Sharks-Stars: What to watch for

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Sharks-Stars: What to watch for

SAN JOSE Simple math says that of the four remaining teams vying for three playoff spots, the San Jose Sharks are the longest shot to make it.

That would change with a regulation win over the Stars tonight at HP Pavilion. San Jose has just four games remaining in the regular season, which concludes with a visit to Dallas on Tuesday followed by a home-and-home with the Los Angeles Kings.

We want to win four straight, but we want to start with tonight, Joe Thornton said after a mandatory Sharks morning skate. Weve got to be shortsighted right now. Weve just got to win. It would be nice to go 4-0, but weve got to win tonight.

The Sharks (39-29-10, 88 points) are in ninth place in the West, just one point behind seventh place Dallas (42-31-5, 89 points). The Phoenix Coyotes are in eighth, also with 89 points, while the Kings lead the Pacific Division with 90. All teams have four games left.

Todd McLellan said: The players know where were at. They know that the time crunch is on them. They know whats left, and they know what the standings are.

Murray questionable: The Sharks lost Douglas Murray in the game in Anaheim on Wednesday, but the defenseman was on the ice this morning and could play against the Stars. He sat out Thursday's 2-0 loss in Phoenix in favor of Colin White.

Good, Murray replied, when asked how he felt. Well see what the coaches decide. When it comes to the lineup, youve always got to talk to them.

McLellan said: If he is able to play at 100 percent, well see him. If theres a risk of him not being able to finish, and us being put in a position to play five defensemen, we wont.

Murray attempted to play through the lower body injury in the first period against the Ducks, but it was easy to tell he had lost a step.

The position the Sharks are in also factors into his and the teams decision.

I probably felt I could play the other night in Phoenix, too, but its an important time right now. If youre somewhat affected by something and you cant make a play, one goal could be the difference. This might be a little bit different if it was Game 40.

Trends favor San Jose: The Sharks are 3-0-1 against Dallas this season, and will need to improve upon that record if they want to make it into the postseason.

For whatever reason, they bring out the best in us, Thornton said. Weve always played well in their building, and this year weve kind of had their number in our building. Hopefully, well continue that trend tonight.

The Sharks would be a perfect 4-0 against Dallas were it not for a late third period goal by Tomas Vincour and subsequent shootout loss in the most recent meeting at American Airlines Arena on March 8.

Still, seven out of eight points aint bad.

Playing with a lead, I think, is important against them. Weve been able to establish that in most of the game, said McLellan, whose club has scored first in all three of its wins. The special teams and penalty kill has pretty good, we havent given up many goals. Just getting timely goals from people when we need them. Pretty simple formula, and well need that again tonight.

The Sharks have outscored Dallas 10-4 in a pair of wins at HP Pavilion this season on Dec. 8 and Feb. 2.

Thornton leads all scorers in the season series with nine points (1g, 8a), while Patrick Marleau (2g, 3a) and Brent Burns (1g, 4a) have five points each. No player on Dallas has more than three points against the Sharks in the five games.

The Sharks should have the energy advantage, too, as Dallas lost 5-2 in Vancouver on Friday night before having to travel immediately after the game. They're just 1-10-2 in the second of back-to-backs as it is.

McLellan, of course, caught that game.

I thought they played very well early in the game and Canucks goalie Cory Schneider played very well keeping Vancouver in it. They look like theyre playing hard and theyre ready to compete for points, he said.

Roller-coaster ride continues: The Sharks bring a two-game losing streak into tonights game, having scored just one goal total in regulation losses in Anaheim and Phoenix. The Sharks looked to be gaining momentum before the trip, thanks to a three-game winning streak.

Its not the first time in the past few weeks theyve been unable to build on successive wins. The Sharks were 3-0-1 from March 12 March 17, but then suffered a pair of crushing losses to Anaheim and Los Angeles.

Theres been games where weve played well and the outcome hasnt been there for us, but more times than not when you give that effort youll get your chances and win those games, Patrick Marleau said. But, we have to find a way to win some games and get ourselves in a good spot.

Niemi vs. Lehtonen: Kari Lehtonen is expected to start in net for the Stars, and will look to improve on his career numbers vs. the Sharks. Hes 4-4-1 with a 3.58 goals-against average and .910 save percentage against San Jose, although he did record the shootout win over the Sharks on March 8 in what was his only appearance against them this season.

Lehtonen was pulled in the third period of the Stars loss in Vancouver after giving up four goals in 50 minutes.

Niemi will make his 18th straight start, and is 2-0-1 against Dallas this season. In 11 career appearances against the Stars, hes 6-2-3 with a 2.29 GAA and .922 SP.

He's 4-0-1 with a 1.77 goals-against average in his last five starts against Dallas.

Odds and ends: Joe Thornton was named the Sharks Player of the Month for March. He has at least a point in 21 of his last 31 games, with eight goals and 26 assists over that span. Phoenix hosts Anaheim and the Kings are in Minnesota in other games that will impact the Western Conference playoff race tonight. The Sharks will play their 17th game in the month of March. Michael Ryder has five points in the last four games and leads the Stars with 35 goals. Mike Ribeiro also has five points in his last four.

