Published January 08, 2015
(SportsNetwork.com) - The San Jose Sharks hope to gain some additional ground in the race for the Pacific Division title, as they shoot for a third straight win in Tuesday's home test against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Prior to the Olympic break in February, Anaheim seemed poised to run away with the Pacific crown but the Sharks have made a race of it by going 7-2-1 over their past 10 games. The Sharks enter Tuesday just four points behind the idle Ducks for first place.
After beginning a four-game homestand with an overtime loss against Carolina, the Sharks have recorded consecutive wins over Pittsburgh and Montreal. The victories over the Penguins and Canadiens have pushed San Jose's excellent home record to 24-4-4 this season.
In Saturday's 4-0 win against Montreal, the Sharks received the only offense they would need when Tommy Wingels scored shorthanded just 2:26 into the game. It was the first of two goals on the night for Wingels, while Logan Couture added a marker and two assists.
Antti Niemi held down the fort, stopping 27 shots for his third shutout of the season.
"(Niemi) played great," said Wingels. "I think for the most part we kept them to the outside, but he made a couple big saves."
Matt Nieto added a goal and an assist for the Sharks, who have won four of their last five home games.
Next up for San Jose is a three-game road trip that is set to begin Thursday evening in Columbus. The Sharks also will visit both New York teams on the swing, taking on the Islanders on Friday before battling the Rangers on Sunday.
The Maple Leafs will aim for a fourth straight win on Tuesday after the club began a five-game road trip with Monday's victory over the Anaheim Ducks. The game marked Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle's return to Anaheim, where he served as head coach of the Ducks for six-plus seasons before getting fired on Nov. 31, 2011 and replaced by Bruce Boudreau.
The Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007 under Carlyle, who went 273-182-61 during his time with Anaheim.
Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak each registered a goal and two assists to lead Toronto to a 3-1 win over the Ducks on Monday. Paul Ranger had the other goal and Jonathan Bernier stopped 43-of-44 shots for the win.
"It is nice to start off the road trip with a win," Bozak said. "We know it is going to be a really tough trip so that is a big start for us."
The Maple Leafs, who are 13-12-7 on the road, also will face the Sharks, Kings, Capitals and Red Wings on their trek.
Toronto enters Tuesday with a one-point lead over Montreal for second place in the Atlantic Division and the Leafs can extend that cushion over the idle Canadiens tonight.
The Sharks have won the last two meetings in the series with Toronto and recorded a 4-2 road win over the Maple Leafs on Dec. 3. Niemi stopped 28-of-30 shots to notch the victory and the 30-year-old netminder is 2-1-0 with a 2.01 goals against average in three career games against the Leafs.
Toronto has lost six of its last seven games versus the Sharks, but the Leafs were able to halt a five-game winless streak in San Jose when they posted a 4-2 win in Silicon Valley on Jan. 11, 2011. The Sharks had recorded three wins and pair of ties over five meetings from 1997-2008 before Toronto halted the skid in its last trip to San Jose.