Still without a regulation loss, the Chicago Blackhawks are on the verge of the best start in NHL history.
They can achieve it Friday night at home against the San Jose Sharks, the first team to get a third crack at dealing Chicago that elusive 60-minute defeat.
The Blackhawks (13-0-3) beat Vancouver 4-3 in a shootout Tuesday to match the league mark of 16 games with at least one point to start a season, joining the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks - who went on to win the Stanley Cup.
"It's a remarkable start," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We're very happy and pleased. Guys should be proud of the achievement and where they're at, especially in a 48-game season. It's put us in a real good spot."
Chicago has won three in a row, a streak that started with a 4-1 victory over San Jose last Friday. Both of the teams' meetings this season have been testy affairs, with Chicago's Jonathan Toews engaging in a rare fight with San Jose's Joe Thornton in the most recent matchup.
It looked like Chicago was going to be without forward Marian Hossa after he was helped off the ice against the Canucks following a forearm to the back of the head from Jannik Hansen, but he'll play in this contest. The Blackhawks will also have defenseman Brent Seabrook, who missed one game, and forward Daniel Carcillo, who sat out 15, in the lineup.
Hossa scored twice in Tuesday's game and has eight goals, second on the team.
Chicago leads the Western Conference with 55 goals and its 34 goals allowed are tied with San Jose for fewest in the West.
Despite their strong defensive play, the Sharks haven't translated it into many wins of late. The club ended an 0-4-3 skid with a 2-1 victory at St. Louis on Tuesday.
"It was nice to get out of a streak like that," said Thornton, who snapped a nine-game goal drought. "It's huge to get back on the winning side of things."
Tim Kennedy also scored for San Jose (8-4-3), which was outscored 21-8 during the losing streak. The Sharks, who have two games left on a six-game trip, had lost four in a row on the road.
"The relief is there, it's (finally) over," coach Todd McLellan said. "Now, we can't let our game slip."
Keeping the intensity level up for their next opponent would seem to be a given, but the Sharks weren't able to match the Blackhawks' level of play in the last meeting. Chicago outshot San Jose 37-28 and 17-8 in the second period.
Ray Emery made 27 saves in that game, his first of three consecutive starts in place of Corey Crawford, who's been out with an upper-body injury. Emery is expected to start Friday, though Crawford is available to back him up.
The Sharks also lost to the Blackhawks by a 5-3 score Feb. 5 and have dropped four of five in the series and four straight at the United Center.
Chicago has managed to keep rolling despite a season high-tying four-game goal drought from leading scorer Patrick Kane. The forward had two goals Feb. 5 and an assist last Friday.
The Sharks' Antti Niemi has lost both games against the Blackhawks this season, allowing four goals each time versus his former team. Emery has won three consecutive matchups with San Jose with a 1.55 goals-against average.
The Associated Press News Service
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