Instant Replay: Sharks picked apart by Predators, losing streak continues

Instant Replay: Sharks picked apart by Predators, losing streak continues

BOX SCORE

NASHVILLE – The Sharks’ road trip somehow got worse, before mercifully coming to an end on Saturday in Nashville.
 
For the second time in two nights, the Sharks were handled with ease by their opponent as Nashville skated to a 7-2 win at Bridgestone Arena. San Jose lost its sixth straight, all in regulation, including all four games on its road trip.
 
Colton Sissons and James Neal each had two goals to lead Nashville.
 
The Sharks have been outscored 13-3 in their last two games, including Friday night’s disastrous 6-1 defeat to lowly Dallas. The last time San Jose lost all of its games in regulation on a road trip of at least four games was March 19-29, 1993 (0-6-0).
 
The Sharks lost center Logan Couture late in the second period, when he was hit squarely in the mouth with a deflected puck and did not return, appearing to loose at least one tooth on the play. Couture immediately charged towards the dressing room after he was struck.
 
Trailing 2-0 to start the second period, Patrick Marleau cut the lead in half on the power play, when he redirected a Brent Burns pass at 4:24.
 
Nashville responded right away, though, when Marcus Sorensen was caught high-sticking P.K. Subban. Neal capped off a pretty passing play with his third goal in as many games against the Sharks this season, whipping it in from the circle just 24 seconds after Marleau’s score.
 
Subban upped the Preds’ lead to 4-1, when Martin Jones lost sight of the puck and the Nashville defenseman whizzed it just inside the post on a shot from the wall at 14:39.
 
Justin Braun brought the Sharks back to within 4-2 with his first goal in 20 games at 16:19 of the second period, but San Jose didn’t get any momentum from the tally. Sissons and Neal each got their second of the night in the final frame, including Neal’s on the power play while Micheal Haley was serving a match penalty.
 
Viktor Arvidsson’s shorthanded goal at 19:22 capped the scoring, and another embarrassing night for San Jose.
 
The Preds scored the only two goals of the first period. At 4:14, Sissons parked in front of the net and whacked in a pass from Colin Wilson, who outmuscled Tomas Hertl on a loose puck behind the net.
 
Cody McLeod made it 2-0. After Roman Josi walked Burns just inside the blue line, the defenseman's shot hit the crossbar and McLeod was in front to poke it over the line at 15:19.
 
The Predators improved to 6-1-0 in their last seven, and took over third place in the Central Division ahead of St. Louis.
 
The Sharks are just 1-5-0 in their last six regular season games in Nashville, with the lone win coming in a shootout. Saturday was their only visit of the season.
 
Special teams 
 
The Sharks went 1-for-3 on the power play, while Nashville was 2-for-4. Perhaps the only good news for San Jose lately is its power play could be coming out of its season-long slump, going 4-for-17 over the last seven games.
 
Marleau has seven power play goals this season.
 
Haley was kicked out of the game for attempting to injure Calle Jarnkrok in the third period.
 
In goal
 
Jones lost for the fourth time in his last five decisions, allowing seven goals on 34 shots, and is just 1-4-2 in his career in the regular season against the Predators.
 
Pekka Rinne made 26 saves, winning his fourth straight start while allowing just five total goals over that span. He’s 11-6-4 career against the Sharks.
 
Lineup
 
Marc-Edouard Vlasic was scratched due to illness, although he did not appear to be walking right after Friday’s game in Dallas when he took just one shift in the third period. San Jose is 2-4-1 when its top defensive defenseman doesn’t dress.
 
Chris Tierney was also out, and is day-to-day with an upper body injury. Timo Meier returned to the lineup after he was a healthy scratch on Friday.
 
Joe Pavelski played in his 800th career game.
 
Up next
 
The Sharks return home to host the Rangers on Tuesday. It’s their first meeting since New York’s 7-4 win on Oct. 17 at Madison Square Garden in the third game of the season.

Sharks' Vlasic out of the lineup again

Sharks' Vlasic out of the lineup again

NASHVILLE – Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic is out of the lineup again.

The defenseman, who didn’t play on Tuesday in Minnesota with the flu and took just one shift in the third period on Friday in Dallas, was scratched for Saturday’s road trip finale against the Predators. The team stated Saturday’s absence was due to his being sick, although it should be noted he was spotted leaving the dressing room on Friday in Dallas not walking completely right.

The Sharks are 2-3-1 in games Vlasic missed this season entering Saturday night. 

Chris Tierney was also scratched, and is day-to-day with an upper body injury. Is was just the second game he has missed this season.

Dylan DeMelo drew into the lineup for Vlasic, while Timo Meier got back in on the fourth line with Micheal Haley and Marcus Sorensen.

Melker Karlsson (lower body) remains out.