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GAME: San Jose Sharks (30-16-11-5) at Vancouver Canucks (33-19-7-4).

TIME: Thursday, 10 p.m. EST.

Coming off the best game of his young career, Daniel Sedin looks to help keep the Vancouver Canucks on track when they face the Pacific Division-leading San Jose Sharks at GM Place.

Sedin scored four goals Tuesday night to power the Canucks to a 4-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings. He scored his third goal with 6:58 remaining for his first career hat trick, then added an empty netter with 34 seconds left.

The 23-year-old Swedish winger has nine goals and 14 points in his last nine games.

"If you don't get more confidence from this, I don't know when you'll get confidence," said Sedin, in his fourth NHL season.

Sedin has provided a steady complement to All-Star forwards Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi. He has already reached career highs with 30 assists and 46 points, and is four goals shy of matching his season-best total of 20, set in 2000-01.

"When he's hot, he's hot," Canucks defenseman Marek Malik said after setting up the first two goals. "He seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Good things happen. He's got talent for sure. It looks like today was his day."

The win was just the third in 10 games for the Canucks, who despite their struggles are just three points behind first-place Colorado in the Northwest Division and four behind the Red Wings for the top spot in the West.

All three of the victories have come against top teams - the Canucks also beat the Avalanche and the New Jersey Devils - while five of the seven losses have been against non-playoff clubs.

"Now we know we can win if we work hard against any team in the league," Sedin said. "I think that's the recipe now, to work hard."

Sedin and the Canucks may have their hands full with the Sharks, whose goaltenders have been superb in two victories over Vancouver this season. Vesa Toskala stopped 37 shots in a 2-1 win at GM Place on Jan. 5, and Evgeni Nabokov made 34 saves in a 3-1 win in San Jose on Jan. 15.

The Sharks improved to 4-1 in their last five games with a 4-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday.

Jonathan Cheechoo scored twice in the third period, including a penalty shot after being pulled down on a breakaway, and Nabokov made 24 saves as the Sharks returned from a 3-3 road trip to win their fifth straight home game.

Marco Sturm scored a first-period goal to extend his point streak to five games. Sturm has six goals and five assists in San Jose's nine contests in February.

Following Thursday's matchup, the Sharks return to HP Pavilion for three games against Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Montreal.

STANDINGS: Sharks - 76 points, 1st place, Pacific Division. Canucks - 77 points, 2nd place, 3 PB, Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Sharks - Patrick Marleau, 26 goals and 45 points; Vincent Damphousse, 22 assists; Scott Parker, 91 PIM. Canucks - Naslund, 30 goals and 68 points; Naslund and Bertuzzi, 38 assists; Jarkko Ruutu, 116 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Feb. 24): Sharks - Power play: 15.3 percent (40 for 261), 19th in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.3 percent (214 for 251), 7th. Canucks - Power play: 15.7 percent (48 for 305), 18th. Penalty killing: 86 percent (234 for 272), 1st.

GOALTENDERS: Sharks - Nabokov (20-15-7, 7 SO, 2.05 GAA); Toskala (10-6-4, 2.07). Canucks - Dan Cloutier (25-18-3, 4, 2.27); Johan Hedberg (6-4-2, 1, 2.42).

SEASON SERIES: Sharks, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 15; Sharks, 3-1. At San Jose, Calif., Alex Korolyuk, Alyn McCauley and Cheechoo scored for the Sharks.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sharks - 15-11-4-3 on the road; Canucks - 15-10-5-0 at home.

Associated Press
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