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Sharks visit Blue Jackets seeking to get road game on track

The Sharks hope a visit to the home of the NHL's worst team can get their epic road trip on the right track, as San Jose takes on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at Nationwide Arena.

The Sharks are just 1-3-1 so far on a nine-game swing and the Pacific Division leaders have tied a season-high with three straight losses entering tonight's tilt. San Jose's last four-game slide came during an 0-6-0 stretch from Jan. 3-13 of last season.

All told, the Sharks have compiled a 13-10-5 record as the guest this year and will close the trek with stops in Toronto, Nashville and Minnesota.

San Jose's last two setbacks came by identical 3-2 scores and both ended in regulation. The Sharks became the 23rd straight visitor to lose in Detroit on Sunday, as Darren Helm notched the game-winner for the Red Wings at 7:01 of the third period.

Antti Niemi stopped 25 shots for San Jose, while Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture scored in the losing effort.

"They defend pretty well over there and he (Red Wings goaltender Joey MacDonald) makes the big saves when they need him to," said San Jose forward Joe Pavelski.

The Sharks enter tonight with a two-point lead over Phoenix for first place in the Pacific Division. Los Angeles is also just four points behind San Jose.

On the injury front, San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left Sunday's game after getting hit in the face with a puck, but he could play tonight. Meanwhile, fellow blueliner Douglas Murray will miss a third straight game after suffering a fractured Adam's Apple last Thursday in Tampa.

The Blue Jackets are still last in the NHL with just 41 points on the season, but Columbus gave the top team in the Eastern Conference a tough game on Sunday. New York Rangers forward Derek Stepan scored just 22 seconds into overtime to lift the home team to a 3-2 win over Columbus.

Derick Brassard and Rick Nash lit the lamp in the setback, while Steve Mason gave up three goals on 35 shots for the Blue Jackets, who have lost two straight and three of four.

"I really like the way we battled," Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards said. "We fought and clawed for everything and got the game to overtime, but I think at times we make things to difficult on ourselves by turning the puck over."

Columbus played Sunday without defenseman James Wisniewski, who suffered a groin injury in Saturday's 6-1 loss to Chicago and is questionable for tonight. However, fellow blueliner Nikita Nikitin is expected to play this evening after sitting out the last 12 contests with an injured left knee.

The Blue Jackets are opening a two-game homestand tonight and will complete the brief residency Friday against Colorado. Columbus is just 10-16-3 as the host this season.

San Jose has won the last four meetings with the Blue Jackets and has claimed the previous two encounters in Columbus.

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