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East Meets West

by Tony Khing / San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks have played 68 games. One would think they wouldn’t have to play a team from the other conference this late in the season.

But in game No. 69, the Sharks will be doing just that as they conclude their season-long six-game homestand tonight against the New York Rangers.

The game against the Rangers will be the last time San Jose faces an Eastern Conference opponent in the regular season. But shouldn’t these late season games be versus opponents from within the Western Conference?

“I haven’t given much thought to the schedule,” Joe Pavelski said.

“There’s still two points on the line,” Joe Thornton said. “It’s just a very important game for both teams.”

The last time these teams met was on Oct. 19, 2009 and the Sharks won, 7-3, at Madison Square Garden.

“We don’t know too much about them,” Thornton said, “but we’ll get to know more after we look at the scouting reports from the coaches.”

“We’ll have an idea of what to expect,” Pavelski said.

The Sharks also have two players familiar with the Rangers. Dan Boyle played for Rangers Coach John Tortorella on Tampa Bay’s 2003-04 Stanley Cup Champion and Ian White got to play against the Rangers while playing for Carolina earlier this season.

“He’s very tough and demanding,” Boyle said of Tortorella. “He doesn’t accept anything but hard work. It doesn’t matter who he’s coaching. They’re going to play hard and work. They’re on the bubble (the Rangers have the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference). They’ll be giving it their all.”

“They’re a real young and hard working group,” White said. “They don’t make too many mistakes. They also have (Henrik) Lundqvist, who’s one of the better goaltenders in the League.”

A team’s coaching staff can have the players watch hours of video and pour over pages and pages of scouting reports. But if a team doesn’t execute the right way and maintain focus, preparation won’t matter.

“We’re running out of games,” Assistant Coach Trent Yawney said. “With the tightness in both conferences, a let down isn’t something a team is looking for. We had a lot of good habits against Vancouver and want to continue that tonight against the Rangers. The Rangers are a very strong, hard working team. We’ll have to have our best tonight.”

“We’ve still got a lot of work to do to get into the postseason,” Thornton said. “We’re looking at tonight’s game as a big one.”

Boyle participated in this morning’s optional skate. “Today was another good day,” he said. “I’d like to get back in there.”

So will Boyle, who’s missed the last six games with an upper body injury, dress for the game against the Rangers?

“That’ll be a game-time decision,” Yawney said. “(Head Coach) Todd (McLellan) will talk to Dan before he makes a decision.”

San Jose is 4-1-0 against the Atlantic Division this season. Their lone loss was at New Jersey (2-1) on Feb. 11…San Jose is 3-1-1 on this homestand. Three of the five games have been decided by either overtime or a shootout…San Jose’s next win will be No. 144 for McLellan. That victory will tie him with Terry Crisp for second on the all-time list for coaches with the most wins in their first three seasons as an NHL head coach. Mike Keenan (152) tops the list…Happy Birthday to Douglas Murray, who turns 31 today. The milestone got a chuckle and a compliment from his team captain after the morning skate. “He hasn’t been showing his age,” Thornton said. “He looks like a 25-year-old out there.”

The Sharks play hosts to the New York Rangers tonight at 7:30 at HP Pavilion and tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at . The game will be on CSN California, 98.5/102.1 KFOX and

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