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Sharks trying to stamp ninth straight trip to playoffs

by Eric Gilmore /

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks can clinch their ninth straight trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs with one point Tuesday night in their final regular-season home game against the Dallas Stars.

The Sharks, who are in fifth place in the Western Conference with 55 points, know that point won't come easily against a team that has defeated them three straight times this season and is fighting for its playoff life.

"They played well against us all year," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "I think our power play and penalty kill kind of struggled against them all year. Tonight would be the battle of the special teams. If we could win that, we'll probably get the two points."

The Sharks are 16-2-5 at home but are coming off a 4-3 loss Sunday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets. San Jose wants to secure its playoff spot before hitting the road for games at the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday and Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

"We want to do it at home, in front of the fans," Sharks center Logan Couture said. "Obviously it's our last home game of the year during the regular season. It would be a perfect night to clinch a playoff spot."

The Stars are in 10th place in the West with 48 points, three behind eighth-place Columbus and two behind the Detroit Red Wings.

"I know there's a lot of history between these two teams, being in the same division," Dallas center Jamie Benn said of the Stars and Sharks. "Probably some hatred for each other. So these ones are easy to get up for. We've played good as a team against these guys."

The Sharks won't have to deal with Stars rookie wing Alex Chiasson, who will miss his fourth straight game since suffering a shoulder injury against the Chicago Blackhawks. Chiasson scored two goals against the Sharks on April 7 at HP Pavilion in the Stars' 5-4 shootout win. Then on April 12 at American Airlines Center, Chiasson scored the game-winner in a 2-1 Dallas victory over San Jose. He has six goals in seven games this season.

Chiasson skated Tuesday morning and was the last Stars player off the ice. He took shots and worked hard on his conditioning.

"Right now my injury feels pretty good," Chiasson said. "I've just got to focus on getting my legs and my lungs back. I haven't skated much since that Chicago game. I had one little skate, and today was really my first skate. ... I want to help this team make it to the playoffs."

Chiasson's next test will be to see "whether he can take a hit or not," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. "He's close."

Here's how the lineups could look when the Sharks face the Stars at HP Pavilion:


TJ Galiardi - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Martin Havlat

Raffi Torres - Joe Pavelski - Tommy Wingels

Andrew Desjardins - Scott Gomez - Adam Burish

Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun

Brad Stuart - Scott Hannan

Antti Niemi

Thomas Greiss

Notes: Defenseman Jason Demers (lower body) will miss his second straight game. He wasn't on the ice Tuesday morning for an optional skate and left HP Pavilion wearing a walking boot on his left foot.


Ray Whitney - Jamie Benn - Loui Eriksson

Reilly Smith - Cody Eakin - Ryan Garbutt

Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Erik Cole

Antoine Roussel - Tom Wandell - Lane MacDermid

Trevor Daley - Stephane Robidas

Brenden Dillon - Alex Goligoski

Aaron Rome - Philip Larsen

Kari Lehtonen

Richard Bachman

Notes: Daley, who's been dealing with an upper-body injury, didn't skate Tuesday morning, but Gulutzan said he expects him to be in the lineup.

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