As usual at this time of year, the guessing game is on as to who the Sharks will play in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And as usual, the club likely won’t know much until the season finally wraps up, but with just five games to go, that conclusion is coming up quickly. The Sharks (104 points) close out the regular season on April 10 while the entire league doesn’t finish until April 11.
To begin the early analogy about possible opponents, San Jose is in a battle for their own seeding slot and has not run away with the top seed as they did last year. The Sharks currently hold down the top spot, but will have to play well down the stretch to maintain their position.
The current holder of the eighth position is Colorado (89 points) and they lead Calgary (87 points) by two points (Colorado has one game in hand) and trail Los Angeles (92 points) by three points.
Chicago (101 points) sits just three points back of San Jose and has a game in hand. If the Blackhawks manage to win the game in hand, they would be just one point behind San Jose with five contests remaining for each team. What makes the race even tighter is Chicago, if they were to catch San Jose, would likely own the first tiebreaker, which is wins.
If Chicago leapfrogged San Jose to first, the current holder of the seventh spot is the Los Angeles Kings, which would make for the first playoff series between the two long-time California rivals. San Jose is in their 19th year of battling the Kings, but it would be the first postseason affair.
A game in hand that could prove key in the Pacific Division race with Phoenix (100 points). As of Thursday afternoon, San Jose held a four point lead on the Coyotes. However, Phoenix has just four games remaining compared to San Jose’s five. Even if Phoenix were to win all four and finish with a maximum of 108 points, San Jose would just need to snare five of their last 10 points available to be crowned Pacific Division champions for the third consecutive season and fifth time in 10 years.
If Phoenix were to pass San Jose, the Sharks would drop to the fourth seed (Vancouver as the likely Northwest Division winner would be a top three seed). The current holder of the fifth spot is Nashville (94 points), but Detroit (93 points) and Los Angeles (92 points) both have two games in hand on the Predators.
It will make for a lot of scoreboard watching in the next 10 days for players and fans alike, but from the Sharks perspective, they will simply be hoping nothing has changed when the games conclude on April 11.
On Thursday, Joe Thornton
took to the ice with the team on Thursday for the first time since he suffered an injury in the club’s victory last Saturday at HP Pavilion.
“It felt a little sore but that's probably normal,” said Thornton whose game status will continue to be a day-to-day situation. “It is feeling better everyday.”Ryane Clowe
was also participating after being forced to leave the Dallas contest early after taking puck up high and Marc-Edouard Vlasic
was practicing as well.
Worcester defenseman Danny Groulx has been named an AHL First All-Star Team member.
A Calder Cup champion with Hamilton in 2007, Danny Groulx has authored a career year for Worcester in 2009-10. The native of LaSalle, Que., leads AHL defensemen with 51 assists and 62 points, both personal bests, and has skated in all 74 games for the Sharks, running his ironman streak to 182 games, the longest active run in the AHL. One of only two rearguards currently leading his team in scoring, Groulx has tallied 16 multiple-point performances and enjoyed a nine-game scoring streak from Jan. 16 to Feb. 6.
The Sharks will visit Minnesota Friday in a 5 p.m. game that will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.