SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars each are still barely alive in the race for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but that could change even before their game begins at SAP Center on Monday.
A victory by the Winnipeg Jets against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center would eliminate the Sharks and Stars. That game is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET; the puck drops in San Jose at 10:30 p.m. ET (FS-SW+, CSN-CA PLUS).
With 87 points and three games remaining, the Sharks trail the Kings and Jets by five points for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. Dallas, which also has three games left, trails the Kings and Jets by six points. The Kings and Jets each have four games remaining.
SAN JOSE -- Fourth-line forward Mike Brown will return to the lineup for the San Jose Sharks after missing 47 games with a broken right leg and face the Arizona Coyotes at SAP Center on Friday (10 p.m. ET; FS-A, CSN-CA PLUS).
Brown, one of the Sharks' toughest and grittiest players, hasn't played a game since Dec. 9 when he was injured against the Edmonton Oilers. He hopes to energize the Sharks as they continue their late-season push to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"That's the plan," Brown said after San Jose's optional morning skate. "I play an energy style, and I'm going to play physical. I'm not going to think too much or go out of my role. I've got to play the same way I've played my whole career. That's the way I play, and I'm going to go out and keep it simple, get in on the forecheck, be solid in our zone and try to produce offensively if I can."
"We're watching all the games at home, the channel changer's going left and right," McLellan said. "We need help, and when you put yourself in that situation you haven't had the year that you wanted to have. We're in that situation now. So we need help and we're cheering for teams, which isn't right, but that's the way it's going right now."
The Sharks (83 points) trail the Jets by seven points for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. Colorado (82) is eight points back of Winnipeg. The Sharks and Avalanche also trail the Los Angeles Kings (88) and Dallas Stars (84) with six games remaining.
San Jose's Antti Niemi was even better, making 29 saves in 2-0 shutout.
Niemi and Rinne will meet again in a battle of Finnish goaltenders at SAP Center on Thursday, and goals could be at a premium.
"They obviously have a good offensive team," Rinne said. "We have a good offensive team. You never know, but yeah, we're likely to see a tight game. They are fighting for their lives, and for us it's been trying to regain our form and get back to playing well."
The Sharks have won three of their past four games and Niemi's strong play has been a key factor. He made 39 saves and stopped seven of eight shots he faced in the shootout Monday in San Jose's 2-1 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Irwin sustained an upper-body injury during practice Friday while taking a shot and did not skate Saturday. Scott Hannan will replace Irwin in the lineup against Vancouver, and the Sharks recalled defenseman Taylor Fedun from Worcester of the American Hockey League on an emergency basis.
Irwin had played 19 straight games and had been playing his best hockey of the season before getting hurt. In his past four games Irwin had two goals and two assists.
"He's been really good since he got back into the lineup," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "He worked so hard when he was out of the lineup to improve his foot speed. He's quicker. Offensively he's contributed in a lot of areas. His confidence is at an all-time high. It's unfortunate for him as an individual to not be able to continue on, but hopefully he's very short-term and has the opportunity to get back in before he loses anything that he's gained."
SAN JOSE - Backup goaltender Alex Stalock will make his first start since Feb. 17 when the San Jose Sharks try to end their eight-game home losing streak Monday against the Montreal Canadiens, the top team in the Eastern Conference.
"I think enough worrying about other teams," Stalock said after the Sharks' morning skate. "Obviously they've got a good team but it's what's in this room. It's what we do. That's going to be the difference tonight, what we bring, what we offer. That's from the goalie out."
The Sharks had a players-only gathering away from the rink Sunday, their latest attempt to break out of their slump.
Hammond has won the first four starts of his NHL career and is coming off of back-to-back shutouts against the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings. He hasn't allowed a goal since the 7:38 mark of the first period Saturday against the Florida Panthers, a shutout streak of 172:22.
Hammond said he's enjoying the amazing ride, but trying to stay focused.
"Obviously people are very happy for me and they want to congratulate me, and I do hear stuff," Hammond said. "You want to enjoy it but at the same time you need to kind of limit the noise and stay focused on the task at hand. I think throughout this whole kind of few games here I've been able to do that. I don't see anything changing. I think for me it's just preparing the same way and going through the same routines I do on game days and practice days and just doing what got me here."
Zetterberg has been bothered by headaches, and he said he's still "got a little symptoms" but feels "significantly better" than he did Saturday.
He went on the ice near the end of Detroit's morning skate and skated on his own. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he expects Zetterberg to miss Detroit's road game Saturday against the Nashville Predators, then return Wednesday when the Red Wings open a two-game homestand against the New York Rangers.
"You're always concerned," Babcock said. "I don't think anybody was worried that much about it. It looks to me that he'll be playing against the Rangers."
Vlasic practiced Saturday for the first time since going on injured reserve. He said afterwards he was close to being ready to return but expected he'd have to pass one more medical test before being cleared.
With a 5 p.m. PT game, neither the Sharks nor the Lightning had a morning skate.
You can be hyped all you want, but his game will speak for itself. He's obviously going to be a great player so we've got to make sure we keep an eye on him. Whether it's his first game or his 1,000th game, our job is to take care of business, shut him down.
— Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo on facing ballyhooed Oilers rookie Connor McDavid, who is making NHL debut in St. Louis
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