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Three Game Trip Looms Large For San Jose

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks
Team Teal clearly did not have their best performance of the season in their 2-0 loss to Anaheim Thursday night. However, if they return to the form that has raised them back to playoff contender, they should have no problem turning the corner on the ugly game.

The loss wasn’t as big of a problem as much as who won the game, for San Jose is in a battle with clubs like Anaheim for a playoff spot.

“Everyone had an off night except Nabby,” said Nils Ekman, referring to goaltender Evgeni Nabokov who stopped 30 of 32 shots. “For it to happen to that team, it was two points lost in the race.”

Two points are two points, no matter when they are earned. However the later the season goes, the more emphasis is placed on each contest.

“We have to earn all the points we can down the stretch,” said Ekman. “You don’t know which loss could hurt your playoff chances.”

San Jose holds anywhere from two (the least with Anaheim who is ninth in the conference) to six (the most with Edmonton who is eighth in the conference) games in hand on clubs ahead of them. Team Teal knows the margin for error decreases dramatically with just 35 contests remaining.

“Every game now is a must win,” said Captain Patrick Marleau. “You don’t want to be in the position we’re in, but we did it to ourselves. We’re capable of getting back in.”

Three big games San Jose’s three-city Pacific Division road trip: Phoenix (Saturday), Dallas (Monday) and Anaheim (Wednesday).

“We have to come out with a solid trip,” said Jonathan Cheechoo. “Every game, we have to play for 60 minutes with no lapses. Two teams are ahead of us and one is tied with us.”

San Jose is obviously very motivated for every contest, but so is every opponent.

“We have to understand that teams are prepared for us and they see us a threat,” said Head Coach Ron Wilson. “Phoenix is just as desperate as us. We want to play like it’s the playoffs. In the playoffs, you can have three stinkers, but win the series. We have to win three out of four or four out of five. We can’t accept games like last night.”

Wilson knows there will be tough games and situations where things just don’t go well. He just wants to avoid the pattern of a poor outing after a big win.

“We’re going to get going again,” said Wilson. “We were great in Ottawa, but bad in Montreal. Great against Tampa Bay, but we laid an egg against Edmonton. We beat L.A. convincingly, but then there was last night.”

When San Jose hits Dallas on Monday, it will be the first time since the big trade that brought Joe Thornton to Silicon Valley. That night, San Jose was forced to play shorthanded on the ice and Dallas thoroughly defeated Team Teal.

“It would be nice to field a full team,” laughed Cheechoo.

The game will mark San Jose’s last extended road trip prior to the Olympic break. Upon their return to the Bay Area, San Jose will play a five-game homestand with only a single game return trip to Phoenix before the two-week break.

“We get 12 days off, so there is no reason to hold back,” said Cheechoo. “It is a good time to empty the tank. It would be nice to go to the break on a little stretch.”

For Milan Michalek, not only will he get to have dinner with his brother Zbynek, he will also have dinner with his parents as they are currently visiting the elder sibling in the desert. It will be the first time San Jose’s Michalek has had a chance to catch up with his parents in person this year.

San Jose will play in Phoenix Saturday night at 6 p.m. on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and
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