April 5, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings players engage San Jose Sharks players during the first period at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

San Jose Sharks Officially Earn No. 7 Playoff Seed WIth Win Over Kings

The San Jose Sharks defeated the Los Angeles Kings in the final two games of the regular season to earn the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. For more on the Sharks, go to Fear The Fin.

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NHL Playoffs Schedule And Bracket 2012: Game Times, TV Coverage For Sharks Vs. Blues Series

The Sharks find themselves the underdog in their first round matchup with the St. Louis Blues, looking to make another deep playoff run in 2012. For more on the Sharks head over to Fear the Fin.

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Sharks Vs. Kings Final Score: San Jose Claims No. 7 Seed With 3-2 Overtime Win

The San Jose Sharks hosted the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night in the regular-season finale for both teams. The teams knew before the game began that the Phoenix Coyotes had sewn up the Pacific Division title with a win over the Minnesota Wild. The only thing left was for the Sharks and Kings to duke it out in order to see who would enter the playoffs as the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference and who would be the No. 8 seed. The Sharks were able to pull off the 3-2 overtime win and claim the higher seeding in the postseason.

Justin Williams put the Kings on the board first with a power play goal at 11:09 in the first period, Williams' 22nd goal of the season. The Kings extended their lead on another power play goal i the second period, as Mike Richards put his 18th of the season past Antti Niemi.

The Sharks came back in the final period of regulation, getting on the board with Dan Boyle's eighth goal of the year just 35 seconds into the period, then tying it up on a Patrick Marleau power play goal at 8:14. The goal was Marleau's 30th of the season.

The game headed to overtime and appeared to be heading to a shootout when Boyle once again found the net with 1:02 left in the OT period for the Sharks win.

Looking forward to the Sharks opponent for the first round of the NHL playoffs, it was bad news for them as either the No. 7 or the No. 8 seed. The Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues hold the top two seeds in the Western Conference. The Sharks were of course bounced from last year's playoffs by the Canucks, who went on to the Stanley Cup FInals, while the Blues hold a 4-0 record over San Jose in the 2011-12 season, outscoring them 11-3 in those games.

For all news and information regarding the San Jose Sharks, please visit Fear the Fin. For updates and perspective regarding the Los Angeles Kings, head on over to Jewels From the Crown.

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Coyotes Clinch Pacific Division Title With 4-1 Victory Over Wild, Sharks Now Try For No. 7 Seed

Heading into Saturday night's regular-season finale, the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings now know where they stand. The Phoenix Coyotes have clinched the Pacific Division title and the No. 3 seed in the Western Division for the NHL Playoffs. The Kings and Sharks will now be playing to see who will become the No. 7 seed and who will become the No. 8 seed in the postseason. The loser of Saturday night's game at the Shark Tank will wind up on the bottom

Phoenix wasted no time in their road game against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday, jumping out to an early lead and never looking back en route to a 4-1 win. Their improbable turnaround from the beginning of the season has netted them a shiny new Pacific Division title.

For more on the Phoenix Coyotes, check out Five For Howling. For all news and information regarding the San Jose Sharks, please visit Fear the Fin. For updates and perspective regarding the Los Angeles Kings, head on over to Jewels From the Crown.

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Sharks Vs. Kings Preview: It All Comes Down To This

The 2011-12 NHL regular season will come to an end on Saturday and really, could it have ever ended any other way than this? (I mean that figuratively. I know the season schedule has been drawn up for some time.) The Los Angeles Kings will come to the Shark Tank for one last dogfight, fresh on the heels of the instant classic the two teams put on Thursday night.

Both teams will be headed to the playoffs, but the seeding has not yet been sorted out. The Sharks and Kings are knotted at 94 points each and both stand one point behind the Phoenix Coyotes in the Pacific Division. The Coyotes will also have their last game on Saturday, against the Minnesota Wild. If the Coyotes win, they take the division and the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. If they lose in regulation, the winner of the Sharks-Kings game takes the division title.

No matter what, Saturday's game will be full of emotion and intensity. There is no guarantee these teams will meet again in the postseason. The puck will drop at 7:30 p.m. PT and will air on both CSN-CA and NBCSN (formerly Vs.). You can listen to the radio broadcast on KFOX.

For all news and information regarding the San Jose Sharks, please visit Fear the Fin. For updates and perspective regarding the Los Angeles Kings, head on over to Jewels From the Crown.

