Series (Game 3 of 4)

Chicago leads 3-1

Game 1: Sunday, November 15th
Game 2: Wednesday, November 25th
Game 3: Tuesday, December 22nd
Game 4: Thursday, January 28th

Sharks 3

(22-8-7, 51 pts)

Blackhawks 2

(23-9-3, 49 pts)

Coverage: NBCSN

8:00 PM ET, December 22, 2009

United Center, Chicago, Illinois

1 2 3 T
SJ 1 1 13
CHI 0 0 22

E. Nabokov (Sharks - G): Saves: 45, Save Pct.: .957

P. Kane (Blackhawks - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

J. Thornton (Sharks - C): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

Sharks-Blackhawks Preview


The Chicago Blackhawks sent a message to one traditional Western Conference power with a resounding victory.

If they can duplicate the feat against another member of the West's elite -- the San Jose Sharks -- they will regain sole possession of the conference lead.

The Blackhawks have won four straight overall and 13 of their last 14 home games entering Tuesday night's visit from the Sharks, who will want revenge after a lopsided home loss to Chicago last month.

The banged-up Detroit Red Wings, the two-time reigning conference champions, could do little Sunday to slow down the Blackhawks, who won 3-0 to improve to 16-3-1 at the United Center.

Goals by Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell highlighted the two-way strength of Chicago's defensive corps, which helped hold Detroit to 20 shots as Cristobal Huet earned his second consecutive shutout.

"We always want to be our best," Keith said. "(Detroit) has been a good for a long time. Do we want to measure ourselves? I think we want to do that against every team, every time."

Chicago (23-8-3) has already proven itself twice against the Sharks, earning a 4-3 overtime victory at home Nov. 15 when Brent Seabrook, another standout defenseman, scored the game-winner.

San Jose likely has more vivid memories of the Blackhawks' 7-2 win in northern California on Nov. 25, when Chicago seized a 7-0 lead midway through the third after outshooting the Sharks 29-11 in the first two periods.

Then making his debut with Chicago, right wing Marian Hossa scored twice, giving him 12 goals in his last 10 games against San Jose.

"This is humbling," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after the defeat. "When you're not prepared to play and you're not alert, those things can happen, especially when you're playing, perhaps, the top team in the NHL."

Winners of the Presidents' Trophy last season, the Sharks (21-8-7) have still managed to keep pace with Chicago, pulling even atop the West after a 4-2 win at Dallas on Monday night.

They've won back-to-back games on the heels of a season-worst five-game losing streak, with the team's offense clicking back into gear after totaling 10 goals during the skid.

"We were coming off some bad losses," left wing Patrick Marleau said. "This is a start."

McLellan had temporarily broken up the dynamic top line of Marleau, Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley, but the trio reunited against the Stars, with Heatley assisting on a pair of Marleau goals.

"We wanted to shake some things up," McLellan said. "Putting them back together was a natural."

Marleau and Thornton each have five points in the last two games, and Marleau is tied with Alexander Ovechkin for second in the NHL with 23 goals. Thornton leads the NHL in both assists (40) and points (49).

San Jose's offense will likely need to solve Huet, who ranks third in the NHL with a 2.01 goals-against average to help the Blackhawks lead the league as a team in that category.

Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov was pulled after the second period of the last meeting with Chicago after allowing four goals on 29 shots. He has lost four straight to the Blackhawks after winning 10 straight starts against them from 2004-08.