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36-26-10

Ducks-Sharks Preview

AP - Sports

The San Jose Sharks are on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture, but have games in hand on the teams they are chasing.

It would help if they could fare better against the Anaheim Ducks.

The Sharks have won two straight overall and will look to hand the Ducks a sixth straight road loss Monday night.

San Jose (36-25-10) has 82 points to match Los Angeles for the conference's ninth-best total. Those teams trail Dallas, Phoenix and Colorado by one point in the crowded standings.

While the Sharks have played 71 games, the Stars have played 72, the Coyotes 73 and the Avalanche 74.

Anaheim (30-32-11) is 12 points out of the eighth spot. The Ducks, however, have beaten San Jose in three of four meetings this season, although these teams have not met since Jan. 4.

Only 15 goals have been scored in the season series, with two apiece by the Sharks' Joe Pavelski and the Ducks' Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne. Jonas Hiller is 2-1-0 with a 1.69 goals-against average for Anaheim while Antti Niemi has a 2.37 GAA in losing two of his three starts for San Jose.

One player the Ducks have yet to see this season is Marty Havlat, who returned Thursday from a 39-game absence due to a hamstring injury. The Sharks have won both games since he's been back, and his second goal Saturday came in overtime in a 3-2 win over Detroit.

"It's been a while since I scored," said Havlat, whose previous goal had been Dec. 17 - the same night he tore his left hamstring. "It was a playoff game for us. We're battling for a playoff spot right now. Every point we can get is very important."

The Sharks are 18-7-3 this season with Havlat, who has boosted their second line.

"He's such an important part of our hockey club," coach Todd McLellan said. "And I don't even think we realize yet how much of an impact he can have. He worked very hard when he was hurt. I think we were all anxious to get him back."

Pavelski scored the other goal Saturday and Niemi made 26 saves for the Sharks, who have seven points in their last four games following a five-game losing streak.

"It feels like it's late-March hockey right now," McLellan said. "We're going to have to keep playing tight games and try to find ways to win them."

Hiller has started 32 straight games for Anaheim, but it could finally be time to give him a rest. The Ducks are 1-4-1 in their last six after falling 3-1 at home to Nashville on Sunday, failing to protect a one-goal lead heading into the third.

"I thought the first two periods, we were a pretty dominating team," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "But you could see it behind the bench, that when you don't score when you have all those opportunities, the tide is liable to turn.

"But it wasn't for lack of opportunities or chances of effort. We had a tremendous effort tonight and came up short."

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