By Matt Beardmore
Dallas (33-30-8) at San Jose (46-14-10), 4:00 p.m. EDT
SAN JOSE, California (AP) -- Though the Pacific Division crown
is theirs, the San Jose Sharks were not playing at a
playoff-caliber level until more recently.
San Jose looks to continue its resurgence Saturday afternoon
when it hosts a struggling Dallas Stars club that snapped a
losing streak in its visit to HP Pavilion earlier this month.
The Sharks look for their third straight home victory following
Thursday's 3-2 shootout win over Nashville. Jonathan Cheechoo,
moved to the first line with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau
due to Ryane Clowe's minor lower-body surgery, scored in the
third round of the shootout as San Jose improved to an NHL-best
28-3-4 at home.
Cheechoo, who has nine goals all season just three years after
leading the league with 56, has gone 13 consecutive
regular-season games without a goal.
"I've got some chances, but I've been getting chances for a
while now, so I've got to start putting them in," said Cheechoo,
who has one goal in four games against Dallas this season. "I'm
happy with the way we played. We've just got to keep moving
forward, keep building on this."
After a 1-4-1 slide from February 28-March 12, the Sharks are
A major reason for this turnaround has been the play of Evgeni
Nabokov. San Jose dropped five of seven while he was out with an
upper-body injury. Since returning March 14 against Los Angeles,
Nabokov is 3-0-0 with a 1.72 goals-against average.
The nine-year veteran went 3-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA to help San
Jose sweep all three of its games in Dallas this season. The
Sharks won all four meetings before dropping the most recent one
as Nabokov was sidelined by the flu in a 4-1 home loss March 3.
That victory snapped Dallas' five-game slide overall. The Stars
have since lost two straight and four of six, part of their
4-9-1 record since February 21.
Dallas, in danger of missing the postseason for the first time
in four years, is three points out of the Western Conference's
eighth and final playoff spot.
"It's not good when you lose right now," Marty Turco said
following Wednesday's 2-1 defeat at Calgary - the Stars' third
consecutive road loss. "At this time of year, the way things are
... by winning, you're not going to separate yourself but by
losing you will. We're not doing ourselves any favors and we're
going to need some help to get in now."
Turco is 4-8-1 with a 2.90 goals-against average following a
10-3-0 stretch from January 21-February 19.
Turco posted a 1.51 GAA in Dallas' six-game conference semifinal
series victory over the Sharks last season, but he lost the
first four meetings this season before making 24 saves in the
March 3 win.
Mike Modano had a goal and an assist in that victory. He needs
one goal Saturday to tie Maurice Richard for 26th place all-time
with 544 goals.
Modano has 23 goals and 47 assists in 76 career games versus the