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Stars, Sharks look to keep slim playoff hopes alive

by Eric Gilmore /

STARS (38-31-10) at SHARKS (39-31-9)


SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars each are still barely alive in the race for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but that could change even before their game begins at SAP Center on Monday.

A victory by the Winnipeg Jets against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center would eliminate the Sharks and Stars. That game is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET; the puck drops in San Jose at 10:30 p.m. ET.

A road victory by the Los Angeles Kings against the Vancouver Canucks would also eliminate the Sharks and Stars. The Kings' game at Rogers Arena starts at 10 p.m. ET.

With 87 points and three games remaining, the Sharks trail the Kings and Jets by five points for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. Dallas, which also has three games left, trails the Kings and Jets by six points. The Kings and Jets each have four games remaining.

"There's that small chance, so there's two points available tonight," Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said after the morning skate. "There's not much else we can look for. We're in this position because of how we played. We just got to keep playing."

The Sharks, who have made the playoffs 10 straight seasons, would be eliminated from playoff contention with a regulation loss even if the Kings and Jets lose.

Former San Jose defenseman Jason Demers will face the Sharks for the first time at SAP Center since being traded to Dallas for defenseman Brenden Dillon on Nov. 21.

"We've been battling all year in Dallas, so it's been tough, and they've been kind of in the same boat as us in terms of leaving games on the table," Demers said of the Sharks. "I still talk to some of the guys. There are guys that are frustrated. It's uncharted territory for them. It's not controlling your own destiny."

Dallas would be eliminated from postseason contention with a loss in any fashion even if the Kings and Jets each lose.

It's the Sharks' final regular-season home game, and forward Bryan Lerg will make his NHL debut. Lerg, 29, was called up from Worcester of the American Hockey League and will skate on the fourth line.

"I've been waiting seven years for this," Lerg said. "It's been a long, long road. The last two years I blew out both my knees. So it's been frustrating. Didn't get to play much hockey. Healthy season so far and our team's doing good down there. I'm just excited to be here and have this opportunity. Dream come true."

The 5-foot-10 Lerg had 41 points and 28 assists, each a team high, as well as 13 goals for Worcester, where he was captain. He has played 346 AHL games.

Lerg described himself as a "small, gritty forward" who can also play with skill.

"I play a lot bigger than my size," Lerg said. "I know guys are probably looking at me wondering, '5-9, 5-10 -- what's this guy doing here?' But I play way bigger than I am. I'll finish hits. I'll go to the hard areas. I use my skill and creativity too."

Lerg will take Barclay Goodrow's place on the fourth line. Goodrow skated on the second line and is expected to replace Tomas Hertl, who missed the morning skate because of an illness that has affected many Sharks.


Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Tyler Seguin

Patrick Eaves - Jason Spezza - Shawn Horcoff

Antoine Roussel - Vernon Fiddler - Ryan Garbutt

Travis Moen - Colton Sceviour - Valeri Nichushkin

Alex Goligoski - John Klingberg

Jyrki Jokipakka - Trevor Daley

Jordie Benn - Jason Demers

Jhonas Enroth

Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Patrick Nemeth, Ales Hemsky

Injured: None


Melker Karlsson - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Barclay Goodrow

Matt Nieto - Chris Tierney - Tommy Wingels

Mike Brown - Ben Smith - Bryan Lerg

Brenden Dillon - Justin Braun

Kyle Stollery - Brent Burns

Matt Irwin - Taylor Fedun

Alex Stalock

Antti Niemi

Scratched: John Scott

Injured: Raffi Torres (knee), Mirco Mueller (left hand), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (lower body), Scott Hannan (head), Tomas Hertl (illness)

Status report: Mueller will miss his sixth straight game, Vlasic his fifth straight, and Hannan his third straight. ... Horcoff will return to the lineup after missing two games because of illness. The Stars had an optional skate, so it's unclear on which line Horcoff will play, but Stars coach Lindy Ruff said he expects to keep his bottom two lines together after each had a solid game against the Nashville Predators on Saturday. ... Each team will start its backup goalie. Enroth made 33 saves in Dallas' 4-3 overtime victory against Nashville. Stalock is 2-0-1 in his past three starts.

Who's hot: Seguin has a four-game point streak (four goals, three assists). ... Moen has two goals and one assist the past two games. ... Couture has eight points (4-4-8) over his past six games. ... Tierney has a three-game point streak (two goals, two assists).

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