Sharks must utilize games in hand

January 3, 2012, 8:55 pm
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VANCOUVER Mondays 3-2 shootout win over the Canucks was the perfect way for the Sharks to begin a busy stretch.

Three weeks remain before the NHL All-Star break, and its going to be a hectic time for the Sharks, who entered Vancouver having played the fewest games in the NHL. San Jose has 12 games in the next 21 days, though, leading up to the break which begins after a tilt with the Flames in Calgary on Jan. 24.

Its a welcome change, after the Sharks played just twice in nine days in late December.

Were back in the league, so thats a great sign. We actually get to play, coach Todd McLellan joked after the game. To start it and end a two-game losing streak is important, but were going to have to take it one at a time and play against some very good teams with a tough schedule. Weve had our luxury week or two, if you want to call it that.

Weve got like five or six games in hand on some teams. We have to use those fresh legs, I guess you would call it, Ryane Clowe said on Sunday. We have three weeks here before the All Star break and this is going to be big for us. Were playing pretty much every second day or back-to-back, so this is a pretty big challenge.

At 20-11-4, the Sharks are one point behind Los Angeles for the Pacific Division lead, but have played five fewer games. They jumped ahead of Dallas, which has played two more games than San Jose, and Phoenix, which has also played five more times than the Sharks.

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In other words, San Jose is set up to take control of the division, but only if it utilizes these games that are on the horizon.

Weve got games in hand. We need these points, Clowe said.

Beating the team that has given them fits in recent years, including the first two meetings this season, was an ideal way to kick it off.

Coming close two times and not getting the results you like is tough, but they are always tough games and fun games to play in. We came out on the right side tonight," Patrick Marleau said.