The San Jose Sharks have never won the Presidents' Trophy, given to the team with the NHL's best record. With plenty of motivation to reach that goal and three weak opponents remaining, they've never been in better position to do so.
The surging Sharks look to move closer to clinching home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs when they host the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night.
San Jose (52-16-11) tops the league with 115 points, three more than Eastern-Conference leading Boston. While the Bruins have four games left to the Sharks' three, San Jose can secure the best record by winning out - something that should be very achievable given its remaining schedule.
The Sharks' final three opponents - Colorado, Phoenix and Los Angeles - are the bottom three teams in the West.
"We'll see. Hopefully, we hang on to that top spot," center Jeremy Roenick said after scoring a goal Sunday night in San Jose's fourth win in five games, 3-2 at Anaheim.
Two of the Sharks' remaining games are at home, where they're a league-best 31-4-4. That gaudy mark makes securing home ice throughout the postseason all the more important for a team that's in the midst of the best season in franchise history.
The Pacific Division rival Ducks represented San Jose's final opponent with playoff motivation as the Sharks enter the final week of the season.
"These are fun games to be a part of. I mean, it's Anaheim. We get up to play those guys and I'm sure they get up to play us," said forward Jonathan Cheechoo, who scored his third goal in four games Sunday. "But they're all big right now."
The Sharks have had little trouble this season against the woeful Avalanche (32-44-2), who are in the West cellar. San Jose has won all three meetings, taking the most recent matchup 3-1 on March 22, and is 5-1-0 in the previous six games between the teams.
San Jose's Milan Michalek has managed one goal in his last four games since a six-game point streak, but he's been too much for the Avalanche to handle this season with five goals and an assist in three matchups.
Evgeni Nabokov got the night off Sunday after starting Saturday's 5-2 loss to Anaheim, and the Sharks' top goaltender is likely to be back in net Tuesday looking to rebound. Before giving up five goals to the Ducks, he had allowed four goals in his previous three starts - all wins.
Nabokov has posted a 1.68 GAA in the Sharks' last six games against the Avs.
San Jose is also getting some veteran reinforcements for the final push, as forwards Mike Grier and Claude Lemieux are returning to the lineup. Both forwards have been out since March 3 and missed 17 games - Grier with a knee injury and the 43-year-old Lemieux with an upper-body injury.
Colorado snapped an eight-game losing streak Sunday night, defeating Vancouver 4-1. Milan Hejduk had a goal and two assists and Peter Budaj made 20 saves for Colorado, which has scored the fewest goals and allowed the most in the West.
Calgary native T.J. Galiardi, one of a franchise-record 10 players to make his NHL debut for Avalanche this season, scored twice against the Flames.
"My parents were here and my dad is a big Calgary fan so he was saying to get the win for them because obviously Vancouver is on their tail, so it's kind of funny it worked out that way," Galiardi said. "But we're more focused on ourselves in here, and we want to finish the year off hard."
Colorado captain Joe Sakic, who hopes to return this season after missing all but 15 games because of back and hand injuries, took part in the Sunday morning skate but isn't sure he'll play in any of the Avs' final four games.