|San Jose Sharks right wing Ryane Clowe (29) scores a goal against Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (32), of Finland, during the third period of the NHL hockey game in Dallas, Tuesday, March 15, 2011. The Sharks won 6-3. (AP Photo) |
The Sharks playoff positioning battle could become a lot clearer following Thursday night’s game against Dallas at HP Pavilion. In what has been one of the most contentious Western Conference battles in memory, a regulation win Thursday against Dallas would clinch a playoff spot.
The Sharks have 97 points, while Calgary and Dallas both have 87 points. Right now, the 10-point gap is too much for Calgary to close. Even if the Flames win their final five games and the Sharks were to lose their remaining six, the clubs would be tied and San Jose would hold the tiebreaker based on having more non- shootout victories. San Jose has 39 such wins and the most Calgary can get is 34.
As for the Stars, their current max point total would be 101, which is more than San Jose’s current total. However, if San Jose wins tomorrow’s game in regulation, the Sharks would have 99 points and the Stars new max total would also be 99. Again, the victories in regulation or overtime would be the difference. If San Jose wins Thursday in regulation, Dallas could only get to 39 ROW wins (regulation/overtime wins, the latest NHL stats column) while San Jose would be at 40.
|San Jose Sharks left wing Dany Heatley (15) of Germany and center Joe Pavelski (8) celebrate following Heatley's score against Dallas Stars goalie Marty Turco (35) in the second period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, Dec. 21, 2009, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) |
The Sharks will play with same intensity for the next six games, but if the playoff spot could be secured as early as Thursday, they’ll take it.
“I think you always want to clinch, no question,” Dany Heatley said. “The position we’re in now, we want more, we want to keep playing well and get home ice for as much as we can in the playoffs. That’s got to be a goal of ours. We want to win all six games and if we do that, it’s a pretty good indication we’re playing well going into the playoffs.”
The Sharks will have a say in the possibility of all five Pacific Division clubs making the postseason, which would be an NHL first. San Jose plays each division foe in their final six games, with two each against Phoenix and Anaheim. These teams are also possible quarterfinal opponents.
“Playing these division games, they’re all going to be tough games,” Heatley said. “They’re all against teams we could possibly be playing in the playoffs. At the same time, we’ve got to get ready for the playoffs. We want our game going as good as it can be going for the first round. These six games are a good opportunity to do that.”
|San Jose Sharks defenseman Justin Braun (61) and Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn (14) battle for the puck during the second period of the NHL hockey game in Dallas, Tuesday, March 15, 2011. (AP Photo) |
Clinching would be nice, but the Sharks feel playing their best to close the season will bring many of the desired results. Thus the way the game is played is the priority and the seeding result is more of a by product.
“We’re focused on Dallas and they play us hard every game,” Head Coach Todd McLellan said. “Probably a really good one for us to play after this break. As far as clinching and playoffs and that type of stuff, it takes care of itself if we play the game we’re supposed to play. Not only tomorrow night, but moving forward for the rest of the season. We’re not getting too excited and we won’t post anything in the locker room. We’ll play the game and practice the next day and get ready to play again. It’s about our game and how we’re playing.”
At one point it looked as if the possibility of clinching with five games to go would’ve been difficult. Then, the Sharks got hot in the second half of the season.
“It would be somewhat of a relief based on how the season has gone,” Douglas Murray
said. “How we started and played (about) half the year, this might be a little bit of a relief, but the coaches are pretty focused on the process of getting things right. We have a few areas we have to sharpen up if we’re going to go far and play in June. That’s what we need to focus on more than wrapping up a playoff spot. If we do things right, (the spot) will come with it.”
San Jose knows that playing well could give them a shot at being the Western Conference’s second seed as the Sharks are currently one point behind Detroit with both clubs having six games remaining.
|San Jose Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray (3) fights with Dallas Stars center Steve Ott (29) during the second period of the NHL hockey game in Dallas, Tuesday, March 15, 2011. (AP Photo) |
“There are a lot of teams that play really well at home and you want to have home ice as much as you can,” Murray said. “We love playing at HP and we want to get as many games here as possible.”LONE STAR VISITORS
Dallas and San Jose last met on March 15 at the American Airlines Center. After neither team scored in the first period, the Stars got two goals within two minutes early in the second period. But San Jose rallied with game’s next four goals and to win, 6-3.
Over the years, these teams have developed a serious rivalry. One person who’s been an instigator over the last six seasons is Stars center Steve Ott. On March 15, Ott and Murray got into a scrap with Ott receiving a minor-major-misconduct. In the meeting before that on March 5 at HP Pavilion, Ott got a double minor late in the second period after running into Jason Demers
Ott has a reputation of being a pest. However, the Sharks know they have to be disciplined when playing against his type of player.
“The reality is, this time of the year, you can’t be selfish and go out of your way to go after another player,” Mayers said.
Kyle Wellwood and his fiancé welcomed their first child to the family at 4 p.m. on Monday. Roman arrived early at three pounds and four ounces, but both mom and baby are healthy and resting in the hospital. NEXT GAME
Tickets for Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. game with Dallas can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The contest will be on CSN California, 98.5/102.1 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.