Sports

Sharks seek third straight win vs. Blackhawks

(SportsNetwork.com) - The San Jose Sharks hope to boost their playoff chances with a third straight victory when they welcome the Chicago Blackhawks for Saturday's afternoon clash at SAP Center.

The Sharks have won their last two games on a four-game homestand after opening the stay in Northern California with a 3-2 loss to Vancouver. San Jose has a 4-1-0 record in March and hasn't won three straight since Jan. 21-31.

San Jose needs all the wins it can get, as it sits three points behind Los Angeles for the last wild card spot in the Western Conference.

Chicago, meanwhile, is on a four-game point streak (3-0-1) and is in third place in the Central Division. The Blackhawks are five points in back of St. Louis for second and five ahead of fourth-place Minnesota.

The Sharks have surrendered only one goal over their last two games, beating Pittsburgh, 2-1, in a shootout on Monday before notching Thursday's 2-0 win over Nashville.

Tomas Hertl scored a power-play goal, Tommy Wingels added an empty-netter and Antti Niemi did the rest to help San Jose blank the visiting Predators.

The Sharks received 35 saves from Niemi, who posted his fifth shutout of the season and second against Nashville.

"Nemo was very strong again," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "He looks very confident, and the team feels good with him in there right now.

Niemi, who anchored Chicago's run to a Stanley Cup title in 2010, is 7-7-1 with a 2.74 goals against average in his career versus the Blackhawks.

The Sharks will begin a seven-game road trip when it visits Winnipeg on Tuesday.

Chicago lost a 1-0 overtime decision to the visiting New York Rangers on Sunday, but was able to rebound with Thursday's close win in Arizona. Brad Richards' third-period goal sent the Blackhawks to the 2-1 regulation win in the desert.

Andrew Shaw also lit the lamp for the Blackhawks, who have won five of seven. Corey Crawford made 17 saves.

Richards ended a 23-game goal-less streak, scoring for the first time since Jan. 11. Shaw's goal was his first since Jan. 28, snapping his drought at 18 games.

"We've got a lot of guys in here who can score goals on a regular basis, but when guys go through tough times it hurts your confidence and it's hard to play the rest of the game," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. "It was great to see [Richards] get a big one there at the end. If guys like that start scoring, it makes the game a little easier on our team."

Today's tilt marks the finale of the regular-season series between the Blackhawks and San Jose. The clubs have split two meetings in 2014-14, with each team winning at home. The Sharks have won three of four overall in this matchup and Chicago has dropped two straight and six of its last seven at SAP Center.

San Jose is 17-15-5 as the host this season, while the Blackhawks are 19-12-1 as the guest.