NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, December 3rd (All times Eastern)
San Jose Sharks (18-3-5) at Toronto Maple Leafs (14-10-3), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The red-hot San Jose Sharks will try to match their longest winning streak of the season when they visit the sliding Toronto Maple Leafs for Tuesday's clash at Air Canada Centre.
The Sharks have won their last five outings, leaving them one victory shy of their season-opening six-game tear from Oct. 3-15.
All told, the Sharks have posted victories in eight of their past nine outings and their recent hot play has vaulted San Jose into first place in the Pacific Division standings. Anaheim, which hosts Los Angeles on Tuesday, is one point in back of San Jose for the Pacific lead.
Toronto, meanwhile, has lost four in a row and recently wrapped its November schedule with a mediocre 4-6-3 record. The Maple Leafs suffered a regulation loss in their last game of the month, dropping a 4-2 decision at Montreal on Saturday.
The Maple Leafs hope to get back on track tonight at the start of a brief two- game homestand. Toronto, which also will welcome Dallas on Thursday, is 9-4-0 as the host this season compared to a 5-6-3 mark on the road. Toronto went 0-2-1 on a recent three-game road trip and was winless on the road in November (0-4-3).
San Jose, however, has a solid 8-2-3 record as the guest this season and has won its last three trips to Toronto. The Sharks have taken five of six overall from the Leafs.
The Sharks also played on Saturday when they recorded a home shootout win over the Ducks, who entered the contest tied with San Jose for first in the Pacific. Joe Pavelski scored in the second round of the shootout to lift the Sharks past Anaheim, 4-3, to take sole possession of the division's top spot.
Patrick Marleau had a goal and an assist for the Sharks, who went 5-0-0 on a recent five-game homestand. Martin Havlat and Logan Couture also lit the lamp Saturday, while Antti Niemi stopped 28-of-31 shots in the victory.
"It's the division, it's the conference," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after the win. "It's that close. It's got to be exciting for hockey fans all over because there really isn't anybody that's pulling away or a clear-cut favorite, and some really important hard-fought games at this time of year."
The Sharks received a scare in the first period when captain Joe Thornton was hit near the left eye with a deflected puck. The veteran centerman left the game briefly before returning later in the period.
Thornton, who contributed an assist towards Saturday's win, has registered a point in five straight games and is expected to play on Tuesday. He is leading San Jose this season with 29 points on four goals and 25 assists.
Niemi expects to get the start tonight for San Jose and is 1-1-0 with a 2.01 goals against average in two career games against Toronto.
Toronto will try to halt its longest slide of the season on Tuesday. The current 0-2-2 stretch is the club's worst skid since it dropped five straight (0-3-2) from March 7-16 of last season.
The Leafs fell behind 2-0 in the first period of Saturday's loss in Montreal and saw the deficit grow to four goals before James van Riemsdyk scored his 12th goal of the season with 1:50 left in the second period. Mason Raymond added Toronto's only other goal of the game just 22 seconds later.
Canadiens goaltender Carey Price made 12 of his 34 saves in a spotless third period to help the Habs hold on for the win over their bitter rivals.
"I thought it was a hard-fought game," said van Riemsdyk. "There were times we didn't play as well as we could have. Those were the times that cost us the game."
Jonathan Bernier gave up four goals on 39 shots for the Maple Leafs. Bernier could get the start again on Tuesday and is 1-2-0 with a 3.57 GAA in four career appearances against San Jose. Fellow Toronto goaltender James Reimer is 1-1-0 with a 2.02 GAA in two lifetime outings versus the Sharks.
Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul will sit out a fourth straight game on Tuesday due to a groin injury. Lupul has eight goals and seven assists in 22 tilts this season.
12/03 10:40:45 ET