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GAME DAY: San Jose

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

BLUE JACKETS (21-17-7) AT SHARKS (24-13-7)




Much like the Blue Jackets, the Sharks have found themselves in a battle for playoff positioning as the NHL regular season nears the finish line.

They embark on the season's final week tied in points (55) with the Los Angeles Kings for the fourth and fifth seeds in the Western Conference, meaning the always-coveted home ice advantage is on the line for both squads. The Kings helped themselves with a 2-1 win over the Blue Jackets on Thursday night, and they'll have another chance Sunday night vs. Dallas at STAPLES Center, putting added emphasis on the Sharks' tilt with Columbus.

Speaking of those Blue Jackets, they're in "win at all costs" mode with three games remaining and a slim two-point hold on eighth place in the conference. Seeking their first playoff berth since 2009 and second in franchise history, they'll have little to no margin for error over their last trio of games and that begins at HP Pavilion - a building that has not been kind to them (or many visiting teams, for that matter) over the years.

With a 3-1-0 mark through four of six games on this road trip, the Blue Jackets know that the fourth win would be enormous in their hunt for a playoff spot. They'll have to do so a bit shorthanded, as it looks like Artem Anisimov, Matt Calvert and Nikita Nikitin will miss Sunday's game vs. the Sharks due to various injuries - the latest being a broken finger for Calvert in the second period of the game in Los Angeles. As a result, Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards is likely to move newcomer Blake Comeau to left wing on the second line and Colton Gillies on the fourth line.

The blue line may get some assistance if Adrian Aucoin is able to play in San Jose. The 39-year-old veteran defenseman has missed time due to a lower body injury but has been skating in practice the past couple of days, and Richards deemed him a game-time decision vs. the Sharks.

- The previous two meetings of the season series have been all Columbus; the Blue Jackets picked up 6-2 and 4-0 victories at Nationwide Arena earlier this year over the Sharks, and Sunday's game is the first and only meeting at HP Pavilion.

- No surprise here, but Sergei Bobrovsky will once again be between the pipes for the Blue Jackets. He's likely to face San Jose's Antti Niemi in a battle of Vezina Trophy candidates.

- Logan Couture is heating up and that's a good thing for the Sharks. The young forward is technically secondary scoring for a very deep San Jose lineup, but he deservedly has the full attention of opponents when on the ice. Couture has four goals in his last five games.

- Columbus' last win in San Jose was a 3-0 shutout in November 2009.

Martin Havlat
2012-13 STATS: 7-9-16, 37 GP

The Sharks acquired Havlat in a star-for-star deal with Minnesota that sent Dany Heatley to the Wild, but Havlat battled injuries shortly after the trade and it took him a while to get settled in the Bay Area. It's been a different story this seasonn, as Havlat's offense has become more consistent and he's created offense regardless of the line mates he's paired with.

COLUMBUS: Matt Calvert (broken finger), out; Artem Anisimov (upper body), doubtful; Adrian Aucoin (lower body), game-time decision; Nikita Nikitin (lower body), doubtful


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