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Stars try to jump Sharks again

by Adam Schwartz

Milan Michalek and the San Jose Sharks look to extend their
season against Marty Turco and the Dallas Stars in Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinal series tonight in San Jose.
There’s a lone game in the NHL Friday night as the second round starts to draw to a close this weekend.

At 10 p.m., the Dallas Stars will attempt to advance to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 1999, but the San Jose Sharks will try to stave off elimination for the second straight game after they avoided being swept in Game 4. 

Here’s what to watch:

* Dallas center Stu Barnes, who is playing in the playoffs for the 12th time, went to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996 with the Florida Panthers and 1999 with the Buffalo Sabres. He has had a lower plus-minus rating than minus-1 in just one playoff season. Barnes averaged 13:37 of ice time during the regular season, but is averaging 15:32 in the playoffs.

* Stars center Mike Ribeiro, who recorded a career-high 83 points this season – 18 more than his previous high – has three goals and nine assists for 12 points and a plus-7 rating in 11 combined regular-season and playoff games against San Jose this season. Ribeiro, who never had totaled more than three points in one playoff season, has three goals and 10 assists for 13 points in Dallas’ first 10 playoff games this season.

* Dallas left wing Loui Eriksson, whose favorite movie is Braveheart, had three goals and two assists for five points in the Stars’ six-game first-round triumph against the Anaheim Ducks, but has just one assist in four games against the Sharks. Eriksson, who has played more than 18 minutes just twice during in the Stars’ 10 playoff games, had played in just four playoff games prior to this season.

* Stars goalie Marty Turco, whose 1.88 goals-against average is the third-best in the playoffs, has faced more than 30 shots in just two of 10 games in the first two rounds. Turco, who never has played in a conference final, has a GAA under 2.00 for the second consecutive playoff season.

* Dallas right wing Jere Lehtinen, who had two goals and four assists for six points in the first round, has just one goal in four games against the Sharks, but has a plus-3 rating in the four games. Lehtinen, who had 37 points in 48 games during the regular season, has played at least 22 minutes in two of the four games in this series.

* The Stars have allowed an average of two goals per game – good enough for second in the NHL – and have scored four more third-period goals than any team in the League, with 17. The Stars franchise, which has been in the Stanley Cup Final four times, has won one Stanley Cup, in 1999, when they defeated the Buffalo Sabres in six games.

* San Jose center Joe Thornton, who had two goals and five assists for seven points in the first round, has just two assists in four games in the second round. Thornton, who led the NHL with 67 assists during the regular season, never has recorded more than 10 assists in one playoff season and never has been to a conference final.

* The Sharks, whose average of 23 shots against per game is the fewest in the League, have scored the fewest goals among the remaining teams with 26. San Jose, which has outshot the Stars in three of the four games in this series, hasn’t scored more than two goals in any game against the Stars.

* Sharks center Patrick Marleau, who had no points and a minus-3 rating in the first two games of the Dallas series, has two goals and a plus-2 rating in the last two games. Marleau, who has played at least 20 minutes in every game against Dallas, has been to the Western Conference Final once, in 2004, when the Sharks were ousted by the Calgary Flames

* San Jose right wing Mike Grier, who is relied upon by coach Ron Wilson to play against the opposition’s best offensive players, has a minus-3 rating in this series. Grier, whose father and brother both work for National Football League teams, has played more than 12 minutes in just one game against Dallas.

* After recording no points in the first round, Sharks left wing Milan Michalek has three goals against Dallas, including the game-winning goal in Game 4 that kept the Sharks from elimination. Michalek, whose favorite band is U2, scored the second-most goals on the team during the regular season with 24.

* San Jose center Joe Pavelski, who averaged 0.49 points per game during the regular season, is averaging 0.73 points per game during the playoffs. Pavelski, whose hockey idol growing up was Brett Hull, has just one goal in four games against Dallas.   
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