Sharks-Blue Jackets Preview
Regardless of what happens in the finale, the San Jose Sharks will have very fond memories of their longest road trip of the season.
It could be a perfect one if the Sharks can find a way to beat the resurgent Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night.
San Jose (12-8-0) lost three of four at home before embarking on this six-game trip, which has featured victories over Detroit, Buffalo, Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
Patrick Marleau assisted on both goals by Brent Burns in Saturday's 3-1 win over the Penguins, with his first making him the 83rd player in league history to reach 1,000 points.
"It's definitely nice to get (1,000) in a win," Marleau said. "It's a pretty good road trip we have going on here."
Martin Jones was outstanding again with a career high-tying 38 saves to win for the fifth time on the trip. Since he was pulled early in a loss to the New York Islanders on Nov. 10, Jones is 5-0-0 with a .950 save percentage.
Jones, who has lost both of his starts against the Blue Jackets with a 5.51 goals-against average, made 30 saves in a 2-1 overtime win at Buffalo on Nov. 14 in his only start on consecutive days this season.
A win in the finale would give the Sharks six straight on the road for the first time since a nine-game run in 2009-10. San Jose's nine road wins are tied with Dallas for the league lead.
Getting another will be a challenge with Columbus looking more like the team that finished last season on a 15-1-1 run than the club that opened '15-16 with eight straight losses and replaced coach Todd Richards with John Tortorella on Oct. 21.
After their three-game win streak was snapped with a 3-0 loss at Ottawa on Thursday, the Blue Jackets (8-13-0) were involved in another shutout the following night as Sergei Bobrovsky turned away 39 shots in a 4-0 victory over Nashville.
Boone Jenner and Ryan Johansen each had a goal and an assist for Columbus, which played the majority of the game with only four defensemen after Cody Goloubef (broken jaw) and Fedor Tyutin (upper body) were injured late in the first period.
Jack Johnson and David Savard logged heavy minutes - 29:25 and 30:48, respectively.
"It's always tough going down to four D," defenseman Ryan Murray said. "But we got through it well. When we weren't there, Bob bailed us out."
Columbus has gone 8-6-0 under Tortorella, and while that move clearly has had a positive effect, Bobrovsky's improved play may be the biggest reason for the turnaround. The former Vezina Trophy winner is 8-3-0 with a 2.04 GAA in his last 11 starts after opening the season 0-6-0 with a 4.72 mark.
He had plenty of help Friday from his teammates. They finished with 26 blocked shots compared to eight for Nashville despite the depleted defense.
"There were so many blocked shots," Bobrovsky said. "I think in the first it was 14 or 15. That's more than I stopped."
Bobrovsky will try to win a fifth straight start and fourth in a row against the Sharks. He stopped 41 shots, including all 18 in the third period, in a 5-2 victory at San Jose on Nov. 3 - Columbus' third straight win in the series.
Friday's win was the Blue Jackets' third in a row at home, a span during which they have outscored opponents 12-3. They were outscored 29-13 in a season-opening six-game skid at Nationwide Arena.