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Sharks surging toward playoffs

By Tom Castro

Stats Senior Editor

Colorado (32-44-2) at San Jose (52-16-11), 10:30 p.m. EDT

SAN JOSE, California (AP) -- The San Jose Sharks have never won

the Presidents' Trophy, given to the team with the NHL's best

record. With plenty of motivation to reach that goal and three

weak opponents remaining, they've never been in better position

to do so.

The surging Sharks look to move closer to clinching home-ice

advantage throughout the playoffs when they host the Colorado

Avalanche on Tuesday night.

San Jose (52-16-11) tops the league with 115 points, three more

than Eastern-Conference leading Boston. While the Bruins have

four games remaining to the Sharks' three, San Jose can secure

the best record by winning out - something that should be very

achievable given its remaining schedule.

The Sharks' final three opponents - Colorado, Phoenix and Los

Angeles - are the bottom three teams in the West.

"We'll see. Hopefully, we hang on to that top spot," center

Jeremy Roenick said after scoring a goal Sunday night in San

Jose's fourth win in five games, 3-2 at Anaheim.

Two of the Sharks' remaining games are at home, where they're a

league-best 31-4-4. That gaudy mark makes securing home ice

throughout the postseason all the more important for a team

that's in the midst of the best season in franchise history.

The Pacific Division rival Ducks represented San Jose's final

opponent with playoff motivation as the Sharks enter the final

week of the season.

"These are fun games to be a part of. I mean, it's Anaheim. We

get up to play those guys and I'm sure they get up to play us,"

said forward Jonathan Cheechoo, who scored his third goal in

four games Sunday. "But they're all big right now."

The Sharks have had little trouble this season against the

woeful Avalanche (32-44-2), who are in the West cellar. San Jose

has won all three meetings, taking the most recent matchup 3-1

on March 22, and is 5-1-0 in the previous six games between the


San Jose's Milan Michalek has managed one goal in his last four

games since a six-game point streak, but he's been too much for

the Avalanche to handle this season with five goals and an

assist in three matchups.

Evgeni Nabokov got the night off Sunday after starting

Saturday's 5-2 loss to Anaheim, and the Sharks' top goaltender

is likely to be back in net Tuesday looking to rebound. Before

giving up five goals to the Ducks, he had allowed four goals in

his previous three starts - all wins.

Colorado snapped an eight-game losing streak Sunday night,

defeating Vancouver 4-1. Milan Hejduk had a goal and two assists

and Peter Budaj made 20 saves for Colorado, which has scored the

fewest goals and allowed the most in the West.

Calgary native T.J. Galiardi, one of a franchise-record 10

players to make his NHL debut for Avalanche this season, scored

twice against the Flames.

"My parents were here and my dad is a big Calgary fan so he was

saying to get the win for them because obviously Vancouver is on

their tail, so it's kind of funny it worked out that way,"

Galiardi said. "But we're more focused on ourselves in here, and

we want to finish the year off hard."

Colorado captain Joe Sakic, who hopes to return this season

after missing all but 15 games because of back and hand

injuries, took part in the Sunday morning skate but isn't sure

he'll play in any of the Avs' final four games.


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