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First Place On the Line

by San Jose Sharks Staff / San Jose Sharks
It’s just like old times tonight when the Sharks square off against the Dallas Stars. When San Jose was the up and coming franchise in the Pacific Division, it was Dallas who they traditionally had to go through to win it. Now the Stars hold first place in the compact division and a regulation victory will vault San Jose to the top.

“We play Dallas two times in the next three games and they are big points,” Ryane Clowe said. “Everybody knows the standing are so tight. The guys should be pretty fired up.”

“Division games are important, especially tonight trying to jump into first place in the division,” Jason Demers said. “They know too on the other side and we’re both going to be ready.”

San Jose surrendered a late two-goal lead in Dallas three weeks ago and will be focused.

“I think we’re pretty excited, seeing what happened the last game in Dallas when we should have had the two points and had a collapse at the end of the game,” Demers said.

The Sharks can be in first place when the night ends or four points back, so there is a big point swing.

“I’m sure Todd will mention it,” Clowe said of the four point contest. “The guys know. The standings are posted all over the dressing room. The guys take a peak every morning and know when they are playing a division team. The last couple years we’re used to being on top and now those guys are ahead of us.”

“You just know,” Boyle said. “After 700 games in the NHL, I don’t need anyone to tell me it’s a four point game.”

Almost as important as the division rank is, there is a chance to try and start the big winning streak the club has been searching for.

“If we can get tonight, it will put us in a good position to go on the road and get on a little streak and try to put three to four together,” Clowe said. “We’re usually capable of it, but we haven’t found a way yet.”

“You’ve got to go on a nice little run to create some space,” Boyle said.

Ryane Clowe was named the NHL’s first star for the past week and while it may not be the Hart Trophy, there is some nice recognition that goes with being the NHL’s top performer, no matter what length of time it covers during a season.

“At least you’re getting recognized for playing (well) and that’s all you want to do,” Clowe said. “I feel good on the ice and feel like I’m playing consistent, which is what I’m looking for. The line is playing well and it’s nice to have some chemistry.”

Clowe said he would rather see the team’s point total go up more than his.

“If we can get on a hot streak, I’d like that a little more,” Clowe said.

There is no question the award will go over big, back in Newfoundland; that one of their native sons is the best player in the NHL for the week.

“I’m sure I’ll get a few texts from friends today and tomorrow,” Clowe said. “If there are more of those to come, then I’ll be happy.”

Clowe and his line are not just pitching in on the offensive front.

“The way they are helping the D break out, they are playing really well right now,” Boyle said.

Antti Niemi will look to win for the fourth time in six games as it appears he has the start against Dallas.

“Right now it looks that way,” Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan said at the morning skate. “He’ll get an opportunity to play against Dallas. We thought he played a pretty darn good game the other day.”

McLellan is still balancing the play between Niemi and Antero Niittymaki as both have had good streaks.

“They’ve each earned the opportunity to play and they’ve each gone on a run with games played,” McLellan said. “They support each other.”

There is no doubt the Sharks have started seeing the Niemi who confounded them in the postseason.

“Rebound control has been much better, but I think he feels more comfortable with the defensemen in front of him,” McLellan said. “He’s more confident when he is outside the crease and the puck is near him. I think he feels better in the lockerroom and better around the players as a whole. He understands what we are trying to do . . . he’s starting to feel more at home.”

Evgeni Nabokov, who left the NHL for a four-year contract with Russian club SKA St. Petersburg during the summer, has left that team and his contract has been terminated, SKA announced Monday.

In 22 games, Nabokov is just 8-8-5 with a 3.02 goals-against average and .888 save percentage.

The Sharks will host Dallas Monday at 7:30 p.m. and tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at The contest will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and
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