ANAHEIM The Sharks re-took the Pacific Division lead with Mondays 5-1 win over Colorado, but are still no lock to make it to the postseason. If theyd been a little more successful against the Ducks, though, they might be.
The Pacific Division rivals meet for the sixth and final time tonight in Anaheim, and the Ducks have taken four of the first five, all in regulation. That includes what was a momentum-halting 5-3 win at HP Pavilion just nine days ago.
Its not too long ago, and I remember the feeling afterward. Obviously, we were not very thrilled with our performance and some of the things that happened throughout that game, Dan Boyle said on Wednesday morning at Honda Center. Its pretty fresh in our minds, but its a new day and new game, and weve got to bring a better effort.
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Todd McLellan, whose team has won three in a row, said: We talked to our guys about not letting our guard down. This is a team thats had our number, thats played better than we have, and deserved to win the games. Its something were going to have to correct tonight.
San Jose (39-27-10, 88 points) has a one-point lead over Dallas and Phoenix and a two-point edge on Los Angeles.
Were 1-4 against this team. Thats really hurt our opportunity to be a successful team this year, is just our record against Anaheim alone, McLellan said. Thats not any disrespect to them. Theyre played really well.
San Jose has just six games remaining in the regular season, four of which are on the road.
Galiardis return, Niemi starting: The Sharks will make one tweak to their lineup against the Ducks, as TJ Galiardi is returning from a six-game absence with whats believed to be a back injury. Hell likely start on a line with Dominic Moore and Torrey Mitchell, while Michal Handzus comes out of the lineup.
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One line McLellan certainly wont tinker with is the Tommy Wingels, Andrew Desjardins and Daniel Winnik trio. That group has scored in three straight games and has brought tremendous hard work and energy to the ice since they were put together before the Sharks 2-1 win over Boston on March 22.
You need those guys to eat up some minutes. Theyre not only doing that, theyre putting the puck in the net, Boyle said. We need that, and theyre a very important part of our team.
McLellan said: Were getting a lot of mileage out of Desjardins line, which maybe we hadnt gotten earlier. It keeps the bigger boys fresher, it keeps them on their toes a little bit more, and I think its more of a team effort than maybe a three-line effort.
Antti Niemi will make his 16th straight start in net, opposing Jonas Hiller. Niemi is 1-3 against the Ducks this season, while Hiller is 1-1. Jeff Deslauriers picked up the win for Anaheim in the most recent matchup, making 27 saves.
Hiller is 6-9-0 in his career against the Sharks with a 2.26 goals-against average and .933 save percentage, while Niemi is 4-5-0 with a 2.50 GAA and .901 SP vs. Anaheim.
Playing spolier: Bruce Boudreau would love to help prevent the Sharks from making it to the postseason, and hopes his team uses that as motivation to keep playing hard despite its playoff chances near zero.
Were playing at home, we have a chance to derail a little bit of San Joses opportunity, so wed like to be able to do that, Boudreau said. Its motivation for us. Its the same thing against Phoenix on Saturday. If we can stop them from going anywhere, thats great.
Anaheim has had an outstanding second half of the year, but a nightmarish first half essentially buried their postseason chances by the end of December.
Teemu Selanne said: We know the situation. Obviously we still just try to play well, and get a little better taste for this season and finish strong. The first half was just too much. We put ourselves so bad behind the 8-ball; no team would come back."
Anaheim did climb to within four points of eight place in the West at one point, but is just 5-8-1 since Feb. 27.
I thought we were close. It was climbing for a long time and I thought we did pretty well, but it was too much, Selanne said.
Shut down the top guys: Selanne, Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry have combined for seven goals of the 13 goals in the five games against San Jose, led by three from Perry.
Theyve given us some trouble. You have to keep the big boys off the scoresheet and theyve had some success against us, so we have to try and slow those guys down, Ryane Clowe said.
Conversely, the Sharks could use some off offense from a few of their big guns, which have been silenced in the season series. Logan Couture has just one assist in five games against Anaheim, as does Patrick Marleau.
Odds and ends: Dallas visits Edmonton while the Kings are in Calgary in other games to monitor in the Pacific tonight. The Sharks visit Phoenix tomorrow night. Joe Pavelski has five goals and one assist in his last six games. Ryan Getzlaf has a six-game point streak, with eight assists over that span. When asked today by a local writer if hes leaning one way or the other when it comes to retirement, Teemu Selanne replied: Not really. Not really.