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NHL Playoffs 2012: Coyotes Move Into First Place Ahead Of Sharks

The San Jose Sharks were off on Friday after picking up a huge win over the Kings, but they still managed to fall out of first place. The Phoenix Coyotes, who sat one point back of the Sharks and Kings as the day began, knocked off the Blues this evening by a score of 4-1, moving them into first place. All three teams now have just one game remaining on the schedule.

The Coyotes now have 95 points and a road game against the Minnesota Wild remaining. The Sharks and Kings have 94 and will square off once again on Saturday night.

So here is how the Pacific Division and playoff seeding will break down: if the Coyotes win, they take the division and the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. If they lose, the winner of San Jose vs. Los Angeles wins the division and the three seed, providing it's in regulation - otherwise the Kings win the tiebreak if they both get a point via overtime. Pretty simple, right?

Saturday should be a wild day of hockey, especially if Thursday's matchup between the Sharks and Kings is anything to go by. Get ready, folks.

For more on the Sharks, be sure to check out Fear The Fin.

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Ryane Clowe Gate: Non-Call In Sharks-Kings Game Drawing Mixed Reactions

Once again, the NHL has been lit up by talks of a player breaking the rules, with condemnations and defenses flying back and forth. There are those who want Ryane Clowe of the San Jose Sharks suspended for his actions against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, and there are those who believe what he did was trivial, at best. So what exactly was it that Clowe did?

He sat on the bench, but kept his stick in play during overtime, interfering with Jarret Stoll of the Kings, and he wasn't caught. None of the four officials saw the act, but it's what happened. That's something a little less dramatic than what usually has fans all up in arms (usually a violent hit is concerned), but it's still plenty serious. Clowe broke the rules, and while he denied it in candid manner, it was all very clear and out there.

Nobody knows whether Clowe actively decided he wanted to do that, or if he just ... did it without thinking. The latter is definitely a possibility, especially given some comments from Stoll, who can't believe it happened, can't believe an official didn't see it, and can't believe that Clowe would have actually done that, had he thought things through:

"It's something that I don't think any of us can see much of. You don't see that play happen a lot. I'm sure Clowe will say afterwards that he didn't know what he was thinking, either. It's just one of those plays. You hope they see it, and they didn't. What can you do? Move on. We've gotten some calls this year that maybe we shouldn't have gotten, and maybe it evens it up."

That's a great stance for Stoll to take on the situation, and very mature, given that the game ended in a 6-5 shootout victory for the Sharks that brought them to a tie atop the Pacific Division, at least as far as points are concerned. Los Angeles holds the tiebreaker, but they're set to play again on Saturday, regardless.

So, what should happen with Clowe based on this blatant eschewing of the rules of hockey? Should he be suspended like the outraged Los Angeles fans are claiming, or should it be treated different? If you think about it, Clowe's penalty was nothing more than something like, say, hooking.

We've seen players really obviously commit hooking penalties, often with 100 percent intentions to do so beforehand. Because they're so blatantly hooking, should they be suspended? No? Then why should Clowe, who certainly didn't impact a game more than your average hooking call, be suspended?

The issue here is one of visibility, not severity.

An interesting take on the situation comes from non-other than CSN Bay Area's Ray Ratto, who doesn't necessarily weigh in on the punishments Clowe should receive, but extols the benefits of playing on the dirtier side of hockey. Clowe is no stranger to that, Ratto says, and Sharks fans are now starting to see that.

Personally, I disagree with Ratto, in that the fans thinking this isn't such a big deal isn't necessarily embracing dirty play. We've all laughed at one of our favorite players tripping a player we dislike, and this act didn't even involve bodily harm. I'll admit that Clowe did what he did knowing full well what he was doing, and I also don't think it's a big deal.

I'll also admit I always preferred the Sith to the Jedi, so who knows what that means?

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NHL Playoffs 2012: Sharks Will Be Watching Coyotes On Friday

The San Jose Sharks will spend Friday afternoon glued to their television sets. Although the Sharks moved into a tie for first place in the Pacific Division by defeating the Los Angeles Kings in a 6-5 shootout victory on Thursday night, there is still a chance that the Phoenix Coyotes could take the top spot in the division and its accompanying No. 3 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

The Dallas Stars lost on Thursday, meaning that the Coyotes, Kings and Sharks all clinched playoff berths. But the order of seeding is not yet determined. The Coyotes have two games remaining and if they can win out the season, they will clinch the Pacific Division outright. That will be a tall order, however, as a rough win against the St. Louis Blues will in no way come easily.

