Sharks look to clinch Pacific title vs. L.A.

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Sharks look to clinch Pacific title vs. L.A.

April 4, 2011SHARKS PAGE SHARKS VIDEOLOS ANGELES (45-27-6) vs.SHARKS (46-23-9)

Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California.

SAN JOSE (AP) -- A 7-0-1 surge has left the Sharks needing one win to clinch the Pacific Division for the fourth consecutive season.

The only loss in that span came against the Los Angeles Kings, who find themselves on the verge of back-to-back postseason appearances thanks to a impressive stretch of their own.

The Sharks, winners of five in a row at home, can avenge that defeat and secure the Pacific title when they host the Kings on Monday night.

San Jose (46-23-9) suffered its lone defeat in the past eight games March 24, falling 4-3 in a shootout at Los Angeles. The Sharks won their third in a row since that loss Saturday, overcoming a 2-0 deficit after one period to beat Anaheim 4-2.

NOTEBOOK: Nichol could return for Sharks this week

"We were talking about how we worked so hard as of late to get back on top of our division," forward Devin Setoguchi said after recording a goal and two assists. "Just to let it slip like that and have a bad period wasn't something we wanted to do. We worked so hard and it's so easy to fall right back into a hole."

Left wing Patrick Marleau had two goals and an assist to give him 10 goals and seven assists in his last nine games.

The Sharks, who have outscored opponents 14-3 during their three-game run, will end the Pacific race with any kind of victory Monday. San Jose is also focused on the battle with Detroit for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference -- and making sure it doesn't lose home-ice advantage in the first round.

"We're in a race for second," Setoguchi told the Sharks' official website. "We can't catch Vancouver. We're not going to just sit back. L.A. and Phoenix are a few points back. We have a goal to get second and try to get home ice."

The Kings (45-27-6) are in a fourth-place tie with the Coyotes, with both teams five points behind the Sharks. Los Angeles, though has a game in hand over Phoenix.

The Kings are also surging as the season winds down, defeating Dallas 3-1 on Saturday for their fifth win in six games. Los Angeles has gone 9-2-1 in its last 12, and with another victory Monday can secure its second straight playoff berth.

"We just found a way to do it again," forward Jarret Stoll said. "We found a way to get the points, and that's all that matters."

Captain Dustin Brown, who scored twice against the Sharks last month, had a goal Saturday and has five goals and two assists in his last five games. Defenseman Matt Greene and right wing Wayne Simmonds also scored against the Stars.

Los Angeles has been rolling despite the absences of Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams, neither of whom are expected to return before the playoffs.

"We've been seeing that guys are stepping up, and we've been playing well without them," Simmonds said of Kopitar and Williams, who are tops on the team with 73 and 57 points, respectively. "It would be nice to have them back, but we can't worry about that right now."

Jonathan Quick made 24 saves Saturday and has gone 4-1-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average in his last five starts. Quick had posted a 1.81 GAA in winning five of six on the road prior to allowing three goals in a 3-1 loss at Vancouver on Thursday.

Quick is 2-0-1 with a 0.97 GAA in his career at HP Pavilion, where he stopped 24 shots in a 4-0 win Dec. 27.

San Jose counterpart Antti Niemi is also thriving, earning his 20th win in 27 starts by making 20 saves against the Ducks. Niemi is 4-1-2 with a 1.81 GAA versus the Kings.

The Sharks, 2-1-2 against the Kings, haven't lost the season series since 2001-02.

Captain Joe Thornton, three points away from reaching 1,000 for his career, saw his season high-tying five-game point streak end Saturday. He has managed one assist in his last six matchups with Los Angeles.

Source: Kaepernick visits 49ers headquarters

Source: Kaepernick visits 49ers headquarters

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who faces an uncertain future with the 49ers, visited team headquarters in Santa Clara on Wednesday morning, according to a league source.

Kaepernick was likely there to meet with 49ers general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan for the first time since they were hired to replace Trent Baalke and Chip Kelly.

On Feb. 9, Lynch said Kaepernick “reached out” to him shortly after he was hired as general manager. Lynch said he and Kaepernick planned on meeting in the near future.

Earlier this week, Lynch said he would have open and honest communication with Kaepernick about the club’s plan at the quarterback position.

“The one thing we will do very well with Kap is we’ll communicate,” Lynch said Tuesday on 95.7 The Game. “And I think that’s very important for both sides. Like everything else, that process is well in the works. We’ll continue to do that and we’ll be very up-front with him, in terms of what we’re thinking and we’ll want to know what he’s thinking, as well.”

Kaepernick and the 49ers agreed to a restructured contract in October. The sides tore up the final four years of Kaepernick’s contract and replaced it with a deal that enables Kaepernick to opt out to become an unrestricted free agent in March. Kaepernick's non-guaranteed scheduled pay is $14.9 million for the 2017 season.

Kaepernick does not currently have agent representation, according to the NFL Players Association.

He started 11 games last season after replacing Blaine Gabbert in the starting lineup and bounced back with a solid statistical season. Kaepernick threw 16 touchdown passes and just four interceptions for a passer rating of 90.7. He also rushed for 468 yards and a career-best 6.8-yards per carry.

MLB players’ union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

MLB players’ union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

NEW YORK -- There won't be any wild pitches on intentional walks this season.

The players' association has agreed to Major League Baseball's proposal to have intentional walks without pitches this year.

"It doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I know they're trying to cut out some of the fat. I'm OK with that," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

While the union has resisted many of MLB's proposed innovations, such as raising the bottom of the strike zone, installing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound, players are willing to accept the intentional walk change.

"As part of a broader discussion with other moving pieces, the answer is yes," union head Tony Clark wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. "There are details, as part of that discussion, that are still being worked through, however."

The union's decision was first reported by ESPN .

"I'm OK with it. You signal. I don't think that's a big deal," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For the most part, it's not changing the strategy, it's just kind of speeding things up. I'm good with it."

There were 932 intentional walks last year, including 600 in the National League, where batters are walked to bring the pitcher's slot to the plate.

"You don't want to get your pitcher out of a rhythm, and when you do the intentional walk, I think you can take a pitcher out of his rhythm," Girardi said. "I've often wondered why you don't bring in your shortstop and the pitcher stand at short. Let the shortstop walk him. They're used to playing catch more like that than a pitcher is."

Agreement with the union is required for playing rules changes unless MLB gives one year advance notice, in which case it can unilaterally make alterations. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope Tuesday that ongoing talks would lead to an agreement on other changes but also said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Some changes with video review can be made unilaterally, such as shortening the time to make a challenge.

"I know they were thinking about putting in a 30-second (limit) for managers to make a decision," Francona said. "I actually wish they would. I think it would hustle it up and if we can't tell in 30 seconds, maybe we shouldn't be doing it anyway."