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Stars, Sharks meet in Western Conference showdown

by Adam Schwartz
After a busy weekend, there is just one game Monday night, as the Stars try to strengthen their hold on a playoff spot in the chaotic Western Conference when they face the Sharks (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN2), who lead the conference by three points.

The Sharks have won the previous three meetings between the teams, but they haven't clashed since a 3-1 San Jose win Dec. 29 at Dallas. Since then, however, Dallas has a 15-7-2 record and has ascended to seventh place in the conference with 65 points. 

Here's what to keep an eye out for:

* Dallas left wing Loui Eriksson, whose 27 goals is nine more than any teammate, has scored 13 more goals than he did all of last season in just 58 games. Eriksson, who was just the third Stars player to score in his first NHL game -- Oct. 4, 2006 against Colorado -- since the team moved to Dallas, was averaging just 14:01 of ice time last season, but is averaging 19:35 this season, including a jump from an average of 1:32 of power-play ice time last season to 2:53 this season.

* Stars center Mike Ribeiro, who is third among Pacific Division players with 39 assists, has 24 assists at home. Ribeiro, who has had 40 assists in three of his last four seasons, has 11 assists, 18 points and a plus-8 rating in 24 career games against the Sharks, but has just 1 assist in three games against San Jose this season. Ribeiro, who is tied for fifth on the team with 13 goals, has been held without a goal in 12 of his last 13 games.

* Dallas goalie Marty Turco, who leads the Pacific Division with 1,328 saves, hasn't allowed more than three goals in a game in his last 16 games and is 11-5-0 during that span. Turco, who broke Cesare Maniago's franchise record of 420 games played by a goalie earlier this season, is just two wins shy of his sixth consecutive 30-win season.

* The Stars, who are the only Western Conference team to allow just one shorthanded goal, have the second-worst power play in the League at just 13.2 percent. Dallas, which is 15-10-4 when outshooting their opponent, is 14-11-3 when being outshot.

* San Jose center Patrick Marleau, who played for the Western Conference at the All-Star Game in Montreal, has 7 goals and 10 points in his last seven games, including four multiple-point games. Marleau, who had a minus-19 rating last season, currently leads the Pacific Division with a plus-25 rating.

* Sharks right wing Ryane Clowe, who is playing on a line with Joe Pavelski and Milan Michalek, snapped his seven-game goal drought Saturday in San Jose's 3-1 win against the Thrashers. Clowe, who is one of three Sharks with at least 20 goals, has 7 assists and 9 points in 10 career games against the Stars, including a goal and 4 assists in three games this season.      

* San Jose center Joe Thornton, who has led the League in assists in each of the last three seasons, leads the Western Conference and is third in the League with 53 assists. Thornton, whose favorite vacation spot is Thailand, has 8 assists and 10 points in his last five games.

* Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle, who leads Pacific Division defensemen with 43 points, has been a minus player in just one of his last 12 games, posting a plus-9 rating during that span.

* San Jose, which leads the League with 89 points, has lost just two home games in regulation. The Sharks, who are 5-6-3 when trailing after two periods, are 20-1-2 when entering the first intermission with the lead. 

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