six of the last eight, but that's about all it has to fall back on at the moment. The Blue Jackets lost 3-2 at home to Winnipeg on Saturday.
"At times I thought we had chances to make plays and we have just not been able to," said coach John Tortorella, whose team plays Thursday at Los Angeles and Friday in Anaheim. "It's been a struggle. I know it's in the room. I know they are better players."
The Blue Jackets have dropped two straight since winning two of their first three under Tortorella.
The main concern under former coach Todd Richards was terrible defensive-zone play with 4.86 goals allowed per game. That's changed with 2.40 in the five under Tortorella, though Columbus would still like to see some improvement from Sergei Bobrovsky.
He was removed after giving up three goals in the first period against the Jets, bumping his GAA to 3.97. Bobrovsky hasn't been great in San Jose, going 2-1-0 with a 3.38 mark, though he's faced an average of 39.7 shots in those games.