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Sharks' pursuit of Pacific crown continues vs. Jets

by Mike Battaglino

JETS (32-32-9) at SHARKS (47-18-9)


Last 10: Winnipeg 2-6-2; San Jose 7-1-2

Season series: The Winnipeg Jets and San Jose Sharks have split two close games of different types. Winnipeg won 5-4 in a shootout at home Nov. 10, and San Jose won 1-0 at home Jan. 23. Sharks goalie Alex Stalock made 20 saves in the shutout.

Big story: San Jose clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs earlier this week, but its work is far from done. The Sharks lead the Anaheim Ducks by two points in the Pacific Division, but the Ducks have two games in hand. San Jose, 11-2-3 in its past 16, is competing for first place in the Western Conference and for the Presidents' Trophy. The Sharks trail the St. Louis Blues by two points (105-103) but have played two more games.

"You just try to get your compete level as high as you can," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said Tuesday after a 5-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers. "We're trying to fight for first in the West, in our conference, and we've been doing a pretty good job all year long. But we just have to continue to get better, stay healthy, and get ready for the next step."

Team Scope:

Jets: Forward Blake Wheeler will be available after escaping injury when he collided with an open door on the Dallas Stars' bench during a 2-1 loss Monday.

"A little scared," Wheeler, who hit his shoulder, said Wednesday. "Once I got back there, I knew nothing serious was wrong. I knew it was just going to be a little banged up, pretty bruised. I knew there was nothing wrong; kind of dodged a bullet there."

The Jets also will have back captain Andrew Ladd after the forward's 233-game streak ended so he could be home for the birth of his daughter. They will not have goalie Ondrej Pavelec (lower body), who practiced Wednesday and could be available to face the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

"We want to see how [Ondrej] feels when he comes in," coach Paul Maurice told the Jets website. "We'll get him through that morning skate. I don't have him playing right now. I mean, he's been off for 11 days. But if he can get through today, feel good tomorrow, do the same thing, then we'll start talking about L.A."

Winnipeg is nine points behind the Phoenix Coyotes for the second Western Conference wild card. Wheeler said the Jets can learn some things from the Sharks.

"They're a team that we can kind of look at and try to aim for being like them," Wheeler said. "They're a big fast team who really doesn't give the other team much defensively and they capitalize on other team's turnovers. So I think if we can try to model our game after what they do well, I think it'll help us going forward."

Sharks: San Jose is in the playoffs for a 10th straight season, and if the Detroit Red Wings fail in their effort to make it for a 23rd straight time, the Sharks will have the longest run in the NHL. They have won their division five times in the previous nine seasons.

"It's been a long year, and a tough year, but we feel like we're hitting our groove," Thornton told the Sharks website. "We've been playing well as a team, and we know our structure, and we feel like we can beat anybody."

Thornton will become the 100th NHL player to appear in 1,200 regular-season games. He had two assists against the Oilers, giving him 60 for the season, the seventh time he has reached that number. One of them Tuesday came on the power play, when the Sharks went 3-for-3.

"As long as we're moving around, moving the puck around, we're going to be successful," Thornton said.

Who's hot: Jets forward Bryan Little has a three-game point streak. Defenseman Tobias Enstrom has seven points in six games. Forward Evander Kane has four points in five. … Sharks forward Joe Pavelski scored his third hat trick of the season Tuesday; his 37 goals are tied for second in the League with Corey Perry of the Ducks, behind the 48 of Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. Forward Marty Havlat has five of his nine goals this season in the past 10 games.

Injury report: Jets forwards Chris Thorburn (ankle), Mark Scheifele (knee) and James Wright (ankle) are out. … Sharks forward Adam Burish (hand) was injured Tuesday, had a medical procedure Wednesday, and is out indefinitely. Forward Logan Couture (lower body) did not play Tuesday after being injured Monday. Forwards Raffi Torres (knee) and Tomas Hertl (knee) are out.

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