March 10, 2011
VANCOUVER (43-16-9) vs.
Coverage begins at 7 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California
SAN JOSE (AP) -- The San Jose Sharks are one of the hottest teams in the NHL with nine wins in 10 games while the Vancouver Canucks have been perfect on their five-game trip.
One of these division leaders will have its momentum slowed Thursday night as the teams meet for the final time unless they square off in the playoffs.
San Jose (39-22-6) has used its surge to open a lead atop the Pacific Division and move away from a pack of playoff contenders in the tightly packed Western Conference.
Patrick Marleau's overtime goal gave the Sharks a 3-2 win at Nashville on Tuesday. Eleven of their last 13 games have been decided by one goal.
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"With the race so close, you can't slide a couple games," Marleau said. "It's even hard to give up one game, two points in this race."
Vancouver (43-16-9) has the most points in the NHL with 95 and appears to have gotten back on track on this road trip. The Canucks have won the first three of this five-game trip after alternating wins and losses during a 12-game stretch.
"We've been finding different ways to win so far on this road trip, which is nice," goalie Roberto Luongo said. "We've been playing some solid hockey, I think, not giving up too much and getting timely goals, which is very important at this stage of the season."
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The Sedin twins have combined for 10 points on this trip, including six in Tuesday's 4-3 overtime victory at Phoenix. Both assisted on Dan Hamhuis' game-winner.
Each brother enters with six points during a five-game streak against San Jose. The Sedins have totaled seven points in three meetings this season, with Vancouver going 2-0-1.
Daniel Sedin leads the NHL with 84 points and Henrik Sedin has 79.
Vancouver allowed a rare power-play goal Tuesday, the fifth in its opponents' last 73 chances. The Canucks' penalty kill is the best in the West at 86.4 percent.
The Sharks went 1 for 2 on the power play Tuesday after a 1-for-12 slump over their previous four games. Coach Todd McLellan made changes, with Devin Setoguchi moving to the top line with Marleau and Joe Thornton while having Dany Heatley join Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe.
McLellan would not commit to the changes going forward.
"We'll see," he said. "We know we have the ability to move people around. And we'll continue to do that as need be."
Marleau has scored in the last three games for San Jose. He did not take a shot Tuesday until his game-winner.
"That's what Patty does," McLellan said. "He's leading us in goals now and he's scored some big ones down the stretch."
Antti Niemi is 9-1-0 with a 1.74 goals-against average in his last 10 starts. He's got a 3.60 GAA in the three games against Vancouver this season.
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Luongo has a 0.96 GAA in two starts against the Sharks this season, but he's 0-2-1 with a 2.63 GAA in his last three at HP Pavilion.
Backup Cory Schneider, who recorded his first career shutout with 26 saves in Sunday's 3-0 victory at Anaheim, is 1-1-0 with a 5.99 GAA in two career starts against San Jose.