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Canucks finish off homestand against Sharks

by Brian Hunter
SHARKS (10-6-4) at CANUCKS (11-7-3)


Last 10: San Jose 5-2-3; Vancouver 5-4-1

Season series: First of four meetings this season. San Jose won three times last season, all by 4-2 scores. Joe Pavelski of the Sharks led all scorers with 3 goals.

Big story: This is the finale of a four-game homestand for Vancouver, while San Jose is on a brief road trip through western Canada that also features a stop Saturday night in Edmonton. The Canucks are tied with the Avalanche atop the Northwest Division. The Sharks are chasing the Kings and surging Coyotes for first place in the Pacific.
Team Scope:

Sharks: It's been a struggle this season for Antti Niemi, who won the Stanley Cup as a rookie for Chicago and then ended up in San Jose after the Blackhawks walked away from his arbitration award over the summer. Niemi has posted a 3.64 goals-against average and .886 save percentage in eight games, but he was stellar in a 5-2 home win over his former club Wednesday night, finishing with 30 saves. Pavelski and Patrick Marleau netted power-play goals and Marleau added an empty-netter.

"We're happy to have him here, very happy to have him here," defenseman Douglas Murray said. "It was great we could get the win for him today and he was a big part of getting the win, making some big stops."

Canucks: A recent 0-3-1 stretch by Vancouver allowed rival Colorado to make up ground in the division and temporarily grab sole possession of first place, but the Canucks snapped their losing streak with a 4-2 win over the Avalanche on Wednesday, moving back into a tie for the Northwest lead. Daniel Sedin's goal midway through the second put them in front to stay and Ryan Kesler's 100th NHL goal, scored early in the third, held up as the winner.

"It's a nice milestone. It's all from hard work," Kesler said. "Our line's been working hard and it's good to get a greasy one like that."

Who's hot: Marleau has 3 goals in as many games for the Sharks and 4 goals and 2 assists in the last five games. Ryane Clowe has 2 goals and 7 assists in the last six games. Pavelski has 4 goals and 6 assists in the last seven games. … Sedin's 13th goal of the season tied him for fourth in the League, one behind Alexander Semin for third and two behind Sidney Crosby for second.

Injury report: San Jose defenseman Jason Demers is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. … Vancouver is without defensemen Sami Salo (Achilles) and Ryan Parent (groin) and forwards Alexandre Bolduc (high ankle sprain) and Guillaume Desbiens (hand). Forwards Rick Rypien (personal) and Peter Schaefer (undisclosed) are also out.

Stat pack: Niemi is 2-0-1 in his last three starts for the Sharks after a 1-4-0 start. … Henrik Sedin has played in 437 games for the Canucks, six behind Flames defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who has the current active iron-man streak.

Puck drop: Rypien, who served a six-game suspension earlier this season after an incident with a fan in Minnesota, has been granted an indefinite leave of absence by Vancouver. Coach Alain Vigneault has declined to discuss the reasons behind the move other than to say it is a personal matter and Rypien has the organization's full support. Rypien has 1 assist and 31 penalty minutes in nine games this season.

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