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Sharks aiming to get healthy as playoffs approach

By Matt Becker

Stats Senior Writer

San Jose (50-15-11) at Edmonton (36-32-2), 9:30 p.m. EDT

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) -- With the playoffs starting in two

weeks, the San Jose Sharks are trying to get several key players

healthy for a Stanley Cup run. They're also making a strong push

for the top seed in the Western Conference.

Short-handed San Jose looks to continue its quest for first

place in the West and match a franchise record for victories

Thursday night when it visits the stumbling Edmonton Oilers, who

try to avoid falling further out of the playoff race.

After clinching their second consecutive Pacific Division crown

with Saturday's 3-2 win over Phoenix, the Sharks defeated

Calgary 2-1 on Monday to reach 50 victories for the second time

in team history. The only other time San Jose had 50 wins was in

2006-07, when it recorded a franchise-best 51.

With Monday's win, the Sharks (50-15-11) also moved four points

ahead of Detroit in the race for first in the West with six

games remaining for each team. San Jose is 5-1-1 since March 19,

but it hasn't been easy with all the injured players missing

time.

The Sharks were without nine regulars Monday, including captain

Patrick Marleau, defenseman Rob Blake and left wing Ryan Clowe.

Marleau, who leads the Sharks with 37 goals, is also expected to

miss this game. He was instrumental in San Jose's two victories

over the Oilers (36-32-9) this season, scoring two goals in

each.

While Marleau was out Monday, Jonathan Cheechoo returned after

missing two contests with a lower-body injury and scored the

go-ahead goal in the second period.

"Anytime you don't have nine players, you want the other guys to

step up and play well," said Evgeni Nabokov, who made 28 saves.

"Our system has changed a little bit, we're not as aggressive

and we have to be a little bit smarter, and in a way, I think

it's helped us."

Nabokov is 7-1-1 with a 2.10 goals-against average and one

shutout in starting the last 10 games for San Jose after missing

the previous seven with the flu and a lower-body injury. He has

also been in goal for each game against Edmonton this season,

going 2-0-1 with a 1.97 GAA.

While the Sharks are building momentum for the postseason, the

Oilers are in danger of missing the playoffs for the third

straight season.

Edmonton was seventh in the West on March 20 but has lost five

of six to fall into a 10th-place tie with Minnesota - three

points back of the final playoff spot.

In Tuesday's 5-3 loss to Anaheim, Denis Grebeshkov and Zack

Stortini scored 68 seconds apart in the final minutes of the

third period to get the Oilers within one. The Ducks, though,

added an empty-net goal with 36 seconds remaining to put the

game away.

"There are still 10 points available," Edmonton captain Ethan

Moreau said. "I'd like to believe if we continue to play the

style of hockey we did that we will have some success in the

last five games."

Dwayne Roloson stopped 20 shots Tuesday to become the oldest

goalie in NHL history to appear in at least 60 games. The

39-year-old Roloson, who has made 33 consecutive starts, has

started each game against the Sharks this season, posting a 3.85

GAA in those meetings.

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