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Two Crucial Games Before Olympic Break

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks
The Sharks gained two important points in the Stanley Cup playoff race Wednesday when they rode Vesa Toskala to a 2-1 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks. On the heels of their victory, the Sharks took to the ice Thursday in preparation of the Pacific Division leading Dallas Stars.

San Jose will be looking to carry the momentum over from a contest last night that saw them get back in the win column and get a bit of confidence back on their side. With two games left before the two week long Olympic break, the team senses that the games are virtually must wins heading into the layoff.

“We can’t afford to be giving away points anymore,” said Grant Stevenson. “It’s almost a must win every game we play from here on out. Going into the break positive would be big for us.”

A guy who has kept the team in the playoff race over the last several weeks is Jonathan Cheechoo. The 25 year old winger, who signed a five-year extension with his original club this week, has been among the leading goal scorers in the League.

The Moose Factory native agrees that the upcoming contests with Dallas and Phoenix are among the most important thus far this season.

“I think it’s very important, especially where we’re sitting at right now in the standings,” said Cheechoo. “Every win we can get is important. We have to come out, bare down and try to get these last two wins and carry that over to when we come back from the Olympic break.”

With only four players playing in the 2006 Olympics (Evgeni Nabokov, Joe Thornton, Marcel Goc, Christian Ehrhoff), the rest of the team will have some time to rest up, heal and enjoy some time off.

“First of all they’ll be able to get some rest,” said Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson. “They’re not allowed to come here or be under any supervision for nine days so it’s important for them to maintain a fitness regimen. In 10 days you can lose a lot and it’s not easy to get back.”

Patrick Marleau knows he has a great thing going with the Sharks. Now he’s taking advantage of his position to help out a fireman battling cancer and his family.

After the Feb. 10 game against Dallas, 23 sticks signed by his fellow teammates, as well as the stick Marleau plays with during that evening’s game, will be auctioned off. All the money will go to a fund for the fireman’s children.

“Rob Jaynes (the Sharks Director of Fan Development) told me about the situation with the sick firefighter and I decided to try and do something to help out,” Marleau explained. “I want to raise some money for his family and his kids.”

Marleau has enlisted the help of his teammates in raising funds. All his teammates have taken their used sticks, signed and donated them to the Sharks Foundation. The auction will take place during and after the Feb. 10 game, which also happens to be when Marleau will meet the firefighter and the family he is generously helping.

“I haven’t met him yet. I just heard about his situation and I decided to do something from there.”

Matt Carkner received the first call up of his pro career Sunday when Doug Murray went down with an injury. The big blueliner was able to get in his first NHL game Monday night against Calgary, registering an assist and two penalty minutes.

On his way back to full recovery, Murray is expected to be back in the lineup in the next couple of games, thus sending Carkner back to Cleveland.

“Doug skated today,” said Wilson. “I’m not sure if he’ll be ready for tomorrow, but very likely he’ll be available for the game Sunday.”

Sharks fans got a brief look at the Baron’s Captain. He’s someone that they should get to see a lot more of in the future.

“I’m probably going to go with four lines and six defensemen so it made more sense that Matt go back and play,” said Wilson. “He got a game under his belt and a little feel for it. Unfortunately for him it was a weird game for him. There were a lot of power plays and penalty kills so he only got about six minutes to play. The important thing is he got a little taste of it and we’ll go from there.”

The Sharks will play host to the Dallas Stars on Friday at HP Pavilion at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at all Ticketmaster locations. The game can be seen on FSN Bay Area and heard on the Sharks Radio Network and

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