Presidents’ Trophy on line for Sharks

By Dan Pieringer
Stats Writer

Phoenix (34-39-7) at San Jose (53-16-11), 10:30 p.m. EDT

SAN JOSE, California (AP) — The San Jose Sharks struggled
offensively in their last game but still were able to add two
points to their franchise-record total. Getting a victory in
their next game would be even more historic.

The Sharks look to continue their dominance at HP Pavilion and
clinch their first Presidents’ Trophy when they meet the Pacific
Division rival Phoenix Coyotes in their last regular-season home
game Thursday night.

San Jose (53-16-11) outshot Western Conference-worst Colorado
30-20 on Tuesday night, including a 7-1 advantage in overtime.
But the Sharks didn’t score their first goal until Joe Pavelski
beat Peter Budaj in the first round of the shootout to give them
a 1-0 victory.

“Our goal is to come in first in the league, but we won’t win
many games with this effort,” winger Devin Setoguchi told the
Sharks’ official Web site.

Though it was an uninspired offensive performance for a team
that ranks among the league leaders with 3.09 goals per game,
Sharks coach Todd McLellan was happy to get the win, which moved
his club one victory away from securing the Presidents’ Trophy
and home-ice advantage throughout the postseason.

With two games left, San Jose has a team-record 117 points –
five more than East-leading Boston, which has three games
remaining. The Sharks also lead Detroit – the next-best team in
the West – by six points.

“As a team, we talked about being in control and right now we
are in control,” said McLellan, whose club finishes the regular
season at Los Angeles on Saturday. “It’s where we want to be.
But that doesn’t mean the opposition we play against or the
other teams we are battling with are just going to roll over and
play dead. We don’t expect that.

“We have to take care of our own business and we look forward to
that opportunity on Thursday.”

READ ALSO:  Former Oilers winger Joffrey Lupul finding his stride with Flyers

Clinching home ice throughout the playoffs could go a long way
for the Sharks, who are a league-best 32-4-4 at home. They’re
6-1-0 in their last seven at HP Pavilion and 7-0-1 in their last
eight there against the Coyotes (34-39-7).

That success is largely due to Evgeni Nabokov, who’s 29-3-2 with
a 2.00 goals-against average at home this season. He delivered
his seventh shutout of 2008-09 – and fourth at home – against
the Avalanche.

Nabokov is 9-5-2 with two ties and a 2.18 GAA in 20 home games
against the Coyotes, including 2-0-0 with a shutout and a 1.00
GAA this season.

That doesn’t bode well for a Phoenix team that’s been outscored
11-2 in consecutive defeats. The Coyotes were outscored 3-0 and
outshot 11-3 in the second period of a 5-1 loss to St. Louis on
Tuesday night.

“I wouldn’t say it was effort. Maybe it was smarts more than
anything,” defenseman Ed Jovanovski said. “They kept coming at
us in waves and we left our goalie out to dry.”

In his first start in four games, Ilya Bryzgalov gave up four
goals in two periods to fall to 7-16-2 with a 3.29 GAA since the
All-Star break. He was replaced by rookie Al Montoya, who’s
2-1-0 with a 2.41 GAA in four games – three starts – since being
called up from the minors.

Whether it’s Bryzgalov or Montoya in net Thursday, he could have
a hard time containing a Sharks offense that’s getting healthy
in time for the playoffs. Veteran forwards Mike Grier and Claude
Lemieux, both out since March 3 with injuries that cost them 18
games apiece, returned Tuesday night.

Captain Patrick Marleau and winger Ryane Clowe also are expected
to come off the shelf sometime this week. Marleau and Clowe have
missed five and 11 straight games, respectively, with lower-body