First-place Sharks clash with Ducks

The Sharks may be surprised today that they still lead the Pacific Division. Such is life in the tightest race in all of the NHL.

San Jose looks to maintain its claim to first place in the division and the Western Conference's third seed as it battles the last-place Anaheim Ducks this evening.

The Sharks' third straight victory on Monday over the Avalanche boosted their point total on the season to 88. That is just one ahead of the Stars and Coyotes, who are tied for the final two spots in the West. The Kings are only two points back of the Sharks.

In fact, the Ducks are the only team in the Pacific not in the race for a spot in the postseason. They sit 11 behind the ninth-place Kings with six games to play.

San Jose, Dallas and Los Angeles all have six games left on their schedule and each is in action tonight. Phoenix has five games to play and is idle this evening before hosting the Sharks tomorrow night in Glendale.

The Sharks picked up their fifth victory in six games by beating the Avalanche 5-1 on Monday, grabbing first place in the process. Still, head coach Todd McLellan knows his team must concentrate on winning and not where they are in the standings.

"The fact that we got two points is the most significant thing," said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. "I don't think we can be worried about positioning right now. You can not play a game and drop three spots."

Still, the Sharks bench boss would rather be in first than fourth.

"It's nice to be ahead. When you're ahead, you completely control your own destiny. When you're behind, you're waiting for help and we want to be in control of everything."

Joe Pavelski scored twice to reach 300 career points and defenseman Dan Boyle logged a pair of assists to give him 500 points over his career. Torrey Mitchell, Ryane Clowe and Andrew Desjardins all scored and Antti Niemi ended with 31 saves.

"You win games when you get all four lines scoring and that's what we had tonight," said San Jose forward Joe Thornton. "Every line out there had a jump to their skates and it's contagious. We got six games left and we have some more work to do."

Finishing with home-ice advantage in the opening round could be key for San Jose, which will play two straight and four of its next five on the road and has dropped 10 of its past 12 as the guest.

The Ducks have been reduced to the role of spoiler after failing to pick up a third straight victory on Sunday over the visiting Bruins. Anaheim dropped a 3-2 decision, but felt it was robbed of a game-tying goal in the third period.

Down 2-1, Matt Beleskey fired a shot that made it past Boston's Tim Thomas with Andrew Cogliano screening him in the crease. It was called a goal on the ice, but eventually waived off due to skater inference, leaving Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau livid.

"It was a [expletive] call. There was no explanation," he said. "What can I say? It cost us the game and even one point is very important to us."

Though Boston scored minutes later, Boudreau said his club would have played differently in a tie game than down by a goal. The Ducks closed within one on Lubomir Visnovsky's with 2:29 remaining, but couldn't net the equalizer.

Teemu Selanne had a power-play goal for Anaheim while Jonas Hiller gave up three goals on 25 shots.