By JEFF BARTL
(AP) -- After beginning the season as one of the league's highest-scoring teams, the San Jose Sharks have let their offensive game slip while one of the NHL's stingiest defenses has gone largely unrewarded.
Scoring goals hasn't been an issue when facing the Dallas Stars recently, though.
Visiting San Jose looks to rediscover its scoring touch and defeat struggling Dallas for the eighth time in nine tries Saturday night.
The Sharks outscored their opponents 27-12 during a franchise-best 7-0-0 start, scoring 12 power-play goals in that stretch. They haven't been nearly the same since, though, getting outscored 22-11 while going 1-5-3.
San Jose (8-5-3) fell 2-1 at Chicago on Friday, scoring two goals or fewer for the eighth time during this rough stretch and failing to convert any of its four power-play chances.
The Sharks are 2 for 46 with the man advantage over their last 11 contests, and gave up a short-handed goal Friday that proved to be the winner.
"I thought that we let a player ... (who) in a situation that wasn't very dangerous skate into a primary scoring spot without even challenging him," coach Todd McLellan said.
The defense, though, has been solid overall. San Jose has given up two goals or fewer 11 times, and its 34 non-shootout goals allowed are the third-fewest in the NHL.
Antti Niemi made 32 saves Friday, though it's possible backup Thomas Greiss, despite struggling in a 6-2 loss at Columbus in his last start Feb. 11, could be in net Saturday in the second of a back-to-back.
No matter the netminder in recent meetings with Dallas, they've usually gotten plenty of support. The Sharks are 7-0-1 in the last eight matchups, outscoring the Stars 37-13 while tallying at least four goals six times.
Patrick Marleau, who scored nine goals in San Jose's first five games but netted only his second in the last 11 Friday, has five goals and seven assists in his last nine versus Dallas.
Captain Joe Thornton has four goals and 12 assists in the last eight meetings, and the Sharks hope each can contribute as they conclude a six-game road trip.
The Stars (8-8-1) have dropped their last two at home, including Thursday's 4-3 loss to Vancouver. They've lost three of four overall following a four-game winning streak, but coach Glen Gulutzan said his squad took a step in the right direction its last time out.
"We improved certainly some of the things we've had for a couple of days in practice," he said. "But it's a result-based business and we didn't get the result."
Dallas' power play also has struggled lately, going 0 for 12 over the last three.
"We need to shoot the puck more," said forward Loui Eriksson, who has only one assist in his last eight games versus San Jose. "We need to get the puck on net, win the battles in the corners and everything."
With Kari Lehtonen likely to miss a third straight game with a groin injury, either rookie Cristopher Nilstorp or Richard Bachman will get the start in goal Saturday.
Each allowed four goals in their last start, but Gulutzan believes the Stars still can succeed despite Lehtonen, who also battled injuries last season, being out.
"You look when Bachs was starting last year, we (were successful) to some extent," Gulutzan said. "We have to push through that some more. We have to find some success."
Updated February 23, 2013