Stars-Sharks Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 06, 2013
Fighting for one of the final Western Conference playoff spots two weeks ago, the San Jose Sharks are now battling for home-ice advantage in the first round of the postseason. San Jose can extend its winning streak to eight by earning a fifth consecutive home victory over the Dallas Stars on Sunday. The Sharks (20-11-6) sat in ninth place in the West prior to their streak, but they've put themselves in contention for the No. 4 seed with the run. Joe Pavelski scored with 2:06 left in the third period Friday to give San Jose a 2-1 win over Calgary, putting it on the verge of sweeping its seven-game homestand. The Sharks begin a four-game road trip against Columbus on Tuesday. "It moves us up," forward Logan Couture said. "The goal is to get to the playoffs and we have to keep winning to get there. We knew this homestand would be really crucial for us this year. We have one more before we head to the road and it's a division game so we look forward to that." Much like its seven-game winning streak to begin this season, San Jose is backing solid goaltending with plenty of offense. It's outscored opponents 22-10 with Antti Niemi posting a 1.41 goals-against average during the run. "Maybe we got some wins early because every team wasn't ready to play, but the way we're working right now is very good," said Niemi, 6-1-1 with a 1.74 GAA in his last eight starts versus Dallas. Though coach Todd McLellan noted similarities between both seven-game streaks, he's also happier with what he's seeing during the current run. "Right now we're playing the type of hockey that allows us to win consistently," said McLellan, whose team outscored the opposition 27-12 during the initial streak. "At the beginning of the year, scoring five or six goals per night, we looked like the (Harlem) Globetrotters there for awhile. Everything was going our way. I think we're playing a better brand of game right now that sets us up for success." San Jose fell 3-1 to Dallas on Feb. 23 to end a 7-0-1 run in the series, but that was a much different Stars team that featured Jaromir Jagr, Brenden Morrow, Derek Roy and Michael Ryder - all of whom have since been traded. Dallas (17-17-3) is coming off a 3-1 victory over Anaheim on Friday that ended a three-game losing streak. It trails St. Louis by five points for the final playoff spot in the West. Kari Lehtonen made 27 saves after posting a 3.87 GAA over his previous five starts. "We're not done yet. We're going to keep battling," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "It's good for our goaltender to get a little confidence, get rewarded for his good play and I thought the guys did a good job of blocking shots and keeping things to the outside." Dallas is playing with plenty of new faces who contributed Friday. Alex Chiasson scored his first career goal in his second NHL game, and Lane MacDermid scored for the second straight contest since coming over from Boston in the Jagr trade Tuesday. "The reason you play in the American Hockey League is to make it up to the NHL," Chiasson said. "Luckily I've made it up here, and now I've got to work to stay here.'' The Sharks have outscored the Stars 19-4 while winning the last four meetings in San Jose.
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