San Jose (44-13-10) at Anaheim (32-30-6)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Anaheim, CA
Temp: 69° F
  • Game info: 8:00 pm EDT Sun Mar 15, 2009
  • TV: CSBA, KDOC
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The San Jose Sharks got a lift from the return of goaltender Evgeni Nabokov in their last game, but their struggles scoring continued.

The Sharks hope a meeting with a Pacific Division rival can spark their anemic offense when they visit the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night.

San Jose (44-13-10) is one point behind Detroit for first place in the Western Conference, and hoping the return of its No. 1 goaltender will help capture the top spot.

Nabokov, who had missed seven games with an upper-body injury, returned Saturday night and helped lead his team to a 2-1 shootout win at home over the Los Angeles Kings. The Sharks had allowed 21 goals en route to a 1-4-1 record in their previous six contests.

Milan Michalek scored in regulation while Joe Pavelski and Jonathan Cheechoo each scored in the shootout, with Cheechoo’s game-winner coming in the seventh round. Nabokov recorded 23 saves in regulation and overtime for his first win since Feb. 23.

“He played great,” Sharks defender Dan Boyle said. “He came through in the shootout and he’s the reason we won the two points.”

While Nabokov provides a defensive lift, the Sharks have yet to solve their recent offensive struggles. San Jose has averaged 1.9 goals since Feb. 23, and went scoreless in eight power-play opportunities Saturday.

Joe Thornton failed to record a point for the second straight game. The Sharks’ leading scorer with 74 points hasn’t gone more than three consecutive games without a point this season.

He isn’t the only one struggling. Devin Setoguchi and Ryan Clowe - who have combined for 47 goals and 58 assists this season - have one goal and three assists between them in the last nine games.

The home team has won all three meetings in this season series, two of which were played in San Jose. Nabokov started all three, and made 31 saves for the shutout in the last matchup - a 2-0 Sharks win Dec. 11.

Anaheim snapped a three-game losing streak with a 4-3 overtime victory at home over Vancouver on Wednesday. Scott Niedermayer scored 3:37 into the extra period after the Ducks failed to protect a two-goal lead in the second period and a 3-2 edge going into the third.

The Ducks (32-30-6), who will be playing the fourth contest of a five-game homestand, are tied with St. Louis for 11th place in the West - three points behind Edmonton and Nashville for the final playoff spot.

“We needed it,” Niedermayer told the Ducks’ official Web site after Wednesday’s win. “We’re not where we want to be and this is a big extra point. We have a long way to go and we’ll take the two points. It’s nice to get back on the winning way at home.”

Jonas Hiller made 32 saves Wednesday in his second straight start. The backup’s increased playing time comes as No. 1 goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere has lost three of his last four starts while compiling a 3.53 GAA.

Giguere, though, recorded a shutout against the Sharks on Oct. 17, stopping 38 shots to improve to 8-1-1 with a 1.76 GAA in his last 10 starts versus San Jose.

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Sunday, Mar 15