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First-place Bruins look to halt Sharks' recent surge

by Brian Hunter /
SHARKS (27-19-6) at BRUINS (30-15-7)

TV -- CSN-California (HD), NESN (HD)

Last 10 --
San Jose 6-3-1; Boston 7-3-0

Season series -- This is the only meeting of the 2010-11 season between these teams. In their most recent matchup, Tim Thomas stopped 41 shots and all four shootout attempts by the Sharks and Zdeno Chara scored in the fourth round of the penalty-shot tiebreaker as Boston claimed a 2-1 win in San Jose on Jan. 14, 2010.

Big story -- Having to battle it out to earn a playoff berth is something new for the Sharks, who have topped 100 points in five of the past six seasons and won four division titles over that span. They started a seven-game road trip that has the potential to make or break their season with a win Wednesday. San Jose is actually the best road team in the NHL since the start of the 2006-07 season, posting a 112-50-18 record away from the Shark Tank.

Team Scope:

Sharks -- Like many of its Western Conference brethren, San Jose is in a position where even a brief streak of wins or losses is enough to cause its position in the standings to fluctuate wildly. Fortunately for the Sharks' playoff hopes, things have been going well of late. Their 4-3 win over the Ducks on Wednesday was their second in as many nights and sixth in their last seven games. Dany Heatley started the scoring just 14 seconds in and sparked a three-goal first period.

"I really liked our start," coach Todd McLellan said. "We thought having played (Tuesday) night, we might have our legs underneath us while they were trying to find theirs, and that's what happened. It wasn't going to be easy tonight. We were fortunate to get out to the good early lead."

Bruins -- It's safe to say Boston asserted itself Thursday in picking up its second win since the All-Star break and third straight overall. Facing a fellow division leader in Dallas, the Bruins dropped the gloves three times in the opening four seconds of the game, then scored a pair of goals in the first 80 seconds to chase former teammate Andrew Raycroft en route to a 6-3 victory over the Stars. Patrice Bergeron scored twice and set up a third goal.

"When our team is emotionally and physically involved, we're a very good team," defenseman Andrew Ference told the Boston Globe. "We've proven that the other way around, too. When it's not there, we lose games. We know that has to be there for us to be successful. So, it was good."

Who's hot -- Devin Setoguchi (3-3-6) and Ryane Clowe (3-2-5) have four-game points streaks going for the Sharks. Joe Pavelski has 2 goals and 3 assists over his last four games. … Bergeron has 11 goals and 9 assists over his last 14 games for the Bruins. Brad Marchand has 4 goals and 4 assists in his last five games. Milan Lucic has 4 goals in his last five games.

Injury report -- San Jose rookie sensation Logan Couture (illness) has missed two games and is day-to-day, while goalie Antero Niittymaki and forward Torrey Mitchell are on injured reserve with lower-body injuries. … Boston center Marc Savard is out indefinitely with a concussion. Forward Daniel Paille was suspended four games for a hit to the head in Thursday's game against Dallas.

Stat pack -- The goaltenders can expect to be busy on Saturday, as the Sharks lead the League with an average of 34.1 shots per game while the Bruins are right behind them at 34.0.

Puck drop -- Playing a team from the Eastern Conference might come as a bit of a relief to San Jose, because if the game is tied after 60 minutes the Sharks won't be giving away a free point to a team they're battling for a playoff spot.

"We know there are going to be close, wild games," forward Joe Thornton said after they edged the Ducks. "You hope there's not too many three-point games to keep everybody bunched up. We'd like to win them outright, the way we did the last two nights."

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