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Red-hot Ducks visit surging Sharks

by Frank Mentesana

DUCKS (44-28-5) at SHARKS (45-23-9)


Last 10: Anaheim 8-2-0; San Jose 6-1-3

Season series: This is the fifth of six meetings this season between the California rivals, with each club claiming a win at home and on the road. It has been a tightly contested season series, as three of the four matchups have been decided by one goal. The Sharks nearly squandered a 3-0 first-period lead in their last meeting on Feb. 2 in Anaheim, but they held off the Ducks for a 4-3 victory.

Big story: Another day in the NHL, and another highly important contest between Western foes, and this one features two of the hottest teams in the League. The Sharks matched their most-lopsided home shutout in franchise history on Thursday, routing the Dallas Stars 6-0 to clinch a playoff spot. Even though their presence in the postseason has been secured, the Sharks are still in a couple of races. With 99 points, they sit one point ahead of Detroit for the No. 2 seed in the West, and they are three points in front of Phoenix for the Pacific Division lead, though Phoenix has played two more games. While the Sharks can now focus on seeding, the Ducks must still worry about getting in the playoffs. A 4-2 victory at Calgary on Wednesday was a tremendous help to their cause. Anaheim has moved into seventh in the West, with one more point than the Blackhawks and four more than the Flames.

Team Scope:

Ducks: The Ducks have won seven of their last eight and are 12-3-0 in their last 15 games. The man who is most responsible for their current streak is Corey Perry, who is on a hot streak of epic proportions himself. The Peterborough, Ont., native scored twice in the win at Calgary, giving him 46 goals on the season to lead the League. Perry was named the NHL's First Star for the month of March after scoring 15 goals and 21 points to lead the Ducks to 11 wins in the month, which ties a franchise record. While he has been the buzz of the hockey world the last four weeks, Perry is quick to deflect attention away from himself.

"I give a lot of credit to (linemates) Ryan (Getzlaf) and Bobby (Ryan)," said Perry, who is tops in the NHL with 23 third-period/OT goals. "They have done everything they can do. They are finding me and I'm just trying to get open in the slot."

Sharks: The Sharks, winners of six of their last seven, have made the playoffs for the seventh straight season and for the 11th time in the past 12. For a franchise that has won three straight division titles and topped 100 points the past four years, the road to the postseason was not as smooth in 2010-2011. From Jan. 3-13, the Sharks lost six straight games, putting them last in the Pacific Division and in a three-way tie for 10th in the West. Since that six-game skid, they've gone 24-4-4, and coach Todd McLellan doesn't want his team to let up now that they have clinched a playoff berth.

"I like where our team is at right now with the pressure we've had to play with the last two months," McLellan said. "We've never had the opportunity to put it on cruise control and I don't want us to push that button at all. I want us to keep going so when that tournament does start, we're at the top of our game and not trying to find it."

Who's hot: Several of Anaheim's forwards are red-hot. Perry has 14 points (10 goals, four assists) during a seven-game point-streak, and Selanne (7 goals, 5 assists) and Getzlaf (one goal, 11 assists) each have 12 points over their last six games. …For the Sharks, Logan Couture has 3 goals in his last two contests, bringing him to 31 on the season and adding to his franchise rookie record. Patrick Marleau -- who has 8 goals and 6 assists in the last eight games -- recorded his 50th career multi-goal game against Dallas and also set a franchise record with 12 shots on goal.

Injury report: For the Sharks, both Scott Nichol and Kent Huskins have been out since February and remain sidelined with upper-body injuries. …On the Ducks' side, they are keeping a close eye on Bobby Ryan, who was involved in a knee-on-knee hit with Mark Giordano towards the end of Wednesday's game. He didn't make it through Friday's practice but hopes to play.

"Bobby skated before practice (on Friday) -- felt a little uncomfortable," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said on the team's website. "He has a brace. He'll skate tomorrow (Saturday). We'll make a decision probably in warmups."

Stat pack: While each team has several hot scorers, each club's netminder is on fire as well, posting some incredible numbers. Antti Niemi is 6-0-1 in his last seven starts for San Jose, and Ray Emery is 6-0-0 with a 1.90 goals-against average since making his Anaheim debut on March 13. Emery could have his hands full with the Sharks' power play, which has converted 11 of 34 (32.4 percent) opportunities in San Jose's last 11 games.

Puck drop: Sharks center Joe Thornton had a pair of assists in Thursday's win and is now three points shy of becoming just the 78th member of the NHL's 1,000-point club.

"He never whines or (complains) about practice at all. He likes being on the ice," McLellan said of his captain. "Throw that together with being 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, having soft hands and a great mind, you've got a hell of a player."

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