Blue Jackets aim to rebound vs. Sharks

( - The Columbus Blue Jackets will try to complete their pre-Olympic schedule on a positive note when they visit the San Jose Sharks for Friday's clash at SAP Center.

Columbus has been red-hot since the beginning of January, going 12-4-1 since the calendar flipped to 2014. The Blue Jackets, however, had a three-game winning streak halted their last time out, as they dropped Thursday's 2-1 overtime decision in Los Angeles.

The Blue Jackets scored their only goal just 1:40 into the first period on Thursday. Los Angeles evened the score early in the third period on a goal from Jake Muzzin and Robyn Regehr tallied 2:33 into OT to help the Kings halt a four-game losing streak.

"I think they played really hard. There wasn't a lot of space out there," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "I think they checked well I thought we checked well. It was an intense physical game and we knew that coming in and I thought we were going to get tested here in this building and I'm real happy with the way the guys came out and played the game."

Friday's contest marks the third stop on a four-game swing. The final portion of the trip won't be played until the Blue Jackets visit New Jersey on Feb. 27, when the NHL returns from its break for this year's Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Columbus, which are 13-12-3 as the guest this season, enters Friday tied with Ottawa for the ninth seed in the Eastern Conference and both clubs are just one point in back of Detroit for the East's eighth and final playoff spot. Both the Senators and Red Wings are off on Friday before closing their pre- Olympic schedules on Saturday,

The Blue Jackets also could qualify for the postseason by finishing in the top-three in the Metropolitan Division. Columbus is currently one point behind the third-place Philadelphia Flyers, who are off on Friday before hosting Calgary on Saturday afternoon.

Columbus has fared well against the Sharks recently and hopes to continue that trend in the first of two meetings between the clubs in 2013-14. After sweeping the three-game series last season, the Blue Jackets have won four in a row and six of the past 10 meetings overall.

San Jose, however, has taken 13 of the last 15 encounters at the Shark Tank.

After ending January on an 0-3-0 slide, the Sharks have won two of three to begin the new month. San Jose hopes to get three wins during its four-game homestand when it plays its final test before the Olympics tonight.

The Sharks opened February with a 2-1 shootout win over Chicago on Saturday, but then dropped a 5-2 decision to Philadelphia on Monday to fall to 1-1 on its homestand.

San Jose, which is running second to Anaheim in the Pacific Division, was able to rebound on Wednesday by recording a 2-1 overtime victory against Dallas. Tommy Wingels scored 1:52 into overtime to lift the Sharks to victory and award them the extra point.

Marty Havlat had a goal and an assist for the Sharks, who improved to 21-4-3 at home this season. Alex Stalock stopped 19-of-20 shots.

"I thought we played much better both zones," Havlat said.

Havlat set up the game-winner in overtime. He made a nice backhand pass from the side of the net to Wingels, who banged it in for his 11th goal of the season.

San Jose forward Matt Nieto suffered a bruised foot after blocking a shot in the second period and did not return. Nieto, who has six goals and nine assists in 46 games as a rookie, is questionable for Friday's game.

In other news for the Sharks, Todd McLellan will set a franchise record this evening by coaching his 435th career game behind the San Jose bench. Current Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter held the previous record of 434 games. McLellan is already the club's all-time leader in wins with 256.