|Sharks seek consistency as Hurricanes visit|
A road trip that started successfully ended with a whimper. Now, the San Jose Sharks will try to right the ship at home, where they have been inconsistent at best.
Looking to avoid equaling their longest home losing streak of the season, the Sharks begin a three-game stretch at SAP Center on Thursday night against the struggling Carolina Hurricanes.
San Jose (14-10-2) opened a four-game Eastern swing in fine fashion with backup goalie Aaron Dell yielding a total of two goals in wins over Philadelphia and Florida, which are both near or at the bottoms of their respective divisions.
As the competition got better, the Sharks faltered. Martin Jones was tagged for nine total goals in losses to Tampa Bay and Washington.
Jones and Dell each have 1-1-0 records all-time against Carolina. However, Jones' goals-against average vs. the Hurricanes is 3.02 -- nearly a goal more than Dell's.
On Monday, the Sharks fell 4-1 to the Capitals in a chippy game that featured a combined 61 minutes in penalties, including 41 for San Jose.
"We had chances. I thought we could have had three or four (goals)," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "It thought it was a pretty even game. Kind of slipped away from us in the third."
San Jose managed only three goals in a season-worst, three-game skid on home ice from Nov. 16-20, among the reasons why the Sharks are 7-6-1 at home.
The Sharks have the second-fewest goals in the league (66), and they rank 29th in goals per game at 2.50. However, the team is 6-2-2 over the past 10 at home versus the Hurricanes, averaging nearly four goals per game.
San Jose and Carolina split the season series in 2016-17 with each team winning on home ice.
This season, Logan Couture is carrying the Sharks at home with seven goals and 11 points, both team highs. Tomas Hertl is tied with Joonas Donskoi for second with four goals, but two of Hertl's markers have been game-winners.
Among players currently on the Sharks, Hertl leads the team with four goals in six career games vs. Carolina.
Joe Thornton, playing his 20th season, is averaging just over a point per game with three goals and 12 assists in 14 career games against the Hurricanes while in a San Jose uniform. "Jumbo Joe" has points in five of seven home games vs. Carolina, posting a goal and eight assists.
The 38-year-old is closing in on another milestone. With 1,407 points, Thornton needs three more to move past Dale Hawerchuk for 19th place on the all-time list.
Carolina (11-10-5) heads down the Pacific Coast after opening a six-game trip with a 3-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night.
It was the Hurricanes' fifth setback in seven games. They have been outscored 26-14 during that stretch.
A deeper look shows the second period is a stumbling block for coach Bill Peters' team. Over the past seven games, Carolina has been outscored 10-2 in the middle period, surrendering multiple goals in three of those contests.
"We need to put together a full 60 minutes," center Derek Ryan told the Hurricanes' official website. "We've had good periods here and good periods there, but we haven't put together a good, full 60 minutes -- against Florida (a 3-2 overtime win on Saturday) we did -- but more consistently, game after game."
The Hurricanes also need the line of Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Jordan Staal to start clicking again. The trio have combined for two goals and four assists over the past seven games.
Teravainen (eight goals, 14 assists) and Aho (five goals, 14 assists) rank first and second, respectively, on the team in scoring. Staal is second with seven goals and fifth with 16 points.
The lack of offense is not helping Scott Darling, who is 0-2-1 in his past three starts despite stopping 76 of 84 shots. In his only career appearance against San Jose, Darling made 33 stops to help lift the Chicago Blackhawks to a 4-1 win last Dec. 18.
Longtime veteran Cam Ward, who is one win shy of 300 for his career, is 6-2-0 with a 3.01 GAA in eight career starts vs. the Sharks.
Carolina is 4-for-9 on the power play in its past three games in Northern California.
San Jose will be without defenseman Brenden Dillon after he was given a one-game suspension Tuesday for a two-handed chop across the left arm of Washington's Madison Bowey with less than five seconds remaining in the Monday game.
Dillon has five assists and 27 penalty minutes in 26 games this season.