Originally posted on Tonight's Healthy Scratches  |  Last updated 3/29/12

In the days leading up to the trade deadline just over a month ago, the San Jose Sharks were sitting in third place of the Western Conference playoff chase. It might not have been a comfortable seat, but it was still seat amongst the divisional leaders.

Unable to land big-ticket Rick Nash at the deadline, Sharks GM Doug Wilson added two depth players in T.J. Galiardi and Daniel Winnik to add some much needed grit to the Sharks' lineup, helping thwart off the the torrid Coyotes (undefeated in February) and the rolling Stars.

Maybe he should have broke the bank for Nash.

Since the deadline, the Sharks have either been clinging onto the eighth and final playoff spot, or, sitting on the outside trying to claw their way back through the blood race that has become the playoff chase in the West.

Already climbing up the boards, boasting a four-game win streak at the time of the deadline, the Stars have gone 9-4-1, surpassing both their struggling division rivals, in the Sharks (7-6-3) and Coyotes (5-6-4), to take the lead in the Pacific.

After Wednesday night's disappointing 3-1 loss to the Ducks, coupled with Los Angeles' shutout over Edmonton, the Sharks now find themselves clutching to the final playoff spot, tied with the Kings with 88 points. Although they're only one point behind the Stars, the Coyotes are knocking on their tank, with 87.

To say tonight's game between San Jose and Phoenix is important for all teams in the Pacific, is probably the understatement of the year. Tonight is just the beginning for the Sharks, however.

Despite being on the brink of elimination, the Sharks could essentially control their own fate.

After tonight's game against the 'Yotes, the Sharks close out their season with a pair of home-and-home series against both the Stars and the Kings.

The Sharks must take it one game at a time, however. Starting with a trip to the desert tonight, where they've been, well, terrible.

The Coyotes have won three of the five games thus far in the season's series against San Jose, all three victories coming at home.

In addition to San Jose's struggles at the Jobing.com Arena and a sub-.500 record on the road, they'll also have another obstacle to overcome: the return of captain Shane Doan.

Doan, who had been serving a three-game suspension for his moronic ill-timed elbow on the Stars' Jamie Benn, will make his return for the crucial match-up.

The Coyotes captain, who is third leading scorer on the team, will more than likely give his team not only a mental shove, but an offensive punch as well. Especially against the consistently inconsistent Antti Niemi, despite going 6-3-1 in his past 10 starts.

Should the Sharks jump back into the driver's seat of the Pacific with a victory in the desert tonight, they best strap on their seatbelt, break the rearview mirror and never look back for the remainder of the season.

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