San Jose Sharks vs. Toronto Maple Leafs Pick & Prediction JANUARY 6th 2024

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The Toronto Maple Leafs will go for three consecutive victories when they complete a three-game road trip Saturday against the San Jose Sharks, who have lost 10 straight.

The Maple Leafs won the first two games of their trip — 3-0 over the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday and 2-1 in overtime over the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.

The Sharks lost 2-1 at home to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday for their 10th consecutive loss in regulation.

The Sharks will make a return visit to Toronto on Tuesday night.

The Maple Leafs needed team captain John Tavares’ third-period goal to tie the Ducks before Auston Matthews scored his league-leading 30th goal of the season in overtime.

Matthews has scored at least 30 goals in each of his first eight NHL seasons, the 10th player in NHL history to do so.

“He’s found another level here in the last month or so,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “He’s been great for us. I think we’ve been playing a much better team game here of late, and we really like to see that. That’s important, but within the team game, you need difference-makers to step up and do their thing, and certainly Auston’s done that.”

Matthews is the third player in franchise history to record eight or more 30-goal seasons. Darryl Sittler also did so eight times, and Mats Sundin has the team record with 10 30-goal seasons.

“He’s doing it every night with the amount of looks he gets,” Tavares said, “and, obviously, how elite of a player he is and how he’s always able to find space and create opportunities for himself, or obviously knowing where to be on the ice to get pucks off the pass.”

Toronto took 57 shots on goal against Anaheim, 13 by Matthews.

The Sharks will try to improve on special teams.

They are 23-for-32 on the penalty kill during their losing streak, and the difference against the Jets on Thursday was Gabriel Vilardi’s third-period power-play goal.

“We’ve just got to be more detailed in our execution (killing penalties),” Sharks coach David Quinn said. “Bottom line is (assistant coach Ryan Warsofsky) does a hell of a job preparing them. Everything we talk about is laid out. Our execution just isn’t what it needs to be right now.

“When we go places sometimes on the PK, it’s not fast enough, and then when the puck moves, we don’t recover quick enough. On the winning goal, we just came out of the corner and went to the wrong guy. We had two guys covering the bumper guy, and the guy who should have covered the guy on the back door didn’t.”

Toronto ranked eighth in the NHL (entering Friday) on the power play at 24.6 percent. San Jose ranked 28th at 72.9 percent in killing penalties.

“I think we’re all at fault,” Sharks forward Luke Kunin said. “Whether it’s seams, whether it’s the bumper, whether it’s missing clears, it’s an area of the game that’s hurting us right now.

“All the killers definitely take a lot of pride in it. So, it’s on us to fix it.”

“Hockey’s a frustrating game,” Sharks defenseman Ty Emberson said. “It’s a game of bounces, and sometimes we just haven’t been getting the bounces. But I think if we keep working hard, we’ll earn those bounces at some point.”

–Field Level Media

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