Though the Pacific Division crown is theirs, the San Jose Sharks were not playing at a playoff-caliber level until more recently.
San Jose looks to continue its resurgence Saturday afternoon when it hosts a struggling Dallas Stars club that snapped a losing streak in its visit to HP Pavilion earlier this month.
The Sharks (46-14-10) look for their third straight home victory following Thursday's 3-2 shootout win over Nashville. Jonathan Cheechoo, moved to the first line with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau due to Ryane Clowe's minor lower-body surgery, scored in the third round of the shootout as San Jose improved to an NHL-best 28-3-4 at home.
Cheechoo, who has nine goals all season just three years after leading the league with 56, has gone 13 consecutive regular-season games without a goal.
"I've got some chances, but I've been getting chances for a while now, so I've got to start putting them in," said Cheechoo, who has one goal in four games against Dallas this season. "I'm happy with the way we played. We've just got to keep moving forward, keep building on this."
After a 1-4-1 slide from Feb. 28-March 12, the Sharks are 3-1-0.
A major reason for this turnaround has been the play of Evgeni Nabokov. San Jose dropped five of seven while he was out with an upper-body injury. Since returning March 14 against Los Angeles, Nabokov is 3-0-0 with a 1.72 goals-against average.
The nine-year veteran went 3-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA to help San Jose sweep all three of its games in Dallas this season. The Sharks won all four meetings before dropping the most recent one as Nabokov was sidelined by the flu in a 4-1 home loss March 3.
That victory snapped Dallas' five-game slide overall. The Stars have since lost two straight and four of six, part of their 4-9-1 record since Feb. 21.
Dallas (33-30-8), in danger of missing the postseason for the first time in four years, is three points out of the Western Conference's eighth and final playoff spot.
"It's not good when you lose right now," Marty Turco said following Wednesday's 2-1 defeat at Calgary - the Stars' third consecutive road loss. "At this time of year, the way things are ... by winning, you're not going to separate yourself but by losing you will. We're not doing ourselves any favors and we're going to need some help to get in now."
Turco is 4-8-1 with a 2.90 goals-against average following a 10-3-0 stretch from Jan. 21-Feb. 19.
Turco posted a 1.51 GAA in Dallas' six-game conference semifinal series victory over the Sharks last season, but he lost the first four meetings this season before making 24 saves in the March 3 win.
Mike Modano had a goal and an assist in that victory. He needs one goal Saturday to tie Maurice Richard for 26th place all-time with 544 goals.
Modano has 23 goals and 47 assists in 76 career games versus the Sharks.