NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, February 23rd (All times Eastern)
San Jose Sharks (31-20-7) at Toronto Maple Leafs (29-24-7), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - A pair of struggling clubs will try to get back in the win column tonight, as the San Jose Sharks visit the Toronto Maple Leafs for a clash at Air Canada Centre.
The Sharks have been floundering on the road, posting a 1-4-1 record at the start of a lengthy nine-game swing. San Jose has lost its last four tests, including three straight in regulation, and is in the midst of its worst skid since dropping six straight from Jan. 3-13 of last season.
Meanwhile, Toronto has found few positives in February after starting the month on a three-game winning streak. The Maple Leafs have gone 1-5-1 since the hot stretch from Feb. 1-6.
San Jose's recent slide has allowed Phoenix to tie the Sharks for first place in the Pacific Division and Los Angeles is just three points behind. The Maple Leafs are currently locked in a tie with Winnipeg for the eighth and final postseason berth in the Eastern Conference, with Washington two points back.
The Sharks last played on Tuesday and were handed a 6-3 loss by the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets. Jeff Carter notched his fourth career hat trick to lift the Blue Jackets, who led 4-0 in the first period and never allowed San Jose to come closer than two goals of the lead after that.
"They were obviously much better prepared to compete than us," Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said. "The disappointing thing for me is the lack of urgency that we entered the game with."
Logan Couture scored a pair of goals and Joe Thornton added a goal for the Sharks, who fell to 13-11-5 as the visiting team this season.
Antti Niemi was rocked for three goals on just 11 shots before getting pulled in favor of Thomas Greiss, who yielded three tallies on 24 shots in the loss. Niemi has yielded 12 goals on 64 shots over his last three games and Greiss could get the start tonight over San Jose's No. 1 netminder.
Sharks forward Dominic Moore left Tuesday's game with an unspecified injury after blocking a shot in the first period. Moore, who was playing in just his third game with San Jose since coming over in a trade with Tampa Bay, did not return to the game and is questionable for tonight.
San Jose defenseman Douglas Murray has missed three straight games since suffering a fractured Adam's Apple last Thursday in Tampa. Murray is questionable for tonight's tilt.
The Maple Leafs were able to earn a point in their last game, as they dropped Tuesday's contest against visiting New Jersey in overtime. Mark Fayne scored 1:18 into the extra session to lift the Devils to a 4-3 decision. Toronto's Phil Kessel forced overtime by scoring his 31st goal of the year for the Leafs with just 44 seconds left in regulation.
Toronto goaltender Jonas Gustavsson took the blame for New Jersey's winning goal, as he failed to stop Fayne's one-timer that bounced before reaching the net.
"It just skipped there a little bit and I kind of lost it," said Gustavsson. "That's no excuse because I should have stopped it. It's too bad and I feel bad for the guys because they worked really hard out there."
In addition to Kessel's goal, the Leafs also received markers from Tim Connolly and Clarke MacArthur. Gustavsson allowed four goals on 32 shots.
Tuesday's game marked the start of a three-game homestand for Toronto, which is 16-9-5 at the ACC this season.
Tonight's test marks the only meeting between the Maple Leafs and Sharks this season. Toronto posted a 4-2 win in San Jose on Jan. 11 of last season, ending San Jose's four-game series winning streak. The Sharks have won their last two games in Toronto.
02/23 10:31:39 ET