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Ducks-Sharks Preview

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Patrick Marleau stood before the microphones Friday and said he wasn't there to talk about the past, even though his San Jose Sharks sure look as if they're buckling under the weight of their history.

The San Jose captain has just one of his club's six goals in four playoff games against the eighth-seeded Anaheim Ducks. His Sharks are at the brink of a humiliating postseason end to the best regular season in franchise history.

With one more loss in Game 5 on Saturday night, even their rookie coach realizes the Sharks would pretty much cement their reputation as playoff chokers on a level with only the early-decade Ottawa Senators.

Marleau, whose implacable calm sometimes can be misconstrued for indifference, insists the Sharks simply must keep working hard and looking forward.

"It's something you learn from and move on," Marleau said, shrugging. "We can't be down in the dumps or anything like that. ... As a team, we haven't played our best game, and we need more from everybody."

Yet after the Ducks' outstanding four-game effort while taking a 3-1 series lead, it's tough to imagine how the Sharks can avoid becoming the eighth No. 1 seed to lose a first-round playoff series since 1994. Old-fashioned Anaheim has outscored, outhit and thoroughly outworked the Presidents' Trophy winners, who have been upset by a lower-seeded team in three of the previous four postseasons.

"We have to squash the reputation that we've developed," coach Todd McLellan said. "We're probably a game or two late for already starting. ... Right now, our character is being questioned. It's our job to prove people right or wrong."

Just 19 of 174 NHL teams down 3-1 in a playoff series since 1987 have won three straight to take the series, and the Sharks are one game away from becoming the fourth Presidents' Trophy winner to lose in the first round since the NHL began handing out the award in 1986. The St. Louis Blues did it in 2000, and the Detroit Red Wings lost to Edmonton three years ago after compiling 124 points.

The Sharks know they're being fitted for comparison to the Senators, who became synonymous with regular-season excellence and postseason failure from 1999-2006. They won four Northeast Division titles and a Presidents' Trophy in that span, but just four total playoff series before Ottawa erased some of that stigma with a trip to the 2007 Stanley Cup finals, where Anaheim beat the Sens in five games.

San Jose has won four Pacific Division titles in the last seven seasons, adding a playoff series victory in each of the past four years. But the Sharks have never made it further than the Western Conference finals back in 2004, and their annual belly-flops really began in earnest after the lockout.

Whether it's Marleau's single goal in the Anaheim series after scoring 38 during the season, Milan Michalek's scoreless vanishing act, or Joe Pavelski's shockingly poor performance on faceoffs, the Sharks have fallen apart offensively. Anaheim's defense on Joe Thornton also has been bitingly successful, with the Sharks' All-Star center rarely getting any spare moments with the puck to create plays.

"Not a lot of people probably believe we can come back," said defenseman Dan Boyle, who has been among the few solid Sharks in his first playoff series with the club. "We've got to show up with a desperate attitude. We were missing that desperation (in Game 4), and in a do-or-die situation, that's not good. We just need more."

The Ducks took a 3-1 series lead with a 4-0 victory in Game 4 on Thursday night, trouncing punchless San Jose for goalie Jonas Hiller's second shutout of the series. Although the Sharks make no excuses for their putrid play, Anaheim's superiority isn't the shock it might be in another series, given the Ducks' pedigree, their rivalry with the Sharks and their strong finish to the regular season.

"We're going to go in with the mentality that we want to get that win in San Jose," said Anaheim center Ryan Getzlaf, who has outplayed Thornton, the player to whom he's often compared. "We don't want to prolong it any longer. We know what we're up against. (The Shark Tank) hasn't been a friendly building for anybody this year. We know we're going to get their best effort."


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