October 24, 2014

One of the mysteries of the NHL is why the San Jose Sharks have had so much trouble with the lowly Buffalo Sabres.

The Sharks ended an eight-game slide to the Sabres earlier this season and now hope to halt a four-game home losing streak in the series Friday night.

San Jose (32-21-6) missed the playoffs last season after 10 consecutive appearances while Buffalo (24-30-7) is on the verge of a fifth straight campaign without reaching the postseason. That doesn't explain how these teams have fared against each other.

The Sharks were on an 0-7-1 skid in this series before Patrick Marleau scored in overtime of a 2-1 win Nov. 14. That caused a sigh of relief for first-year coach Peter DeBoer to break that hex in his first try.

"I accidentally dug into it because everyone was talking about it," he said after that game. "I knew we hadn't had much success against Buffalo recently, but I didn't realize it was as long as it has been."

San Jose's previous win over the Sabres was a 5-2 home victory in January 2010, and it's gone 0-3-1 in Buffalo's last four visits.

The Sharks play their first home game after completing a 3-1-1 trip with Wednesday's 4-3 shootout loss to Colorado. Joel Ward scored with 91 seconds left in the third period to salvage a point.

''Some of the cities we're in and how desperate some of the teams are that we're playing, it's a good road trip,'' DeBoer said. ''The guys found a way to get some points. That's important.''

Nick Spaling scored 2:10 into the game in his Sharks debut after being acquired Monday from Toronto. He had one goal in 35 games with the Maple Leafs.

Joe Thornton assisted on Ward's goal to give him 15 points in the last 10 games. Thirty five of his team high-tying 56 points and 13 of his 14 goals have come on the road. He has no goals and 13 assists in 11 home games in 2016.

Joe Pavelski leads the Sharks with 26 goals but hasn't scored in his last eight games against the Sabres. Thornton has three assists in his past nine matchups.

Buffalo opened a three-game California trip with Wednesday's 1-0 loss to Anaheim, marking the fifth time it was shut out.

''We want to show that we can play with the best teams, but it's the small margins,'' goaltender Robin Lehner said. ''I think we need to get tougher in front of both nets. We need to make it harder for the other goalies. In this league if you want to beat the goalies you need to get traffic in front.''

The Sabres went 0 for 4 on the power play after going 3 for 8 in their two previous games in which they totaled seven goals. Buffalo is among the league's best teams with 30.4 shots per game on the road.

"I'm not going to be satisfied with being stride-for-stride with a good hockey team," coach Dan Bylsma told the Sabres' official website. "We had every opportunity I think to get a few goals in that game and win the hockey game and we come up short."

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