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Sharks seek season sweep of sliding Ducks

by Brian Hunter
SHARKS (43-14-10) at DUCKS (30-29-8)

Last 10: San Jose 6-3-1; Anaheim 3-6-1

Season series: This is the sixth and final regular-season meeting between these Pacific Division rivals who clashed in the first round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs. San Jose has gotten its share of payback for getting ousted by eighth-seeded Anaheim in a major upset, coming back to win all five matchups this season and outscoring the Ducks by a 19-7 margin. Patrick Marleau of the Sharks leads all scorers with five goals. Joe Thornton has chipped in four.

Big story:
Anaheim won six of eight games heading into the Olympic break, providing reason to believe the Ducks might make another late run into the postseason. But they've gone 0-4-1 since play resumed and watched as those hopes all but faded away. San Jose, on the other hand, enters Sunday holding a three-point lead over Chicago for the top seed in the Western Conference. Each team has 15 games remaining.

Team Scope:

After becoming the first team in NHL history to record three straight regulation wins when trailing entering the third period, San Jose got a taste of its own medicine on Saturday. Florida, in a similar position to Anaheim as far as the East playoff race is concerned, rallied from a 2-0 deficit after one period and 2-1 after two to hand the Sharks a 3-2 overtime loss. Bryan Allen beat backup goalie Thomas Greiss with 2:14 remaining.

"We accomplished a couple of things tonight. We came out and we had a little fire in our belly and we played extremely hard in the first period," coach Todd McLellan said. "We let it get away from us, though, and that's the inconsistency in our game right now."

Jonas Hiller gave up 14 goals in four starts out of the break. He was on top of his game Friday, stopping 27 of 28 shots, but the one that beat him was all it took. Shea Weber scored on a Nashville power play late in the first period and the Predators handed the Ducks a 1-0 setback at Honda Center.

"We were in the hockey game," forward Ryan Getzlaf said. "We had some chances to score goals and we didn't. The overall desperation has to go up and the determination to get those goals. We're at a point where the puck is not bouncing our way. We have to work to make it bounce our way."

Who's hot:
Marleau has four consecutive multi-point games for the Sharks, totaling three goals and five assists. Joe Pavelski has three goals and three assists during a three-game points streak. Ryane Clowe has a goal and three assists during a three-game points streak.

Injury report:
San Jose defenseman Douglas Murray missed Saturday's game with a lower-body injury and is questionable. Fellow blueliner Marc-Edouard Vlasic is on injured reserve with a knee injury. … Anaheim forward Joffrey Lupul has been out since having back surgery in December.

Stat pack: Clowe opened the scoring Saturday, the first time in 10 games the Sharks had not allowed the game's first goal. … Lubomir Visnovsky has two goals in four games since the Ducks acquired him from the Oilers and his 34 points tie him with Saku Koivu for fifth on the team in scoring.

Puck drop:
Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle expressed concern after Friday's game that losing has started to take its toll on the Ducks.

"I still think as a group we don’t seem to be engaged emotionally in the hockey game," he said. "There is for spurts, but not for 60 minutes right now. That is what has been really been frustrating for everybody. The bench is quiet. The room is quiet. It's like we're waiting for something bad to happen."

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