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Sharks face Canucks hungry for more

San Jose motivated to capture Pacific Division

by Eric Gilmore / NHL.com Correspondent

CANUCKS (27-36-13) at SHARKS (43-28-6)

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET; CSN-CA, SNP, NHL.TV

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks have already clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but they won't lack motivation when they play the Vancouver Canucks at SAP Center on Thursday.

"I feel our goal is we still want to give ourselves a chance to win the [Pacific] Division, and to do that, we have to win probably all of our games," San Jose center Logan Couture said after an optional morning skate at Sharks Ice.

San Jose trails the first-place Anaheim Ducks by four points and the Los Angeles Kings by three in the Pacific. The Sharks have five games remaining, and the Ducks and Kings each have six.

"We still got some games left so a lot of things can happen, a lot of strange things can happen," Sharks center Joe Thornton said. "We're going to try and win every game and see what happens at the end of the year."

Forward Joel Ward will return to the lineup after missing one game with an undisclosed minor injury. 

"It was good to get a couple days [off] for sure," Ward said. "I feel more refreshed, I guess you can say. I had a couple of bumps here and there. Pretty much maintenance stuff. Nothing out of the ordinary."

The Sharks defeated the Canucks 4-1 at Rogers Arena on Tuesday, extending Vancouver's losing streak to nine games. The Canucks, however, have won five straight games in San Jose.

Canucks second-line forward Jake Virtanen will serve the first game of a two-game suspension for a late hit early in the second period on Sharks defenseman Roman Polak. Linden Vey, who missed the game Tuesday with an upper-body injury, will return to the lineup.

"It was a bit of a late hit," Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said. "You can't do that. He has to learn from it. We don't want him to change his game. We want him to play hard. He's got to keep playing hard. He's just got to be smart."

Polak left the ice briefly after Virtanen's hit but returned to finish the game and will be in the lineup Thursday.

"He just knocked the wind out of me," Polak said. "I just couldn't breathe. That's why I was just kind of laying there, taking my time, tried to breathe a little bit again. It's always good if you're breathing."

Canucks defenseman Christopher Tanev returns after missing six games with an upper-body injury. He was paired with Ben Hutton during Vancouver's morning skate at SAP Center.

"It's nice to be back," Tanev said. "It's no fun watching. I've had some good skates and good practices, so I feel like I'm in good shape, but we'll see tonight."

Here are the projected lineups:

CANUCKS

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Jannik Hansen

Sven Baertschi - Markus Granlund - Linden Vey

Chris Higgins - Bo Horvat - Alexandre Burrows

Jared McCann - Brendan Gaunce - Emerson Etem

Dan Hamhuis - Yannick Weber

Ben Hutton - Christopher Tanev

Matt Bartkowski - Alex Biega

Ryan Miller

Jacob Markstrom

Injured: Nikita Tryamkin (ankle), Derek Dorsett (upper body), Radim Vrbata (lower body), Luca Sbisa (upper body), Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alexander Edler (fractured tibia)

Scratched: Andrey Pedan

Suspended: Jake Virtanen

SHARKS

Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Joonas Donskoi - Logan Couture - Joel Ward

Melker Karlsson - Patrick Marleau - Tommy Wingels

Nick Spaling - Chris Tierney - Dainius Zubrus

Paul Martin - Brent Burns

Dylan DeMelo - Justin Braun

Brenden Dillon - Roman Polak

Martin Jones

James Reimer

Injured: Marc-Edouard Vlasic (lower body), Matt Nieto (broken knuckle), Matt Tennyson (head)

Scratched: Micheal Haley

Status report: Tryamkin (ankle) missed the game Tuesday but skated Thursday. Desjardins said there's a chance he could return to the lineup. ... Haley was one of the last Sharks off the ice and will likely be a healthy scratch. ... Jones was the Sharks' first goalie off the ice and is expected to start for the third time in the past four games. ... Miller, who backed up Markstrom on Tuesday, will start for the Canucks. ... Vlasic will miss his eighth straight game and has yet to skate since he was injured, but he will travel with the Sharks on their upcoming two-game road trip that begins Saturday at the Nashville Predators. "He's going to travel with us, which is good news," Sharks assistant coach Steve Spott said. "He'll be able to be around our (medical) people on this road trip."

Who's hot: Couture had his first NHL career hat trick against Tuesday. ... Pavelski has a four-game point streak (2-4-6). ... Burns has points in four straight games with one goal and five assists.

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