Sharks-Stars Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 03, 2012
A weekend home victory over Dallas helped the San Jose Sharks move back into postseason position and put the Stars on the outside of the playoff picture. The Sharks hope to maintain or perhaps better their standing while avoiding a season-high fifth consecutive road loss Tuesday night against the Stars. Part of the crowded and unpredictable Pacific Division, San Jose (40-29-10) holds the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Sharks are one point behind seventh-place Phoenix and three back of division-leading Los Angeles, which is third in the West. "It is a playoff atmosphere," Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said. "It's exciting." Joe Pavelski scored two goals and Antti Niemi made 22 saves for his sixth shutout of the season as San Jose avoided a third consecutive loss overall and moved back among the top eight teams in the West with a 3-0 home win over Dallas on Saturday. The Sharks, who haven't missed the playoffs since 2003, aren't in a familiar position after winning the Pacific each of the last four seasons. "It's kind of nice," said forward Ryane Clowe, who has two goals and an assist in the last four games. "For us, where we finished the past couple years, we had a good run but haven't won the Cup. That's what we want to do. ... It's probably a good thing if we get in and are playing hot down the stretch." They took a step toward that goal by knocking the Stars (42-32-5) a point behind and into ninth place - out of playoff position for the moment, just a few days after sitting atop the division. "(We) earned the right to enjoy it right now," said Sharks coach Todd McLellan, whose team is 4-0-1 against Dallas this season. "Let's keep our focus. I talked before about not letting your guard down, and we have in the past. Let's keep it up. We know we'll have a tougher game in Dallas than we had (Saturday)." Though San Jose won 4-1 at Dallas on Nov. 19, the Sharks have dropped 17 of 21 away from home. That stretch includes a 4-3 shootout defeat to the Stars on March 8. San Jose, which plays at Los Angeles on Thursday before hosting the Kings in Saturday's finale, has been outscored 13-5 during its current four-game road skid. "We'd like to see our good road play start right now because we need it," said captain Joe Thornton, who has recorded half of his 10 assists against the Stars this season in Dallas. Though Pavelski has four goals in the last three games against the Stars, he's been held without a point in four straight road games. Niemi is 3-0-1 with a 1.47 goals-against average versus Dallas this season. He hopes to have Douglas Murray back in front of the net after the veteran defenseman missed the last two games with a lower-body injury. Losers of two in a row and six of nine, the Stars are again feeling the pressure in the final week of the season. Dallas was eliminated from the playoff race on the last day of the 2010-11 season. "It's probably three wins or nothing for us now," said Stars captain Brenden Morrow, who has one point in his last nine games. "It is nice to get (the Sharks) again so soon. But if we do what we did (Saturday) we're not going to get the result we want." Dallas went 0 for 3 on the power play Saturday and is 2 for 25 with the man advantage in its last 10 games.
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