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Sharks win two of first three after Olympic break to re-establish momentum

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You never know how a team is going to fare coming off a three-week break midseason, but that's the reality of the National Hockey League's Olympic break that occurs every four years.

This year, the San Jose Sharks opened up with three straight on the road after the Sochi Games, and they won two of those.

Joe Pavelski didn't forget how to score goals in the Olympics, as he netted a hat trick in the 7-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night. Sadly, the Sharks lost to the worst team in the NHL -- again -- on Saturday, losing 4-2 to the Buffalo Sabres who were without 2010 Olympic MVP Ryan Miller in net.

San Jose outshot Buffalo 38-20 in the loss, but the Sharks gave up three third-period goals on just seven shots to get swept by the lowly Sabres this season.

Fortunately, the team recovered today to win in New Jersey, 4-2, behind two assists from Pavelski and 21 saves by Alex Stalock in net.

This leaves San Jose with a 39-17-6 record, and 84 points, just five points behind the Anaheim Ducks in the Pacific Division standings, pending the outcome of games later tonight.

But the loss to Buffalo hurts -- again. The Sharks shouldn't be losing games like that, and with Stalock getting both wins on this mini road trip, No. 1 goalie Antti Niemi may not be the asset he once was for San Jose.

In fact, Niemi's numbers this season -- 2.40 goals-against average and .911 save percentage -- both are worse than his career marks (2.35, .916) and a significant dropoff from last year (2.16, .924). He's gone from the penthouse to the outhouse, basically.

With four home games up next over the upcoming week-plus, however, the Sharks have a chance to get their goaltender right again. San Jose has the second-best home-ice record in the league (22-4-3) currently.

It won't be an "easy" homestand, however, as the Sharks host Carolina (26-25-9), Pittsburgh (40-16-4), Montreal (34-21-7) and Toronto (32-22-8).

Joe Thornton continues to lead the team with 58 points, driven by his 50 assists. Meanwhile, Pavelski's 32 goals out him at 57 points on the season, just ahead of Patrick Marleau's 24 goals and 29 assists.

The team did get Logan Couture back from injury this week, and he picked up right where he left off, scoring two goals in the win over the Flyers.

The Carolina game at the SAP Center is Tuesday night.

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