Sharks take aim at Presidents’ Trophy again

By Justin Einhorn
STATS Senior Editor

SAN JOSE (53-17-11) at LOS ANGELES (33-37-11), 4:00 p.m. EDT

LOS ANGELES (AP) — For a second straight game, the San Jose
Sharks can claim the Presidents’ Trophy by beating one of the
NHL’s worst teams. If they blow this chance like they did the
first one, the Sharks will need help to claim home-ice advantage
throughout the postseason and be lacking momentum as it begins.

San Jose hopes to avoid ending the best regular season in
franchise history on a very sour note when it visits the Los
Angeles Kings on Saturday.

It seemed very likely the Sharks (53-17-11) would become the
first true West Coast team to claim the Presidents’ Trophy
following Tuesday’s action, having won for the fifth time in six
games to take a five-point lead over Boston for the most in the
league. San Jose would clinch home ice for every playoff round
with a win in either of its final two games versus Phoenix or
Los Angeles – currently tied for 13th in the Western Conference.

However, the Sharks fell behind by two goals after the first
period Thursday against the Coyotes in a 4-1 defeat, just their
fifth regulation home loss of the season. With Boston winning
that night, San Jose’s lead for the league’s best record is down
to three points so if it fails to win Saturday, the Bruins can
steal away the Presidents’ Trophy by winning their final two
games – against Buffalo and the New York Islanders.

Even with Thursday’s defeat, San Jose clinched the best record
in the West because of Detroit’s shootout loss to Nashville.

“Players have worked hard and earned that opportunity to have
home ice throughout the first three rounds, anyhow,” coach Todd
McLellan said. “Just right now, this effort early in the game
stings a little. Maybe it’s what we needed, we’ll see how we
respond Saturday.”

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McLellan now would like to see his team jell offensively with
some key players back in the lineup after San Jose was held to
one goal over the last two games.

Lower-body injuries caused captain Patrick Marleau to sit out
the previous five games and high-scoring forward Ryane Clowe to
miss 10 straight before both returned Thursday. That duo,
however, combined for no points and a minus-5 rating.

“As the days go along and we get more practice, we’ll really
start hitting our passes and feeling better,” Clowe said after
playing for the first time since March 17. “Personally, I felt
good. The timing was there and everything.”

Clowe, though, is pointless in his last five games and Marleau
has no points in his last four. The Sharks have failed to score
more than three goals in eight straight.

They are likely to face Kings goalie Jon Quick, who has given up
only one goal in three straight starts but has never faced San

Los Angeles (33-37-11) has scored just 16 goals in its last 11
games and has lost eight of them. The Kings, who will miss the
playoffs for a sixth straight season, are 2-for-26 on the power
play in their last nine.

The Sharks are 0-for-11 in their last two but are among the
league leaders in power-play percentage at 23.7.

San Jose has won all five meetings this season while limiting
Los Angeles to six goals and looks to sweep the season series
for the first time. Evgeni Nabokov has won three of those games
and is 9-3-1 with a 1.83 goals-against average in his last 13
games versus the Kings.

The Sharks have won eight of their last nine visits to Los