Canucks-Sharks Preview

The Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks have clinched their
respective division titles for the second straight season, and it’s
possible they could meet for a spot in the Stanley Cup finals.

But while the Canucks’ final two games are simply playoff
tuneups, San Jose still has plenty to gain.

The Sharks are hoping to capture the top seed in the Western
Conference, and they may need a win over visiting Vancouver on
Thursday night in order to do so.

Just as they did last spring, the Canucks (48-27-5) will enter
the postseason as the Northwest Division champion and the No. 3
seed in the West.

San Jose (49-20-11) finished atop the conference in 2008-09 and
is jockeying with Chicago for that spot. The Sharks locked up their
third consecutive Pacific Division crown with a 2-1 win at Calgary
on Tuesday night.

Facing a Flames team that was playing for its playoff life,
Evgeni Nabokov stopped 38 shots.

“He made some key saves,” defenseman Dan Boyle said. “No one’s
going anywhere in the playoffs without a goalie that’s playing
well. He’s finding his game right now. We’re not going anywhere
without him.”

Nabokov has dominated the Canucks lately, going 8-1-0 with a
1.56 goals-against average since the start of the 2007-08 season.
In that stretch, he is 5-0-0 with a 1.19 GAA at home.

The Sharks have won two of the three meetings this season,
handing the Canucks their fifth straight loss at San Jose with a
4-2 victory March 27. If the Sharks don’t beat out Chicago for the
West’s top seed, they could face Vancouver in the second round.

The Canucks also hope for big things from their goaltender in
the postseason, but with their position set, Roberto Luongo may get
some rest in the final two games – especially after he led Canada
to a gold medal at February’s Olympics.

Luongo was in net for Tuesday night’s 4-3 shootout loss to
Colorado, and the result did not disappoint him considering the
Avalanche were playing to clinch a playoff spot.

“It would have been easy for us to go out there and just go
through the motions and for them to get an easy two points,” Luongo
said. “We’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.”

While Daniel Sedin scored two goals for Vancouver on Tuesday,
there’s more attention on his twin brother Henrik, who is trying to
secure his first scoring title. Henrik Sedin had an assist for his
league-leading 107th point – one more than Washington’s Alex
Ovechkin.

In the last three seasons, Sedin has seven points in 11 games
against San Jose.

Vancouver, 19-19-2 outside of British Columbia, will be playing
its final road game of a regular-season slate that included a
record 14 consecutive games away from home surrounding the
Olympics.