Sharks-Hurricanes Preview

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By San Jose's standards, splitting a four-game trip at the start of the month might have been considered unacceptable.

Their present trek has been more in line with what the Sharks expect from themselves in opposing buildings, and a win Friday night in Carolina will get them to last season's away win total in 10 fewer games.

San Jose has opened a five-game road swing on an impressive note against some capable competition, beating Florida 2-1 in a shootout Thursday following Tuesday's 4-2 victory at Tampa Bay.

The victories have moved the Sharks (31-20-5) to 20-8-2 on the road a season after finishing 21-16-4, and also have them on a three-game overall streak with four goals allowed. Of the nine they've given up over a 4-0-1 span, five came in one game - which unsurprisingly was at home for the Western Conference's best away team.

"No doubt, (on) the road, we're just committed to a pretty disciplined game," said Joe Pavelski, who had an assist and averages 1.13 points on the road as opposed to 0.77 at home.

Logan Couture scored and has three goals and six assists in his last six after managing 10 points in his first 20 games of an injury-shortened season, while Joe Thornton had the other assist to extend his point streak to seven games.

"It was one of those games where we really didn't have our legs," Couture said. "We weren't nearly at our best, so it was nice to find a way to win."

Martin Jones continued to excel in net, winning his fourth straight game while posting a 0.98 goals-against average and .962 save percentage.

Backup Alex Stalock could get the nod in the second of a back-to-back set and has lost his last two starts in shootouts with a 3.70 GAA and .795 save percentage. He's also dropped both of his career games versus Carolina.

Jones made his only start against the Hurricanes in a 5-2 home win Oct. 24, though the Sharks have dropped five of the last seven meetings.

Carolina (26-22-10) opens a three-game homestand after Thursday's 4-2 defeat in Ottawa. The loss followed a 3-0-2 span, and Bill Peters' team will be trying to avoid consecutive regulation defeats for the first time since going without a point in three straight Nov. 27-Dec. 3.

"If they pile up, you're out of the mix," Jordan Staal told the team's official website. "Fortunately we're right back in another one tomorrow."

A 18-9-6 stretch has the Hurricanes trailing only Washington and Florida in the East since Dec. 5, highlighted by an 8-1-3 run at home since the Christmas break.

Riley Nash scored for a third straight game and has gotten six of his seven goals on the season in his last 11 games, while Staal has scored in his last two games and generated 20 of his 35 points in the previous 18.

"They can play against anybody at anytime in all three zones. They complement each other well and have been a good line for a long time," Peters said of Staal and linemates Joakim Nordstrom and Andrej Nestrasil.

Eddie Lack was in goal for a second straight start, but Cam Ward could return from a lower-body injury. Ward last allowed more than three goals on Dec. 8 and has since gone 7-3-4 with a 1.80 GAA and .932 save percentage.

The Hurricanes are 8-3-2 on zero days rest, and those 18 points lead the NHL.