Sharks take aim at Presidents' Trophy again

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By Justin Einhorn

STATS Senior Editor

SAN JOSE (53-17-11) at LOS ANGELES (33-37-11), 4:00 p.m. EDT

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- For a second straight game, the San Jose

Sharks can claim the Presidents' Trophy by beating one of the

NHL's worst teams. If they blow this chance like they did the

first one, the Sharks will need help to claim home-ice advantage

throughout the postseason and be lacking momentum as it begins.

San Jose hopes to avoid ending the best regular season in

franchise history on a very sour note when it visits the Los

Angeles Kings on Saturday.

It seemed very likely the Sharks (53-17-11) would become the

first true West Coast team to claim the Presidents' Trophy

following Tuesday's action, having won for the fifth time in six

games to take a five-point lead over Boston for the most in the

league. San Jose would clinch home ice for every playoff round

with a win in either of its final two games versus Phoenix or

Los Angeles - currently tied for 13th in the Western Conference.

However, the Sharks fell behind by two goals after the first

period Thursday against the Coyotes in a 4-1 defeat, just their

fifth regulation home loss of the season. With Boston winning

that night, San Jose's lead for the league's best record is down

to three points so if it fails to win Saturday, the Bruins can

steal away the Presidents' Trophy by winning their final two

games - against Buffalo and the New York Islanders.

Even with Thursday's defeat, San Jose clinched the best record

in the West because of Detroit's shootout loss to Nashville.

"Players have worked hard and earned that opportunity to have

home ice throughout the first three rounds, anyhow," coach Todd

McLellan said. "Just right now, this effort early in the game

stings a little. Maybe it's what we needed, we'll see how we

respond Saturday."

McLellan now would like to see his team jell offensively with

some key players back in the lineup after San Jose was held to

one goal over the last two games.

Lower-body injuries caused captain Patrick Marleau to sit out

the previous five games and high-scoring forward Ryane Clowe to

miss 10 straight before both returned Thursday. That duo,

however, combined for no points and a minus-5 rating.

"As the days go along and we get more practice, we'll really

start hitting our passes and feeling better," Clowe said after

playing for the first time since March 17. "Personally, I felt

good. The timing was there and everything."

Clowe, though, is pointless in his last five games and Marleau

has no points in his last four. The Sharks have failed to score

more than three goals in eight straight.

They are likely to face Kings goalie Jon Quick, who has given up

only one goal in three straight starts but has never faced San

Jose.

Los Angeles (33-37-11) has scored just 16 goals in its last 11

games and has lost eight of them. The Kings, who will miss the

playoffs for a sixth straight season, are 2-for-26 on the power

play in their last nine.

The Sharks are 0-for-11 in their last two but are among the

league leaders in power-play percentage at 23.7.

San Jose has won all five meetings this season while limiting

Los Angeles to six goals and looks to sweep the season series

for the first time. Evgeni Nabokov has won three of those games

and is 9-3-1 with a 1.83 goals-against average in his last 13

games versus the Kings.

The Sharks have won eight of their last nine visits to Los

Angeles.

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