Stars-Sharks Preview

The San Jose Sharks created some additional separation in the

tight Pacific Division race in their last game while continuing to

threaten for the second seed in the Western Conference.

However, their next division rival has given them some trouble

this season.

The Sharks will face off against the struggling Dallas Stars for

the third time this month Thursday night at HP Pavilion.

San Jose (44-23-9) continues to challenge Detroit for the second

seed in the West and gave itself more room in the division race

after defeating Phoenix 4-1 on Saturday.

The Sharks are two points ahead of the second-place Coyotes, who

have played two additional games. Third-place Los Angeles is three

points back.

Saturday was the third time in four games San Jose scored at

least four goals. While leading scorer Patrick Marleau had a

six-game point streak snapped, Logan Couture scored twice while

adding an assist. Couture has a franchise rookie record 30

goals.

“Logan has been a catalyst, and at times, carried this team,”

coach Todd McLellan said. “He has given contributions from

everywhere, from scoring, to winning faceoffs and penalty killing.

For Logan to reach 30 goals is a great reward for a heck of a good

season to this point.”

The Sharks improved to 8-2-3 in March, with one of those

regulation losses coming to the Stars. Dallas won 3-2 in San Jose

on March 5 before the Sharks picked up a 6-3 victory 10 days later

in Dallas.

The Stars are 3-1-1 against San Jose this season. Three games

have ended after regulation and four were decided by one goal.

As the Sharks move closer toward a playoff spot, the Stars

(38-26-11) are trying to get back into the postseason picture after

going 1-3-3 in their last seven to drop three points behind Chicago

for the final playoff berth.

They suffered a 2-1 shootout loss to Phoenix on Tuesday – their

fourth straight defeat – despite outshooting the Coyotes 45-27.

Jamie Benn scored on the power play late in the second period to

tie it, and he scored Dallas’ only goal of the shootout.

“We deserved to win tonight and we didn’t get it,” coach Marc

Crawford said. “I told the guys after the game, ‘You have efforts

like that you’re going to win probably 98 percent of the

games.'”

Despite being more aggressive, the Stars were still held to

fewer than three goals for the fourth time in six games. Brad

Richards, second on the team with 25 goals, hasn’t scored during

that span.

Making things even more difficult for Dallas is that it plays

five of its final seven on the road, including matchups with the

Kings and Anaheim on this five-game road trip.

Benn, who has nine goals and 16 points in 13 games this month,

has been key to the Stars’ success against the Sharks with three

goals and four assists in the five matchups.