Friday's game between the Coyotes and the Blues will begin at 4:30 p.m. PT and both the Sharks and Kings will be watching in rapt attention. Should the Coyotes lose in regulation, the Pacific Division title will be decided in Saturday's game between the Kings and the Sharks in San Jose.

For all news and information regarding the San Jose Sharks, please visit Fear the Fin. For updates and perspective regarding the Los Angeles Kings, head on over to Jewels from the Crown.

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Sharks Vs. Kings Final Score: San Jose Picks Up 6-5 Shootout Win In Heart-Stopper

The San Jose Sharks visited the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night in the penultimate game of the season for both teams. The matchup had distinct playoff implications and true to the high tensions and emotions, the game turned into an absolute barn-burner. The Sharks were able to come away with the 6-5 shootout win in a nail-biter and hard-earned win.

Both teams had clinched a playoff spot on Thursday night, thanks to a Dallas Stars loss against the Nashville Predators, but they were now playing for the Pacific Division title and the all-important No. 3 seed in the postseason. With the win, the Sharks scoot into a tie with the Kings for first place in the division, with both teams holding 94 points.

The Kings got on the board first, when Alec Martinez scored at 8:45 of the first period on a power play goal. The Sharks tied things up at 16:27 when Jason Demers was able to find the net.

In the second period, the Kings again struck first on a power play goal, as Jarret Stoll put one past Antti Niemi at 8:54. Dustin Brown followed that up at 13:19 with his 22nd goal of the season and the Sharks were suddenly in a 3-1 goal. San Jose was able to inch closer on a power play, as Joe Thornton scored with 28 seconds left in the period.

The Sharks got it going right away in the third period, as Ryane Clowe tied the game with a goal at 1:10. The teams then traded power play goals as Justin Williams scored at 3:54 to put the Kings back on top 4-3 before Patrick Marleau tied things up at 4:55. On the sixth scoring power play of the game, Martin Havlat put one past Jonathan Quick at 12:37 to put the Sharks on top for the first time in the game.

The Kings were able to pick up a two-man advantage for 1:19 with four minutes left to play and Williams was able to shoot one past Niemi to tie things up once again at 16:29. The Sharks were able to last until the end of the power play and the Kings ferociously attacked the Sharks' net for the final minute-plus of action. San Jose managed to withstand the onslaught and the game headed into overtime.

The overtime period featured action just as furious as the final minutes of regulation. Dustin Brown was called for holding with 1:14 left in the OT period and the Sharks had a chance to put it away on the 4-on-3 overtime power play. The Sharks took several shots in the final minute, but Quick was able to save and cover with 26.1 seconds left. The Sharks had the time to take a few more shots, but were unable to find the net and the teams prepared for the shootout.

Niemi saved the first shot, but Quick saved Clowe's shot in return. Brown's shot was thankfully wide of the mark as Niemi floundered off a fake and the Sharks went up 1-0 on a Joe Pavelski top-shelf goal. Niemi then snagged a stellar glove save on an Anze Kopitar shot to secure the win after an absolute classic of a game.

The two teams will wrap up the regular season at the Shark Tank on Saturday.

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Sharks Vs. Kings Preview: Drew Doughty Wants To Knock San Jose Out Of The Playoffs

The Pacific Division truly is coming down to the wire. The other two divisions in the Western Conference have already been clinched, while the Los Angeles Kings currently sit just one point ahead of the San Jose Sharks for the lead in the Pacific. The Phoenix Coyotes are also one point ahead of the Sharks, but don't have the tiebreaker over Los Angeles. The Dallas Stars are also in the mix, but they're three points back of the Sharks and currently at No. 9 in the conference, outside of the playoffs.

Fortunately for the Sharks, they've got their destiny in their hands, as it stands. They have two games remaining, both against the Kings, and can at least ensure themselves a No. 7 seed if they win them both. They can also secure themselves the division, but the Coyotes have games against the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild to end their season, and could steal the division if San Jose is beating Los Angeles.

Still, playoffs aren't guaranteed at this point, and rather than look for that No. 3 spot and watch the standings, the Sharks simply need to make sure they win their two games. If they do, they're in the playoffs and all is fine. Relatively speaking, of course, as a whole new list of scenarios and worries will arise once they do punch their ticket in.

