CALGARY - Despite a depleted lineup with nine players missing due to injury, the San Jose Sharks continue to get it done.
In San Jose's 2-1 victory Monday night over the Calgary Flames, Jonathan Cheechoo - just back from injury himself, scored the go-ahead goal and goaltender Evgeni Nabokov made 28 saves as the Sharks reached the 50 win mark for the second time in franchise history.
Dan Boyle also scored for San Jose (50-15-11), which moves four points up on the Detroit Red Wings in the race for first overall and the Presidents' Trophy. Joe Thornton assisted on both goals.
Jarome Iginla scored for Calgary (43-27-6).
"We have a lot of new faces in here but what can you say, the depth of this organization is pretty strong," said Boyle.
Four of San Jose's 12 forwards on Monday night were playing with Worcester in the AHL less than four weeks ago. Captain Patrick Marleau is the latest to land in the infirmary with a lower body injury suffered Saturday night against Phoenix. Marleau is not expected to play Thursday night in Edmonton either.
"Anytime you don't have nine players, you want the other guys to step up and play well," Nabokov said. "Our system has changed a little bit, we're not as aggressive and we have to be a little bit smarter, and in a way, I think it's helped us."
Thanks to a skid over the past month in which they have lost eight of their last 12, the Flames' lead atop the Northwest Division is now just one point over the Vancouver Canucks, who hold one game in hand.
"I've always told our club and any club that I've ever coached, if you're playing against a team with a lot of injuries, often it's a very dangerous team because you have a lot of people, particularly this time of year, that are receiving more ice time than they ever expected," said Flames coach Mike Keenan.
Vancouver will attempt to take over top spot Tuesday night when they play in Minnesota against the Wild.
"It's definitely a game we would have liked to have had a better outcome on," said Flames winger Curtis Glencross. "We've got to get right back to work and keep our heads up."
San Jose took its second lead of the night on the only goal of the second period when at 12:24, Brad Lukowich's slapshot from the blue-line was deflected past Miikka Kiprusoff by Cheechoo, who was positioned in the high slot.
That would be all the offence Nabokov would need as he made several clutch saves in the third period, turning aside 12 shots.
Nabokov's best save came on a power play midway through the period when, while sprawled on the ice, he reached back and was able to smother a shot from Mike Cammalleri as the Flames leading goal scorer tried to tuck in his 37th.
"I tried to wait him out. I tried to get it back. He made a good play to get his glove back there," said Cammalleri. "Hindsight's 20-20. Instead of jamming it, I should have just flicked it quicker."
Despite all the injuries, San Jose is 5-1-1 in its last seven games.
"We could have played a little bit better offensively, obviously, but at the end of the day, a win is a win and it's a big win at this time of year for us," said Boyle.
Calgary is now forced to regroup quickly knowing that when they return to action on Thursday night in Dallas, the possibility exists that they could be as low as fifth place in the Western Conference.
"It wasn't for lack of effort tonight or for playing poorly," said Iginla. "Unfortunately, we just didn't get the win tonight. We'd like to get a few mores shots. I thought we had a pretty fair amount of good scoring chances, even in the third. Unfortunately they didn't go in to night."
Trailing 1-0, Calgary tied the game at 15:09 when Iginla's snapshot from the face-off dot, with Lukowich providing a partial screen, squeezed past Nabokov's glove.
San Jose struck first taking advantage of an early two-man advantage when three seconds into Craig Conroy's penalty, Adrian Aucoin's clearing attempt errantly went over the glass for an automatic delay of game penalty. It took just 35 seconds for Thornton to spot Boyle creeping in from the blue-line, and from 20 feet out Boyle wired a slapshot into the top corner.
Calgary lost defenceman Cory Sarich late in the third period when he took a slapshot from Thornton off his skate. He was noticeably favouring his right foot as he was helped off the ice.
Notes: Cheechoo has missed the previous two games (lower body injury)... The season series ends tied 2-2... San Jose improves to 35-5-4 when scoring first... Calgary's final six games consist of three sets of back-to-back games. Vancouver plays on back-to-back nights just once... Both teams have demonstrated the ability to break open close games in the third period. The Flames are 14-0-3 when tied after two periods while San Jose is 13-1-3 in the same scenario... San Jose LW Milan Michalek had his six-game points streak (three goals, four assists) come to an end... San Jose has killed off 17-of-18 on the penalty kill over the past seven games.