The San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks will spend plenty of time on the ice together this weekend. The Pacific Division rivals have a chance to become even more familiar two weeks from now.
The league-leading Sharks look to set a franchise record for wins when they kick off a home-and-home series with the Ducks on Saturday night in a possible first-round playoff preview.
San Jose (51-15-11) beat Edmonton 2-1 on Thursday night to match the franchise record for victories, set in 2006-07.
With five games remaining in the regular season, the Sharks are close to clinching their first Presidents' Trophy. San Jose has 113 points, three more than Eastern Conference-leading Boston and six ahead of Detroit in the race for home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
San Jose's first-round opponent could very well end up being Anaheim (40-32-6), which is in a logjam of teams battling for the last few playoff spots in the West. The Ducks were in 13th place March 18, but have won eight of nine since to give them a chance to extend a three-year playoff run.
"We feel like we belong in the upper echelon in this conference and it's been a long year with a lot of inconsistency and if we can manage to peak at the right time then hopefully we can create some damage," said Ducks rookie winger Bobby Ryan, whose team will host the Sharks on Sunday night.
The Ducks have scored 31 goals in their last seven games, but they have not fared well against goaltender Evgeni Nabokov and the Sharks. Nabokov has started each of San Jose's four games against Anaheim this season, posting shutouts in the last two meetings and going 3-1-0 with a 1.25 goals-against average overall.
"We do care about the points, but we care more about the way we play," Nabokov said. "With a lot of guys out of the lineup we have to tidy it up a little bit. We have to be disciplined and that's what we are right now."
Though they've been dealing with injuries, the Sharks have won five straight at home and are 8-2-1 overall after losing five of their previous six.
Defenseman Rob Blake and center Marcel Goc both returned to San Jose's lineup Thursday, each playing for the first time since March 21 after missing five games due to lower-body injuries.
Wingers Patrick Marleau (lower body) and Ryane Clowe (lower body) remain out for the Sharks. Their status for Saturday is uncertain.
Anaheim can't afford any major injuries down the stretch. The Ducks overcame a pair of two-goal deficits to beat Vancouver 6-5 in a shootout Thursday night.
Ryan, the second overall pick in the 2005 draft, continues to give Anaheim a boost offensively. He had two goals and an assist against the Canucks, giving him a four-game point streak (four goals, four assists).
Ryan leads all NHL rookies in goals (28) and points (54) but has been held off the scoresheet in each of his two games against San Jose this season.