But that's getting a bit ahead, isn't it?

Los Angeles isn't just going to roll over. Not if defenseman Drew Doughty has anything to say about it. CSN Bay Area had a piece with a quote from Doughty, in which he says the Kings want to knock the Sharks out of the picture:

Doughty said: "We definitely want to do whatever we can to knock them out of the playoff picture. We want third place, and that's what we're going to play for. These two games mean a lot, not only for third place but just being able to push a team like that out of the playoffs is a big momentum boost for us."

It makes sense that Doughty would want more than to simply make the playoffs, but to kick the Sharks out on the way in. San Jose has been dominant for years, in the division and in the conference. The Kings have always been a team who has played them well, but has been unable to compete when it came to the standings. Morale is everything at this time of year, and it would be huge if they knock off the Sharks.

Los Angeles, and really, most of the Pacific Division have spent the last few seasons building up to beat the Sharks specifically. Their rosters are set to counter the Sharks, and San Jose certainly hasn't had an easy season. It's time to get down to business for the Sharks, and show that there's not going to be a huge power shift, and it all starts on Thursday night in Los Angeles.

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Pacific Division Playoff Picture: Sharks Sit One Point Back Of Kings, Coyotes

The San Jose Sharks have just two games remaining on their schedule after knocking off the Stars on Tuesday night. With four of the five teams in the Pacific Division still in the playoff picture, you can bet this next week is going to be crazy as teams play with their playoff hopes on the line.

As of Wednesday morning, the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes are tied atop the division with 93 points. The Sharks are in second with 92 points. The Stars are hanging on by a thread in third with 89 points.

The Sharks and Kings will face each other in their final two games, with both clubs getting one home game. The Coyotes have a very tough road game to play in St. Louis on Friday night, and will then return home to take on the struggling Minnesota Wild. The Stars will head to Nashville and then return home to face the Blues to close out their season.

If the Sharks sweep the Kings, they'll either be the No. 3 seed or No. 7 seed in the Western Conference, depending on what the Coyotes do.

If they split the final two games, they Sharks likely to end up the No. 7 or No. 8 seed.

If they lose both, they'll either get the final 8th seed or miss the playoffs completely, depending on what the Stars do.

Dallas has to win both games or they're eliminated from the race completely.

As they like to say in Oakland: Just Win, Baby. That's all San Jose can really do at this point in the season. Take care of business and you're playoff bound.

For more on the team, head on over to Fear The Fin.

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San Jose Sharks Pick Up Huge Road Victory Over Dallas Stars, Move Into 7th Place In West

The San Jose Sharks are fighting for one of the final playoff berths in the Western Conference and they were facing a daunting task on Tuesday night, heading into a hostile arena in Dallas to take on the Stars, a team that sat just one point back of San Jose at the start of the game. The Sharks dominated every aspect of the game this evening and came away with the huge 5-2 victory.

With the win in-hand, the club now sits in seventh place in the Western Conference, one point back of the division-leading Kings for the No. 3 seed.

The two teams were tied after a period of play and exchanged goals right around the 10 minute mark in the second period. It was all Sharks after that, though. Logan Couture scored his 31st goal of the season in the closing moments of the period, and Joe Thornton gave San Jose a 4-2 lead with a goal at 15:10 in the third. Ryane Clowe sealed the deal with an empty net goal.

Just two games remain on the schedule now, both of which will be played against the Kings. The first will come on Thursday evening, with the puck set to drop at 7:30 PT.

For more on the Sharks, check out Fear The Fin.

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Pacific Division Standings: Kings Gain Two More Points To Increase Lead Over Sharks

The Los Angeles Kings are very close to wrapping up the Pacific Division Crown in the Western Conference. That would assure them of the third overall seed and home ice in the first round of the playoffs. The San Jose Sharks are close behind, and they know how crucial winning the division is. The Kings are well behind the fourth, fifth and sixth seeds in points, and the Sharks currently are situated in eight place in the West.

The Kings got a big win against the Edmonton Oilers, winning 2-0 behind goals by Slava Voynov and Dwight King. The Kings now take a three point lead over the Sharks going into their final two games of the regular season, meaning the Sharks need to sweep to have any chance to win the division.

To talk about the NHL Playoff Picture with Kings fans, hit up Jewels From The Crown. To discuss the NHL Playoff Picture with Sharks fans, check out Fear The Fin.

