Preview: Flames vs. Sharks
Flames continue their California swing
With 2 1/2 weeks left in the season, the San Jose Sharks are in position to win a fourth consecutive Pacific Division title. The Sharks, however, know they could also fall out of playoff position in the tightly bunched Western Conference during this stretch.
Playing its final non-division game this season, San Jose looks to win its fourth straight when it hosts the slumping Calgary Flames on Wednesday night.
The Sharks (42-23-8) have gone 21-4-3 in their last 28 to move from worst to first in the division. Although San Jose is three points back of second-place Detroit in the West, it know it needs to finish strong.
The Red Wings and 10th-place Flames - who are tied with eighth-place Anaheim and ninth-place Dallas with 85 points - are separated by 10 points.
"You look at that three through eight and that can really change the next two weeks," forward Dany Heatley told the Sharks' official website. "You want to have the highest seed as possible obviously for home ice and things like that. ... These last nine games are going to mean a lot."
The Sharks are getting Heatley back for this game he served a two-game suspension for elbowing Dallas' Steve Ott on March 15. Rookie center Logan Couture, however, is questionable after suffering a lower-body injury in a 5-3 victory over St. Louis on Saturday.
Couture, who has a franchise rookie-record 27 goals with 21 assists, sat out practice Monday.
"I don't like sitting out games," he said. "If I'm healthy, I want to play."
San Jose may not have its Calder Trophy hopeful on the ice, so it may need Joe Pavelski to continue his hot streak. The center has three goals and eight assists while recording at least a point in each of his last four.
"I feel confident with the puck," Pavelski said after scoring twice with an assist Saturday. "The line's been playing good. We've had lots of chances."
The Flames (37-27-11) have dropped five of six and are running out of opportunities as they struggle to keep pace in the playoff race. Calgary lost 2-1 in a shootout at Los Angeles on Monday.
"We would have loved to get two points, and we know in our remaining games we're going to have to get a ton of them," captain Jarome Iginla said. "So we've got to keep our heads up and keep playing like that."
Former Shark Miikka Kiprusoff, pulled 5:49 into a 5-4 overtime loss at Anaheim on Sunday after yielding three goals, should be in net for this matchup. He made 26 saves versus the Kings.
"Kipper was outstanding," coach Brent Sutter said.
Kiprusoff has gone 1-1-1 with 2.29 goals-against average in Calgary's three games against San Jose this season. He turned away 31 shots in the teams' only meeting at HP Pavilion - a 4-3 Sharks victory Nov. 13.
Antti Niemi, who made 28 saves in that win, is expected to start his 29th consecutive game Wednesday. He stopped 21 shots through overtime and all three in the shootout in a 4-3 victory at Calgary on Feb. 25.
Sharks captain Joe Thornton is one goal shy of reaching 20 for the 11th straight season.
Iginla is tied with Rene Bourque with a team-best two goals against San Jose in 2010-11.