NHL

Sharks strive to get well against struggling Jets

Like many teams, the San Jose Sharks don't want to face an opponent with a desperate streak in them.

That may describe the Winnipeg Jets perfectly.

San Jose will try to avoid a season high-tying third straight loss when it plays host to struggling Winnipeg in a Monday matinee.

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The defending Western Conference champions have been atop the Pacific Division for much of the season, but have dropped to third behind the Edmonton Oilers and Anaheim Ducks.

Winnipeg (20-22-4) is mired in a more pronounced slump as it looks to avoid its fourth straight loss and fifth in six games. The Sharks (25-16-2) and Jets have split the last six meetings, but San Jose's three losses have occurred in the last four matchups.

"You're not going to win a game when the other team is more desperate than you unless you have everything go right." Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said following their 4-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.

All-Star selection Martin Jones has been tagged for eight goals while losing each of his last two starts against the Jets. If Jones, who has allowed 14 goals over his last four games overall sits this one out, Aaron Dell would try to help the Sharks end their skid.

Dell, who lost to the Calgary Flames on Wednesday, has been stellar at SAP Center. In four starts, the rookie is 3-1-0 with a 1.91 goals-against average, and recorded his first career shutout on Dec. 30 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Sharks may have dodged a bullet and expect to have Joe Thornton in the lineup after he was ejected Saturday. Thornton, who is tied with Joe Pavelski for second on the team with 24 assists, was given a major penalty and a game misconduct for spearing Paul Stastny midway through the second period.

Thornton was unavailable for comment after the game, and no disciplinary hearing between Thornton and the NHL appears to have been scheduled as of late Sunday afternoon.

Thornton has a five-game points' streak against Winnipeg with two goals and four assists over that stretch.

The Jets will be trying to salvage a victory as they conclude a three-game road trip. Drew Stafford and Dustin Byfuglien scored power-play goals, but Winnipeg surrendered a one-goal edge in the third period and fell 3-2 in overtime to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

The Jets have yielded 14 goals during their losing streak. However, coach Paul Maurice was pleased with the effort against Los Angeles.

"You have to like the way you played, feel good about your game. You don't like the end result, but we liked our game," Maurice said. "... It's all about confidence. It's not just about your hands, but it's about how your team plays."

It's not yet known whom Maurice will start in goal, but Michael Hutchinson may have the edge over Connor Hellebuyck after a 35-save showing against the Kings.

"A good confidence booster for him and for our team in front of him," Maurice said of Hutchinson, who is 3-4-3 with a 2.89 goals-against average as a starter on the road.

Hellebuyck was pulled in the first period in each of his last two starts against the Montreal Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes after giving up a total of six goals on 13 shots. Hellebuyck is 6-8-0 in 15 starts on the road, but has a 3.15 GAA.

Hellebuyck won in his only game in San Jose by stopping 27 shots in a 4-1 victory on Jan. 2, 2016.

Jets star Patrik Laine remains out since suffering a concussion on Jan. 7 against the Buffalo Sabres. Despite missing the last four games, Laine continues to lead all rookies with 21 goals and is tied with Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the scoring lead with 37 points.

In Laine's absence, Blake Wheeler has picked up the scoring slack, with two goals and three assists in a five-game points streak. Wheeler (13 goals, 23 assists) went on a season-high six-game run from Nov. 27 to Dec. 6 and again from Dec. 15 to Dec. 29.

Wheeler also leads all current Jets players in scoring against the Sharks with 11 points (four goals, seven assists), all coming over the last seven matchups.