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Playoff Picture 2012: Sharks Will Be Watching The Kings On Monday Night

While the San Jose Sharks are in the best position of any of their Pacific Division rivals to write their own destiny and blaze their own path into the playoffs, winning out the season remains a tall order, particularly for a team that has played as unevenly as San Jose has over the past month-plus.

The Los Angeles Kings, current holders of first place in the division and the accompanying No. 3 playoff seed, will host the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night. All other teams in the Pacific will be watching the game with great interest. The Coyotes, Sharks and Star are all within two points of the division leaders and a Kings loss would leave the door wide open for any of them, none more so than the Sharks, who play a home-and-home series with Los Angeles to close out the season on Thursday and Saturday.

NHL Pacific Division Standings
Team Games W-L-OL Pts Remaining
LA Kings
79 39-27-13 91 2 home / 1 road
Phoenix
79 39-27-13 91 1 home / 2 road
San Jose
79 40-29-10 90 1 home / 2 road
Dallas
79 42-32-5 89 2 home / 1 road
Anaheim 79 33-35-11 77 0 home / 3 road
Through games of April 1

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NHL Playoff Picture: Where The Sharks Stand After Saturday's Games

The San Jose Sharks managed a must-win victory over the visiting Dallas Stars to halt their two-game skid. With the win, they leapfrogged Dallas to land in the eighth spot in the Western Conference, just above the postseason cutoff ... for the time being.

While the Calgary Flames were officially eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday following their overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks, the Sharks still need to be worried about the Colorado Avalanche, as well as their prime targets: Pacific Division rivals the Stars, Phoenix Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings.

Both the first-place Kings and second-place Coyotes were in action on Saturday. While the Kings lost via shootout to the Minnesota Wild, the Coyotes unfortunately coasted to an easy 4-0 win against the Anaheim Ducks.

Following Saturday's play, the Kings are in first place in the Pacific Division (and thus third place in the Western Conference) with 91 points. The Coyotes are in second place in the division and seventh place in the conference with 91 points of their own and the Sharks are right behind with 90 points. The Stars currently have 89 points, while the Avalanche have 88.

The Sharks will have an opportunity to keep the Stars stalled at 89 points as they complete the home-and-home series against their rivals in Dallas on Tuesday. They follow that up with a home-and-home against the Kings to finish out the season. If the Sharks can somehow manage to win out the season, they could very well claim the Pacific Division title. If they can just beat the Stars again on Tuesday, that will be an excellent start. They can ill afford to lose again in their three remaining games.

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Sharks Vs. Stars Final Score: San Jose Picks Up Vital 3-0 Win

The San Jose Sharks hosted the Dallas Stars on Saturday night at HP Pavilion in an absolute must-win game. The Sharks entered the game having lost two in a row and needed to pick up a vital victory over their Pacific Division rivals to remain in the playoff hunt. They managed to pull off the win by a final score of 3-0.

Joe Pavelski netted his 30th goal of the season within the first minute of play and that would prove to be the only offense the Sharks would need, as Antti Niemi saved all 22 shots that came his way. San Jose would add another first period goal by Jason Demers and Pavelski scored his second goal of the game midway through the second period.

The Sharks are now in the No. 8 slot in the Western Conference and are in third place in the division, one point ahead of the Stars and one point behind both the Phoenix Coyotes and the Los Angeles Kings. The Sharks will play the Stars once more in Dallas on Tuesday.

For all news and information regarding the San Jose Sharks, please visit Fear the Fin. For updates and perspective on the Dallas Stars, head on over to Defending Big D.

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Sharks Host Stars In Hopes To Keep Playoff Chances Alive

It's clear that the San Jose Sharks are in a must-win situation, without all the cliches that come with that statement. Some start using it in late February, and others in early March, but it's rarely ever the case. Now, with four games remaining and not in the Stanley Cup Playoffs if they started today, the Sharks absolutely have to win. It's reached a point where CSN Bay Area analysts are arguing with one another.

Fortunately, the Sharks can win. They're in a position where their final four games are against the Los Angeles Kings and the Dallas Stars, two of the three teams above the Sharks in the Pacific Division (separated by no more than two points, as it happens). If they win those games, then they're right back in the thick of things. Now that they're behind, it's possible that winning out will be for naught, but all you can do is beat the teams in front of you.

