Sharks-Ducks Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 27, 2012
The San Jose Sharks are back atop the Pacific Division for the first time in a month, but they know they can't let up with three teams right behind them. They would feel much better about their playoff position if they had better success against the division's last-place team. The Sharks try to win four straight for the first time in more than 2 1/2 months Wednesday night when they visit the struggling Anaheim Ducks, who've won four of five in the season series. San Jose (39-27-10) entered play Monday in ninth place in the Western Conference but vaulted to third and atop the Pacific with a 5-1 win over Colorado. "We've seen how fast things can happen," said center Joe Pavelski, who scored twice and has five of his 29 goals in the last six games. "We've been on both sides of it. Leading the division right now doesn't matter." The Sharks, who also got goals from Andrew Desjardins, Torrey Mitchell and Ryane Clowe, are in first place in the Pacific for the first time since Feb. 24, when they were tied with Phoenix. "The fact that we got the two points is the most significant thing, not where we are in the standings," coach Todd McLellan said. "You can not play a game and drop three spots." Dallas, which entered play Monday atop the division, dropped four places to seventh in the West. The Stars and the eighth-place Coyotes each have 87 points - one less than San Jose - while ninth-place Los Angeles has 86. "We haven't done anything yet," said captain Joe Thornton, who leads the Sharks with 56 assists and 72 points. "We have to keep winning to make the playoffs." Picking up a rare win against Anaheim would certainly help. Although the Ducks (32-33-11) are in last place in the Pacific and will be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss or wins by Dallas and Phoenix, the Sharks are 1-4-0 against them this season. San Jose suffered a 5-3 home loss to Anaheim on March 19, unable to take advantage of facing a seldom-used goaltender on a team playing its second game of a back-to-back. Bobby Ryan had a goal and two assists, Corey Perry scored his third goal of the season against the Sharks and Jeff Deslauriers made 27 saves in his first appearance for the Ducks in over two months. Antti Niemi was pulled midway through the second period after allowing four goals on 26 shots, dropping to 1-3-0 with a 3.19 goals-against average versus Anaheim on the season. Niemi, who has started 15 straight games, has posted a 1.62 GAA in winning his last three outings. He has the Sharks in position to win four in row for the first time since Jan. 2-7. Jonas Hiller will almost certainly be in goal for the Ducks considering last week's game in San Jose was the only one he has sat out in the last 35. In Sunday's 3-2 loss to Boston - Anaheim's sixth in nine games - Hiller made 22 saves in his 69th start and appearance, breaking Guy Hebert's 1998-99 single-season franchise record in both categories. Hiller is 5-1-0 with a 1.92 GAA in his last seven starts against the Sharks after going 1-8-0 with a 2.49 GAA in his first nine.
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