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EJ Express: Inability to solve Ducks hurting Sharks

by EJ Hradek
The Ducks probably wish they could have played their Pacific Division rivals the Sharks more often this season. If they had, Teemu Selanne & Co. might have been able to nail down a playoff spot.

Last night, the Ducks jumped the Sharks for the fifth time in six meetings, 3-1 at Honda Center in Anaheim. While the Ducks’ victory wasn’t much more than of the feel-good variety in the OC, the Sharks’ loss took a nip out of their playoff hopes.

Tonight, San Jose will need to bounce back in Phoenix. A regulation loss in the desert would leave the Sharks on the wrong side of the eight-nine playoff line with just four games to play. With so little time left, that's most definitely not where you want to be.

Here’s a quick spin on the Express.

No rushing Howard: Unless Red Wings coach Mike Babcock changes his mind, he won't send top goalie Jimmy Howard to the crease for Friday night’s showdown with the visiting Predators. That job likely will fall to Ty Conklin.

Ty Conklin
Goalie - DET
RECORD: 5-6-1
GAA: 3.28 | SVP: 0.884
"I'm not putting him in for his first game back against Nashville," Babcock said on Tuesday of his injury-plagued stopper. "That doesn't make any sense to me whatsoever."

Howard is more likely to return to action against the Panthers on Sunday at the Joe. The All-Star goaltender has missed 15 of the club’s last 22 games due to different injuries.

"He’ll have to get himself going," Babcock said. "He’ll be playing every game once he gets back so he can get himself some rhythm."

Tough times for van Riemsdyk: Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk has been sidelined with a broken left foot since sliding to block a slapper off the stick of Islanders defenseman Milan Jurcina on March 1. It was just the latest physical setback for van Riemsdyk, who has been limited to just 43 games.

"When you're envisioning how your season is going to go in the summer and think about it, this wasn't what you have in mind (being injured several times)," said van Riemsdyk, who has totaled just 24 points.

The young power forward could be ready for a return to action sometime during the first round of the playoffs. Last spring, he was among the club’s best postseason performers.

Flames fading fast:
After last night's 3-0 loss to the visiting Kings, the Flames know their playoff chances have all but slipped away.
"We're realistic here," said Flames defenseman Mark Giordano, speaking before the loss to the Kings. "We know that we're probably going to have to run the table to have a realistic chance of getting in."

And by run the table, he didn't mean lose to LA. With just four games left on the schedule, the Flames sit 11th in the West, three points behind the Sharks, the current eighth seed.

Sabres enjoying Miller time: The Sabres’ 19-5-5 run has pushed them into the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. The club’s turnaround was sparked by the stellar play of top goalie Ryan Miller, who has been near unbeatable for the past eight weeks.
Ryan Miller
Goalie - BUF
RECORD: 30-18-7
GAA: 2.46 | SVP: 0.919
"It was a progression," Miller said. "I started to feel a little bit better; I started to feel a little bit better about myself. Then, our team started paying a little bit more attention to the system we need to play. Earlier on, I think we were searching quite a bit. Everything kind of lined up."

While he can’t pinpoint a specific time or place, Miller admitted he came to a crossroads in his season.

"There comes a point in time where you say enough is enough," Miller said. "I'm a proud person. You can only sit there and answer so many questions about being criticized.

"I approach each season the same way and I try my hardest every night, and it wasn’t a good start to the season for many reasons, none of which are really a good excuse.

"It was just finding a way to get the job done," Miller continued. "And ultimately, we're doing a better job of that. It's pretty much just a stop along the way right now as we're talking about our team. We're much improved, but there's a lot of work to be done.

Home ice would be nice: Predators star defenseman Shea Weber was pretty honest when asked about his desire to have home-ice advantage in the first round of the upcoming playoffs.
"We'd like to have it," Weber said. "But last year against Vancouver, we couldn't find a way to win on home ice in the playoff. So, is it crucial? It might help, but in the long run I don't think it'll make a huge difference whether we win or not."

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