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Ducks get another try at derailing Sharks' chances

by Matthew Mankiewich
SHARKS (39-27-10) at DUCKS (32-33-11)


Last 10:
San Jose 6-3-1; Anaheim 4-5-1

Season Series:
It's the final meeting between the top and bottom teams of the Pacific Division, but the last-place Ducks have had the Sharks' number this year, taking four of five so far. The Sharks averted a possible sweep with a 3-1 win in the Honda Center on Jan. 4, but the Ducks handed the Sharks a painful 5-3 defeat last Monday. Last season the teams split, and the season before the Sharks took five of six.

Big story:
It doesn't take much these days to get to first place in the Pacific Division. Stringing three wins together has proven to be enough for the Sharks, but like the kids' game of "King of the Mountain," there is always somebody climbing back up to knock them off the top. Dallas and Phoenix are a point behind, the Kings are two, but none of them played Tuesday so the Sharks will take the ice Wednesday still in first place. The Ducks, who had fought so hard to get back into the playoff race after the holidays, will at some point be eliminated from contention, possibly even before this game, but opportunities abound to take rivals down with them.

Team Scope:

The transient nature of placement in the Western Conference has the Sharks worrying less about position and more about piling up points, even better at the expense of other contenders. So beating the Avalanche 5-1 for their third straight loss and getting the two points took care of two problems.

"The fact that we got the two points is the most significant thing, not where we are in the standings," coach Todd McLellan said. "You can not play a game and drop three spots."

"We haven't done anything yet," captain Joe Thornton said. "We have to keep winning to make the playoffs."

Ducks: It's technically not over, and the Ducks take pride in the fact that after being 12 games under .500 on Jan. 6, they got to the final two weeks of the season still in contention.

"We showed a lot of resiliency," Bobby Ryan told the Ducks' website. "We earned such a big hole. It could have gone two ways. It could have been a very lackluster January, February and March. Or you can put your boots on and go to work every day.

"Bruce (Boudreau) came in and did a good job of getting guys to buy in, learn the system and do things. There is a lot to be excited about from January on. Hopefully, whether we are in or out, it will set things up for a nice year next season."

Who's Hot:
Joe Pavelski has 5 goals and 1 assist in his last six games, and his 2 goals Monday gave him 300 career points. Ryan Getzlaf has a six-game points streak going (8 assists) while Cam Fowler has points in five of his last seven.

Injury Report:
Sharks forward TJ Galiardi (upper body) has missed six straight games but is still considered day-to-day. … Ducks goalie Dan Ellis continues to work hard to recover from sports hernia surgery despite time running out on the Ducks' playoff chances.

Stat Pack:
Dan Boyle had 2 assists Monday and recorded his 500th point, making him the fourth undrafted defenseman in NHL history to reach that milestone. … Thornton passed Larry Robinson on the NHL all-time assist list with his 751st on Monday, putting him in 40th place. … Jonas Hiller made his 69th start in nets Monday, breaking the Ducks franchise record set by Guy Hebert in 1998-99. … Lubomir Visnovsky has just 27 points in 63 games this season, a precipitous dropoff from his 68 points last season that led all NHL defensemen in scoring. … Bobby Ryan is just three goals away from his fourth straight 30-goal season. … Teemu Selanne scored the 248th power-play goal of his career, moving him into fourth place all-time.

Puck Drop:
Selanne has not verbally committed to playing next year. As he has in recent years, he will wait till July to make his final decision one way or the other. It's for much more than sentimental reasons, though, that the Ducks would want him back. He leads the team with 63 difficult-to-replace points, his 11 power-play goals are in the League's top 10 and he continues to be one of the team's most consistent producers, even at age 41.

"I still think I haven't lost much, so that's a good thing," Selanne told the Orange County Register. "But that's also the way I want to go out. I don't want to be the guy who's just grinding and grinding and trying to survive. When I'm playing, I want to be effective, not be the guy who looks like he's just surviving out there.

"I look around and I think, 'You know what? We have all the tools, all the tools.' And that's a great sign about the future. If we had a bad team, it would be easy to decide."
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