Sharks visit Canucks in battle of first-place teams

Neither the Sharks nor Canucks were overly impressive in game point streak over San Jose.

Today marks the fourth and final meeting of the regular season between these first-place clubs. The Northwest Division-leading Canucks won the first two encounters before dropping a 3-2 shootout contest at home on Jan. 2, the Sharks' second straight shootout victory in Vancouver.

Vancouver, though, is still 5-0-2 in its past seven against San Jose, which is fronting the Pacific Division.

The Sharks are just a point up on the Kings in the standings, though, following a 4-1 loss to the visiting Senators on Thursday. It was Ottawa's first win at San Jose since Oct. 18, 2003.

Brad Winchester scored 3:10 into the game for the Sharks, but Antti Niemi yielded four goals on 21 shots. San Jose has split six contests following a four-game win streak.

"I was disappointed in critical moments of the game," said San Jose head coach Todd McLellan. "I didn't think we had a lot of polish in our passes that were errant, and when they were on tape nothing happened off of it."

San Jose was without Ryane Clowe for a second straight game due to a head injury, while center Tommy Wingels left Thursday's game with an undisclosed injury.

Defenseman Dan Boyle logged an assist to give him nine in his past nine games for the Sharks, who begin a three-game road trip through Western Canada that takes them into the All-Star break. They have won four of their past six on the road.

"Three games before our break," said Sharks captain Joe Thornton. "We've got some tough games ahead of us ... so it should be a good test for us before the break."

The Canucks, meanwhile, have dropped two in a row following wins in four of five, kicking off a six-game homestand with a four-goal loss versus the Ducks prior to Tuesday's 3-2 shootout defeat at the hands of the Kings. Vancouver, though, still has an eight-point lead on second-place Colorado in the division and trails Chicago by four points for the most in the NHL.

Daniel Sedin and David Booth found the back of the net for the Canucks, while Roberto Luongo made 39 saves before getting beat in the third round of the shootout for the deciding goal.

"We were not good in the first period, except for our goaltender," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "It's tough to explain why, especially after the way we had played the game prior to that. This group has gotten me used to being real sharp come game time and for whatever reason in the first period we weren't."

Vancouver will host Edmonton on Tuesday in its final game before the All-Star break, then welcomes Chicago and Detroit to town to close out the homestand.