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.