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Surging Stars host sizzling Sharks

by Mike Battaglino /

SHARKS (21-12-7) at STARS (20-17-3)


Last 10: San Jose 8-1-1; Dallas 6-4-0

Season series: This is the third of four meetings, with the last April 23 at HP Pavilion. The Dallas Stars won the first two, 3-1 on Feb. 23 and 5-4 in a shootout on Sunday.

Big story: On March 20, the San Jose Sharks were in eighth place in the Western Conference, tied with two teams slotted below them at 30 points. Now they can chase home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- they enter Saturday trailing the fourth-place Los Angeles Kings by one point with a game in hand, and are six points clear of ninth place.

"I don't think there's any comfort in a seven- or an eight-point lead right now," coach Todd McLellan told CSN Bay Area on Thursday. "Four or five games from now, if you still have it, I think that's the big thing. So right now the focus is just winning to solidify a [playoff] spot, and as we move on, if we're lucky enough, we'll start taking about home ice."

Dallas, after a 5-2 road win against the Nashville Predators on Friday, are among a group of five teams with 46 to 43 points battling for seventh and eighth place in the West.

"We're not getting too far ahead of ourselves," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan told Fox Sports Southwest. "Every day is a battle and every game day we're focused. We're just trying to claw our way into one of those top eight spots."

Team Scope:

Sharks: Prior to the NHL Trade Deadline on April 3, San Jose parted with forwards Ryane Clowe and Michal Handzus and defenseman Douglas Murray, all of whom were at least 6-foot-2 and at least 215 pounds. Starting with the trade of Murray on March 25, the Sharks are 8-1-1.

"We're playing with a little more speed, a little more tempo, we're getting pucks up the ice a little bit quicker, spending less time in our zone, more time in the other team's zone," McLellan said. "I'm not sure if that's completely due to the change as far as personnel, or the change in mindset that we need to play a certain way and everybody buying into it."

San Jose is 7-4 in shootouts, including a 3-2 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday. Forward Logan Couture has scored on four of five attempts.

"I think the big thing with those is just confidence, go in knowing that you're going to score, and be confident in the move you're going to do," Couture said.

Stars: Dallas also changed its makeup before the deadline, trading forwards Jaromir Jagr, Brenden Morrow, Derek Roy and Michael Ryder. The Stars have won all four games after April 3, outscoring their opponents 18-8.

"The last couple weeks the guys have felt that people have written them off and we haven't liked that very much," Gulutzan said. "And we just keep playing for each other in that locker room."

Rookie Alex Chiasson (five goals in his first five NHL games) and veteran Vernon Fiddler (nine points in five games after six in 33) have made unexpected contributions.

"It just seems like everybody's pulling on the same rope, and it seems like we're firing on all cylinders," Fiddler said.

Goalie Richard Bachman played against Nashville in place of Kari Lehtonen (groin) Friday and made 26 saves in his first start since Feb. 26.

"I think right now, at this time of the year, no matter what it is, a back-to-back or a three-in-three, you get yourself up and you get ready to play, because it's life or death for us right now," Bachman said. "No matter what it is you have to come ready to play."

Who's hot: Sharks forward Brent Burns has eight points in his past 10 games. Couture has five points in his past five games. … Stars forward Ray Whitney has six points in his past three games, 22 in 24 games played this season.

Injury report: The Sharks activated forward Tim Kennedy from injured reserve this week but he did not play Thursday. Defenseman Scott Hannan (neck) remains out. … Lehtonen is day-to-day. Stars forward Land MacDermid (chest) is out.

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