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Seven-game homestand could be pivotal for Sharks

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks open a seven-game homestand Wednesday night against the Anaheim Ducks, and no one has to tell them what's on the line during this upcoming stretch at HP Pavilion.

"It's more than important," forward Ryane Clowe said after the Sharks' morning skate. "It's probably crucial, the fact of where the standings are, where we sit and where this team wants to go. So if you're going to make a push with the amount of games we have left, it's crucial. It's probably a make-or-break home series."

The Sharks haven't missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2003, but with just 17 games remaining in their schedule, they'll undoubtedly need a strong homestand to avoid an early vacation.

San Jose hasn't missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2003, but with just 17 games remaining in their schedule, they'll undoubtedly need a strong homestand to avoid an early vacation. (Photo: Don Smith/NHLI)

With 34 points, the Sharks are tied with Nashville for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West -- San Jose has the edge, for now, based on having played two fewer games than the Predators. Dallas (33), Columbus (33), Edmonton (31), Phoenix (30) and Calgary (28) are each six or fewer points behind.

"It's huge," Sharks forward Logan Couture said of the homestand. "We've played pretty well at home so far this year. So, looking to continue that. Obviously it's tough going on the road like we did, but that's the way the schedule works. So, seven in a row at home. Got to start off with a win tonight."

The Sharks played 15 of their past 20 games on the road, where they've struggled for most of the season, going 6-10-2. But they're 8-1-4 at home, notching at least one point in all but one game.

"We feel good and confident at home, but we haven't been home in a while so we have to re-establish that game," Sharks forward Patrick Marleau said.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said his team has to "make hay" during this seven-game stretch and string some wins together.

"This is a huge, huge chunk of our season right now," McLellan said. "It's nice to start it coming in off a win on the road. But 14 points lie ahead of us here at home. If we hope to get where we'd like to get to, we're going to have to be very productive here. There's no doubt about it."

The Sharks are coming off a 5-3 win Monday night against the Ducks at Anaheim. Now they'll try to win two straight games for just the second time since Jan. 31 when they capped a seven-game streak to start to season with a 3-2 shootout victory over Edmonton.

"We've got to start winning games in a row," Couture said. "We haven't done that in a while, string a couple together. It's good that we're back home now because we enjoy playing here in this building. So it's a good time to win two in a row.''

The Sharks won't face any pushovers during their seven-game home stand, which starts with back-to-back games against Anaheim and the surging Detroit Red Wings. After that they'll face Phoenix, Vancouver, Minnesota, Calgary and Dallas. The first four games, incidentally, come before the April 3 trade deadline and could have an effect on how Sharks general manager Doug Wilson responds.

"At least we've established a (good) home record, if that means anything," Clowe said. "With how tough it is to win on the road these days, you have to be successful at home. You've got seven in a row. It's an opportunity to make a move. There's no other way to put it. It's time to make a move."

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