Heating up on Home Ice

A month ago, a six-game homestand probably wouldn't have sounded too enticing to the San Jose Sharks. With the way they've played on their home ice lately, they might feel like six games isn't nearly long enough.

The Sharks look to win a season-high fourth straight at HP Pavilion on Wednesday when they continue their longest home stretch of 2007-08 against the Colorado Avalanche.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made San Jose -181 money line favorites (NHL Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 5.5 goals (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 59% of bets for this game have been placed on Colorado +161 (View NHL Bet Percentages).

On Jan. 3, the Sharks (29-16-7) were a remarkable 16-3-2 on the road, but just 6-9-4 on their home ice. Over the last month, things have started to go the other way - San Jose is 1-2-1 on the road but 6-2-0 at home.

San Jose got its homestand off to a good start on Saturday, topping Chicago 3-2 in a shootout for its fourth win in five games overall. It was the Sharks' first home shootout win since Oct. 29, 2005.

"We might have started out a little excited at home, which we can't do, because the better teams will put you away,'' said center Joe Pavelski, who scored one of the Sharks' two shootout goals. "It's important to get it going at home, and hopefully we can keep this up while we're staying around for a while.''

San Jose is the only team in the Western Conference without a 20-goal scorer, but it hasn't had to score much with Evgeni Nabokov between the pipes. The All-Star goaltender has posted a 1.45 goals-against average and two shutouts in his 11 wins since Dec. 26.

He leads the league with 29 wins and has a 2.17 GAA.

Nabokov has beaten the Avalanche twice this season, and is 7-0-0 with a 1.84 GAA against them in his career.

The Sharks have yet to score more than four goals in 2008, but the new year has brought some inspired play from right wing Jonathan Cheechoo. The NHL's leading goal scorer in 2005-06, Cheechoo had only five goals in his first 37 games, but has since netted six in his last eight.

Center Joe Thornton, who leads the Sharks with 62 points, has 11 goals and 16 assists in his last 16 games against the Avalanche.

Colorado (28-21-5) has gone through a strange six-game stretch, posting a 2-3-1 record during which it has scored six goals twice and been shutout on two other occasions.

The Avalanche dropped their latest game, 4-3 in overtime to Phoenix on Monday. The Coyotes scored a controversial game-winning game in the extra period, preventing Colorado from putting together consecutive wins for the first time since winning three in a row from Jan. 12-15.

Injuries to some of the team's top scorers have played a big part in Colorado's recent inconsistency. But rookie T.J. Hensick has done his part in keeping the Avalanche offense afloat - he's had back-to-back multigoal games in each of his last two contests.

"I'm getting (more comfortable)," said Hensick, who has five points in four games since being recalled from the AHL. "It's definitely a challenge every time you get called up to play with the best players in the world."

Joe Sakic (hernia), Paul Stastny (appendectomy) and Ryan Smyth (broken ankle) all remain sidelined, and goaltender Jose Theodore has missed the past three games with back spasms. Theodore is feeling better, but remains day-to-day.

Backup Peter Budaj is 1-1-1 with a 2.96 GAA in his absence, and 2-4-0 with a 3.20 GAA in his career against San Jose.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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