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Chance To Make Up Ground

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks

After battling back from two goals down early in Thursday night’s contest against Edmonton, the Sharks were able to salvage a point against their Western Conference opponent. San Jose will take to the road Saturday in a nationally televised contest against division rival Los Angeles.

Now more than ever, the Sharks are in a position where they need to make up ground to get within the top eight playoff qualifiers. There’s no better time to do that than when they’re facing the Kings, who are 12 points ahead of them, in consecutive games.

“Division games can be counted as four-point games,” said Marcel Goc. “If you win them it’s huge, but if you lose them it takes awhile to earn those points back.”

The Sharks have done the majority of their winning this season against non-division opponents. The team won nine of 10 games against the Eastern Conference, but is four games under .500 against Western Conference opponents, going 12-16-6. In order to make the playoffs, the Sharks will have to turn that around.

“Anytime you play someone in your conference and they’re ahead of you, it’s basically for double points,” said Tom Preissing. “If we’re able to play well and do our thing, it could mean eight points for us these next two against Los Angeles.”

The Sharks are currently 2-1 this season against the Kings, with five more meetings between the two teams remaining..

Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson made a change to the top two lines in the third period of Thursday night’s game against Edmonton. The bench boss switched Jonathan Cheechoo for Grant Stevenson on their respective lines. The two players practiced with those same lines on Friday and will be skating with their new lines against Los Angeles. Stevenson is now with Joe Thornton and Nils Ekman, while Cheechoo will be with Patrick Marleau and Milan Michalek.

The change serves many purposes for the Sharks. The lines remain fresh and throws off opposing defenses.

“It’s trying to get us to be fresh,” said Wilson. “I think some people have gotten stale and are just throwing it to cruise control. We need more energy from everybody and some more balance in our attack. I hope this will be just the little kick start that we need, plus now we have a bit of a different look. The other team maybe now has to focus on two or three lines rather than just one.”

Thornton thinks that the line change will help the team out and looks forward to the fresh start.

“Hopefully, it’s going to throw them for a bit of a loop,” said Thornton. “They can’t really defend us on how they’ve watched the tapes and they’ll have to come up with a new game plan. When you get a new linemate you start fresh again and more often than not it gives you that extra edge again.”

The Sharks will square off against Los Angeles at 3 p.m. Saturday at Staples Center. The game can be seen on NBC (KNTV 11 in San Jose) or heard on the Sharks Radio Network or

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly released the following statement regarding today's announcement by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency pertaining to Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Bryan Berard:

"While today's announcement relating to Bryan Berard certainly is disappointing, it does nothing to change the fact that the use of steroids is not a pervasive problem facing the National Hockey League. Mr. Berard is one of hundreds of players who, as a result of being identified as potential Olympic candidates, have been subject to random testing for the past several months. There have been dozens of tests administered to a wide cross-section of our players during this time period and Mr. Berard's is the only positive test of which we are aware. We are confident that with the introduction of our new collectively-bargained Performance Enhancing Substances Program, including the educational, testing and penalty elements that are part of that Program, the use of banned substances by any NHL players will be eradicated in short order.

"Mr. Berard's eligibility for play in the National Hockey League is not impacted by this positive drug test. Testing for performance-enhancing substances under the NHL/NHLPA Program began on January 15, 2006. Like all NHL players, Mr. Berard is subject to unannounced testing pursuant to our Program. In the event he were to test positive for a prohibited substance, Mr. Berard would be subject to the mandatory suspension of 20 games for a first offense."

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