Patrick Marleau is having back-to-back career years.
One season after scoring a career-best 38 goals, Marleau has already surpassed that total. He enters San Jose's game against Nashville Thursday night one away from his first 40-goal season.
A 40-goal season isn't going to win you the Rocket Richard Trophy, but it's nothing to sneeze at. Just eight players reached the 40-goal mark last season, and only 10 did so in 2007-08.
"It's feels good," Marleau said. "If anything, you want to set the bar really high and move as high up there as you can."
Marleau has spent most of the season skating on a line with Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley. He's recently been paired with Ryane Clowe and Joe Pavelski, who said he's not surprised by Marleau's career season.
"I think he's got a great shot," Pavelski told the Sharks' Web site. "I remember when I was younger reading in a hockey magazine that he was in the top-10 players for best wrist shot. His shot is quick and hard."
Spending much of the season skating with Thornton, one of the NHL's great passers, is enough to help anyone's offensive totals. But he feels there's also another reason for his success.
"It's probably confidence," Marleau said. "I just go into the game knowing I can score and get chances. You might not score every game, but you feel like it. Some nights you'll get seven or eight shots and not score and some it's two or three and you get a couple. Some of your better games the puck won't go in."
Marleau is on a pace that would give him a chance to become only the second Shark to reach 50 goals in a season -- Jonathan Cheechoo had 56 in 2005-06.
"Everybody talks about 50 being a big milestone," Marleau said, "If I could reach that, it would be unbelievable."
What record? -- Ilya Bryzgalov is much more interested in getting two points than a line in the team record book. He got both on Saturday night by stopping 32 shots in the Phoenix Coyotes' 4-0 win over Anaheim.
The victory was Bryzgalov's 34th this season, the most in one season in franchise history. Sean Burke, Bob Essensa and Brian Hayward all won 33 for the Winnipeg Jets/Coyotes -- but Bryzgalov blew past them with 16 games to play.
"It's nice, but I'm not chasing any records here," Bryzgalov said. "I'm here to help my teammates win the games, and my teammates help me to win the games because we are in the same business and we're in the same boat. ... We're trying to make the playoffs and every game we win we are closer to finishing this mission."
The Coyotes began the week with 83 points, fourth in the West, as they try to end a playoff drought that goes back to 2002.
The shutout was also Bryzgalov's seventh of the season, tying him for the most in the NHL along with Florida's Tomas Vokoun and New Jersey's Martin Brodeur.
Green machine -- Hockey players are well-compensated, so a players' parking lot is usually full of big SUVs and luxury cars. That's what makes Anaheim captain Scott Niedermayer's ride so different.
Niedermayer comes to work in a dark cherry Honda FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle. He was selected as one of a very small number of customers able to lease the model from Honda. That follows the years in which Niedermayer drove a Toyota Prius hybrid, which he's is now selling after falling in love with the Honda.
Needless to say, Niedermayer has taken some ribbing from teammates over the years for his choice of vehicle.
"There were a few jokes made at different times, but I've had it for awhile and they kind of lose their ammunition," Niedermayer told the Ducks' Web site. "When you're in a locker room, there isn't much that doesn't get joked about."
The choice of vehicle is one of the many ways Niedermayer shows his environmental consciousness. His preference for organic foods and other materials is noticeable in his family's home.
"Everything is organic in our house," his wife, Lisa, told the Ducks' site. "We've had an organic lawn [free of traditional fertilizers and pesticides] for years. He shops at Whole Foods constantly. It's his favorite place. He goes there all the time and they all know him in there. But that's because he's in there all the time, not necessarily because of hockey."
Season-saver -- With three-consecutive losses coming out of the Olympic break, the Dallas Stars were watching their playoff hopes sink slowly in the West, until Marty Turco stepped up in Washington.
Turco made a career-high 49 saves through 65 minutes, then stopped four of five attempts in the shootout to give the Stars a much-needed 4-3 win over the top team in the NHL standings.
"It's not going to be every night that your goalie's going to wear a mask and steal a game for you," Dallas coach Marc Crawford said. "We needed a great goaltending performance tonight, and Marty was absolutely terrific. We love the fact that he fought and fought and fought and fought - and got a payoff."
The victory kept the Stars within shouting distance of the last playoff spot in the West -- and with a six-game homestand coming up after Wednesday's game in Buffalo, Dallas has an excellent chance to make up ground.
"That was our game in hand on everybody, so we got the two points," Crawford said. "Coming out of the break and seeing the teams that we were playing, not many people would be surprised if we were 2-2. But 0-4 would have been horrendous. Right now at least we got a win and we're back on our feet again. Much like a marathon, it's not won at the start of the race, it's consistency and that total performance that needs to be strong. This is gut-check time here in the last part of our season."
Around the Pacific -- San Jose entered the week tops in the West largely because of its ability to come back in the third period. The Sharks rallied from one-goal deficits to win successive home games against Montreal and Columbus, putting them two points ahead of Chicago in the race to be best in the West. …. San Jose is still without defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who's been out since Jan. 28 with a lower-body injury. He's skating again, but there's no timetable for his return. … Dallas begins a six-game homestand this weekend, but the opposition won't be easy. The Stars' six opponents have a collective record of 227-131-33. All six (Los Angeles, Colorado, San Jose, Philadelphia, Ottawa and Phoenix) currently would qualify for the playoffs. The Stars are 18-8-5 at the American Airlines Center. … While the Stars head home, the Coyotes are bracing for a schedule that has them playing 11 of their last 15 games on the road, beginning with a four-game swing through the Southeast Division (though the Coyotes skip Washington, where they lost earlier this season). … Anaheim's winning ways at home have disappeared after the Olympic break. The Ducks won their last 11 home games before the Games, but lost the first three after play resumed, falling 4-3 to Colorado in regulation, 4-3 to Montreal in a shootout and 5-2 to Columbus. The loss to the Habs was especially painful because Anaheim led 3-0 after one period and 3-1 with less than two minutes to play in regulation. … Teemu Selanne's quest to reach the 600-goal mark took a night off on Tuesday when he sat out Anaheim's home game against Columbus due to flu-like symptoms. He's still at 598. … Los Angeles improved to a League-best 25-0-0 when leading after two periods by beating Columbus 6-0 on Monday. … The Kings blanked the Blue Jackets while allowing just 11 shots, the fewest surrendered by a team this season Jonathan Quick got the shutout, and his 11 saves matched a franchise record for fewest saves in a shutout. Cristobal Huet had 11 in a shutout of Pittsburgh on Oct. 10, 2003.