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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."

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




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