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Stars-Sharks Preview

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GAME: Dallas Stars (44-19-3) at San Jose Sharks (32-23-9).

TIME: Saturday, 4 p.m. EST.

The San Jose Sharks have boosted their playoff hopes by staying perfect on a six-game homestand. Finishing it without a loss won't be so easy.

The Sharks take a four-game winning streak into the final two games, the first of which comes against the Pacific Division-leading Dallas Stars.

Following this contest, San Jose faces a Colorado team which stands fifth in the Western Conference. While the Sharks will be playing for a second straight night, the Avalanche will have had five days off.

Before Colorado visits HP Pavilion on Sunday, San Jose tries to knock off a Dallas club which has won three straight and six of seven. The Sharks are three points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

San Jose won the first meeting this season with Dallas, but lost the next three before beating the Stars 6-3 on Feb. 10.

The Sharks improved to 4-0 on their homestand Thursday by taking care of a team at the bottom of the West standings. Tom Preissing and rookie Steve Bernier each scored twice in a 5-2 win over the St. Louis Blues.

"These games scare you," San Jose coach Ron Wilson said. "Because they're playing loose and easy as opposed to us because we're playing for a playoff spot."

Preissing notched the first two-goal game of his NHL career while tying the score 2-2 early in the second period. The first of Bernier's two goals came midway through the period and turned out to be the game-winner.

"We did come out sluggish, but we regrouped in the locker room and talked about how we needed this game," Preissing said. "We came out with a lot better effort in the final two periods."

Dallas dominated from the start in its most recent game, a 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday. Jason Arnott scored twice in the game's first six minutes and assisted on Stu Barnes' goal in the second period.

Mike Modano also scored and Marty Turco made 24 saves to post his NHL-leading 35th win for Dallas, which moved 14 points ahead of second-place Los Angeles in the Pacific.

"One of the ways to make playoffs is to win your division," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "That was something we set out to do right from the start. We've got to keep pushing in that direction."

STANDINGS: Stars - 91 points, 1st place, Pacific Division. Sharks - 73 points, 4th place, 18 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Stars - Jere Lehtinen, 29 goals; Sergei Zubov, 49 assists; Arnott and Modano, 64 points; Brenden Morrow, 154 PIM. Sharks - Jonathan Cheechoo, 41 goals; Joe Thornton, 72 assists and 97 points; Mark Smith, 83 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Stars - Power play: 16.6 percent (68 for 411), 20th in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.5 percent (339 for 406), 12th. Sharks - Power play: 17.7 percent (69 for 389), 15th (tied). Penalty killing: 81.4 percent (258 for 317), 21st.

GOALTENDERS: Stars - Turco (35-16-3, 3 SO, 2.54 GAA); Johan Hedberg (9-3-0, 2.75). Sharks - Evgeni Nabokov (14-16-7, 1, 2.98); Vesa Toskala (13-6-2, 2.84).

SEASON SERIES: Stars, 3-2.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 10; Sharks, 6-3. At San Jose, Calif., Cheechoo scored back-to-back goals to open the second period, breaking a 1-1 tie and starting a run of four straight goals by the Sharks.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Stars - 22-9-2 on the road; Sharks - 21-7-5 at home.

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