Game Preview

With the season nearly two-thirds complete, the San Jose Sharks are playing well, but perhaps not quite at the level they've been accustomed to in recent years.

The Vegas Golden Knights, though, have played nothing like an expansion team.

The Sharks will try to avoid tying a season high with their third straight home loss on Thursday night against the Western Conference-leading Golden Knights.

San Jose (28-17-8) begins play 10 points behind Vegas with 29 games remaining for both clubs. The Sharks hit home ice after having dropped three of five on its latest road trip, capped with a 3-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night.

"As a road trip, we probably deserved to be better than what we were. Right around that .500 mark, which keeps you in it, but you don't really gain any ground," San Jose captain Joe Pavelski told the NHL's official website. "Now we've got to go to work the rest of the way."

This contest begins a stretch in which the Sharks will play five of six at home, including matchups with the West's bottom three clubs in the Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks and Arizona Coyotes. The only road game is against the Anaheim Ducks.

The Sharks are 4-3-2 in their last nine games, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic thinks the club needs to just stay the course.

"We've done a lot of good things the last couple of weeks," he told the Sharks' official website. "Sometimes you win, sometimes you don't. If you stick with it, more times than not you'll get the win."

Since Jan. 1, Vlasic leads all defensemen with six goals and is fourth with 13 points. Brent Burns is the league leader among blueliners with 16 assists and 19 points after New Year's Day.

The Sharks' Martin Jones is 15-13-5 with a 2.60 goals-against average, .913 save percentage and two shutouts on the season, and his next appearance will be his 200th in the NHL.

However, Jones has been superb at home since late November, posting a 4-0-1 record, 2.42 GAA and both of his whitewashes. Backup Aaron Dell has yielded 11 goals while losing his last two home games -- and after yielding 13 in his first nine contests at SAP Center.

San Jose is 6-1-1 all-time at home in its first game against an expansion club.

Vegas (35-15-4) looks to head home with a winning record on a six-game road trip. The Golden Knights lost for only the second time on the swing, falling 5-4 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night.

"We'll be all right," said winger James Neal, who scored his 23rd goal in the loss. "We'll get back to San Jose and have a good game."

A little more than halfway through their inaugural season, Vegas has cemented its spot as the league's most successful expansion club. However, the Knights have done so thanks in large part to its play at home.

Gerard Gallant's club averaging 3.58 goals per game while posting a 19-3-2 mark at home. On the road, Vegas is averaging 3.21 goals per contest, but its record is 16-11-2.

Six players have at least four points on the current trip, led by reigning third star of the week Reilly Smith (four goals, three assists). Jonathan Marchessault and David Perron have two goals and four assists each.

Smith (16 goals, 27 assists) told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that linemates Marchessault and William Karlsson are the reasons for his recent scoring binge.

"They're doing a really good job finding me in spots and the puck's going in," he said.

Smith's linemates were key in the Knights' first meeting with San Jose on Nov. 24. Karlsson scored twice in regulation and Marchessault notched the game-winner in the 5-4 overtime win.

After totaling 18 goals in his first three NHL seasons, Karlsson leads Vegas with a career-best 28 markers, while Marchessault ranks first with 52 points (19 goals, 33 points).

Despite giving up five goals in his return to Pittsburgh in his last game, Marc-Andre Fleury continues his rebirth. The 14-year veteran is 15-5-2 with a 1.99 GAA, .935 save percentage and two shutouts.

Fleury is 3-1-0 on the trip, but has been reached for 12 goals. Malcom Subban (11-3-1, 2.59 GAA, .912 save percentage) has lost his last two road starts since beating the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Jan. 5.

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