NY Rangers (35-30-4) at San Jose (39-22-7)

By NOEY KUPCHAN, STATS Writer Friday, Mar 11, 2011 Puck Drop: 10:30 pm EST Sat Mar 12, 2011

The San Jose Sharks and New York Rangers are hoping to make the playoffs. Their seasons, though, seem to be going in opposite directions.

Looking to continue their quest for a fourth consecutive Pacific Division title, the Sharks try to avoid back-to-back home losses for the first time in two months when they face the Rangers on Saturday night.

As of Jan. 14, San Jose was tied for 10th place in the Western Conference while mired in a season-worst six-game skid.

New York, meanwhile, was going through a stretch of four wins in five games at that time and sat in a fourth-place tie in the Eastern Conference.

The Rangers, however, have since gone 9-14-1 and find themselves in a battle for one of the final playoff spots in the East, while the division-leading Sharks have won 18 of 23 to move into third in the West.

San Jose, which hasn’t lost consecutive home games since a six-game slide Dec. 27-Jan. 13, fell 5-4 to the Canucks in a shootout Thursday night for just its second defeat in 10 games at HP Pavilion since that skid.

After falling behind 2-0 in the first period, the Sharks (39-22-7) battled back to erase three deficits but couldn’t score in the shootout.

“We’re on our end still, fighting for our playoff lives, so we have to get as many points as we can,” said captain Joe Thornton(notes), who had two assists. “The atmosphere was great, it was an exciting game to be a part of. We just kept coming back. It’s a good sign.”

Left wing Ryane Clowe(notes) scored his 20th and 21st goals while center Torrey Mitchell(notes) and right wing Devin Setoguchi(notes) also scored. San Jose fell to 23-0-2 when scoring at least four times.

Setoguchi’s goal was his seventh in his last nine games.

Antti Niemi(notes) has gone 17-3-2 with three shutouts and a 1.95 goals-against average while starting each of the Sharks’ last 23 games. Niemi has never faced the Rangers.

San Jose had gone 0-4-1 with one tie against New York before winning the last two meetings, including 7-3 on the road Oct. 19, 2009, as Setoguchi recorded two goals and an assist.

The Rangers (35-30-4) fell for the fourth time in six games Wednesday, 5-2 at Anaheim.

“It’s done and over with, but at the same time we have to make sure we have a different work ethic and desire to play next game,” forward Vinny Prospal(notes), who extended his point streak to five games with an assist, told the Rangers’ official website.

“We are the ones responsible for our play on the ice. We have to be better than (Wednesday). These games have a lot of meaning for us right now.”

Brandon Dubinsky’s(notes) first-period goal snapped a season-worst 11-game drought and moved him into a tie for the team lead with 20. Dubinsky also ranks first on the Rangers with 25 assists and 45 points.

Henrik Lundqvist(notes) made 28 saves as his personal three-game road winning streak came to an end. Lundqvist stopped 27 shots in his only career start at San Jose, a 3-2 loss Dec. 20, 2008.

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Saturday, Mar 12