If the San Jose Sharks are going to earn home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs, they may have to overcome the absence of yet another key player while improving their play on the road.
San Jose (49-15-11) has clinched its second consecutive Pacific Division crown and set a franchise record of 109 points with Saturday’s 3-2 win over Phoenix. The club is battling Detroit and East-leading Boston for the Presidents’ Trophy.
The Sharks, who visit Edmonton on Thursday, play four of their last seven games on the road. They’ve lost three straight away from HP Pavilion and are 4-7-3 in their last 14 road contests.
“I really don’t think right now this group is focused on staying in front of Detroit,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “We can’t play these last seven games with Detroit in the back of our mind. We are a better team when we are focused on what we’re doing.”
The Sharks’ play on the road isn’t their only concern, as injuries continue to mount. Marleau might not play Monday after suffering a lower body injury in the second period against the Coyotes. The left wing leads the team with a career-high 37 goals.
San Jose had already been limping down the stretch, playing without right wing Jonathan Cheechoo (lower body), defenseman Rob Blake (lower body), left wing Ryan Clowe (lower body procedure) and center Marcel Goc (lower body). They were among nine players scratched by San Jose on Saturday.
“Everyone is going to have to contribute,” said center Tom Cavanagh, who scored his first career goal Saturday. “We have a lot of injuries so we need all four lines to go out there and create some energy. That’s what this team needs.”
It also needs to improve its fortunes in Calgary, where San Jose is 2-8-0 with a tie in its last 11 visits. The Flames lost 5-2 in their last game at the Pengrowth Saddledome on Jan. 6 after falling behind by three in the first period.
The Sharks also lost 3-2 at home to the Flames nine days later, dropping to 1-2-0 in the season series.
Calgary (43-26-6) is trying to hold off Vancouver in the race for the Northwest Division title and third seed in the conference. If the Flames fall out of first place in the division, they could be in danger of losing the fourth spot in the conference - and home-ice advantage in the opening round - to Chicago.
Calgary is 25-9-4 at home.
The Flames look to build on Saturday’s 3-2 win over Minnesota after being shut out in consecutive games. They’re 4-7-0 in their last 11.
“The important thing was we came out and got the two points,” center Jamie Lundmark told the team’s official Web site after recording a goal and an assist against the Wild.
Calgary could use some scoring from captain Jarome Iginla, who leads the team with 84 points but has managed one assist over the last four games. That matches his total in the season series with San Jose.
With Iginla struggling offensively, the Flames may have to rely on Miikka Kiprusoff to continue his home success against the Sharks. Kiprusoff, who made 13 saves Saturday for his league-leading 43rd win, is 6-2-0 with a 2.63 goals-against average and one shutout in his last eight games against San Jose at Pengrowth.