Sharks, Stars renew hostilities in San Jose

The San Jose Sharks turned in an impressive performance in Star break and the Pacific Division leaders will aim for a third straight win tonight when they host the rival Dallas Stars at HP Pavilion.

The Sharks, who hold a two-point edge over Los Angeles for the top spot in the Pacific, halted a three-game skid by posting a 1-0 win in Calgary on Jan. 24. San Jose posted another shutout in its first game after the break, slamming visiting Columbus by a 6-0 score on Tuesday.

Antti Niemi recorded both shutouts for the Sharks, giving him four blankings on the season. Niemi is expected to get the start tonight and the Finnish backstop enters the game with a shutout streak of 124 minutes, 17 seconds. No Sharks goaltender has ever posted three straight shutouts.

The Sharks had five players post multi-point games Tuesday against the Blue Jackets with captain Joe Thornton leading the way with two goals and an assist. Niemi made 30 saves for the 17th shutout of his career.

Joe Pavelski, Jamie McGinn and Michal Handzus all had a goal and an assist for the Sharks and Logan Couture added two helpers. Patrick Marleau also scored in the win, which improved San Jose's home record this season to 16-8-2.

"I'm glad we played an emotional game," said Sharks coach Todd McLellan after watching the teams combine for 19 penalties. "That's a big thing. I think we did a good job on sticking together."

Sharks forward Ryane Clowe (facial fracture) and defenseman Jason Demers (lower body) are questionable for tonight. Clowe has missed the last six games, while Demers has so far only missed Tuesday's game with a charley horse.

Dallas started its post-All-Star schedule off with a bang on Wednesday, as the Stars slammed the Ducks, 6-2, in Anaheim. It was the second straight win for the Stars after a five-game skid and they enter tonight trailing Minnesota by one point for the final playoff seed in the West. The Wild also play tonight in Colorado.

Michael Ryder and Jamie Benn each had a goal and two assists to lead Dallas to the rout in Anaheim. Stephane Robidas, Eric Nystrom, Vernon Fiddler and Sheldon Souray each scored for the Stars, who are trailing San Jose by eight points for the Pacific lead..

"I think we were thinking more about offense tonight," said Benn. "We got some timely goals there in the first period and things started rolling from there. It was nice to have an output like that."

Kari Lehtonen turned aside 33 shots in the win and is now 18-11-1 on the season. The Finnish backstop is expected to get a rest tonight in favor of rookie goaltender Richard Bachman.

Dallas is 12-12-0 as the visiting team this year and will complete a brief two-game trip tonight. The Stars will play next on Saturday, when they host the Wild in Big D.

San Jose is 2-0 against the Stars this year and has won four straight in the series. The Sharks have outscored Dallas by a combined 11-2 margin in winning the last two encounters in Silicon Valley.