Beating the Stars and Kings twice apiece over their final four games won't be easy, especially given that their Pacific Division rivals have essentially built themselves to beat San Jose. To help things a little bit, Sharks coach Todd McLellan canceled practice on Friday - something that has been questioned by some, but really makes sense in the scheme of things. San Jose played 17 games in the month of March, and had played fewer games than any over the course of the beginning of the season.

In short, this is the hardest part of the season by design, and if McLellan thinks the team needs a night off from practice, then he should probably be trusted. The Sharks need to get things straight mentally, and hopefully get Douglas Murray back from his lower body injury, which is a possibility for their next game.

On the ice, the Sharks need some more production from guys like Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau. It seems as though the latter has is having his patented "once per season dry spell" at the worst time, while Couture hasn't scored a goal in nine games, the longest gap of his short career (a hat tip to David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News for pointing that out).

Whatever needs to be done, it needs to be soon, as the team gets set to play the first of those four aforementioned games on Saturday, when they play host to the Dallas Stars at the HP Pavilion. Dallas leads San Jose by a single point, but had an opportunity to make it three when they played the Vancouver Canucks on Friday. Unfortunately for them, they were soundly beat by a score of 5-2.

So San Jose has a chance to capitalize, and get back on even ground with the Kings in regards to points, since the Kings picked up two and took the lead in the division on Friday as well.

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Stars Lose 5-2 To Canucks, Offer Sharks Slightly More Hope

The San Jose Sharks were handed a brutal shutout loss by the Phoenix Coyotes on Friday night, but their playoff situation got just slightly less dire later on in the evening, as the Dallas Stars suffered a lopsided 5-2 loss against the hometown Vancouver Canucks.

Dallas -- holders of first place in the Pacific Division just days ago -- are now just one point ahead of the San Jose Sharks. All four teams gunning for playoff position in the Pacific Division are now within two points of one another. The Los Angeles Kings are in first place with 90 points, the Coyotes and Stars have 89 points and are in the seventh and eighth playoff spots in the Western Conference and the Sharks are currently sitting just below the postseason cutoff with 88 points.

Friday night's Dallas loss is crucial for the Sharks, who close out the season with home-and-homes against both the Stars and the Kings. The Sharks are better set up than any other team in the division to make their own fortune, but they will have to find a way to win in order to do that.

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Sharks Lose 2-0 Shutout To Coyotes, Now Firmly In 'Must Win' Situation

The San Jose Sharks can still control their own fate when it comes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but only just. On Thursday, the team went into its sixth meeting with the Phoenix Coyotes, and were soundly beat 2-0, losing a game they could ill-afford to lose. Going into the game, San Jose was second in the Pacific Division and still clung to the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference, but after said game, they've dropped down to fourth in the division, trailing the Los Angeles Kings and Dallas Stars on top of the Phoenix Coyotes.

They've also dropped to No. 9 in the Western Conference, and are out of the playoffs if they were to start on Friday. San Jose just couldn't get anything done against goaltender Mike Smith, who recorded his third shutout of the Sharks this season (which had never been done before), and made a whopping 38 saves on the night. The loss wasn't for lack of effort.

Antti Niemi played well, too, but was bested by Radim Vrbata on both Phoenix goals, with former Shark Ray Whitney picking up assists in both. The Sharks lit up Smith for 12 goals this season, but six of them came in the first of those six meetings, while the other six game over the next five. San Jose will have four games to close the season and get things back on track so they make the playoffs: two against Los Angeles and two against Dallas.

The San Jose Mercury News had a couple postgame quotes, from Joe Thornton and Dan Boyle. Thornton said that the Phoenix game was the biggest game of the year, while Boyle said that the time of mis-labeling games as "must wins" has passed and that they are, in fact, in a must-win situation. In reality, San Jose has been there for about a week now.

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Douglas Murray Out For Sharks Against Coyotes Thursday

The San Jose Sharks can't afford to take any hits to their roster from injuries, with just five games to go, all of which are against Pacific Division opponents within one or two points of one another. Unfortunately, that looks like it's happening, as Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area is reporting that Douglas Murray is set to miss Thursday's game against the Phoenix Coyotes:

Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray suffered a lower-body injury against Anaheim and will not play Thursday against Phoenix.

It's a relief to see that it's not the same injury that kept Murray out for multiple games in February, but as he's one of San Jose's better players, it's going to be tough to proceed without him, at such a crucial point. Multiple players on the Sharks have said that they need to all do better, but it's going to be hard to do that without Murray on the ice.

Colin White will be in the lineup getting some minutes in Murray's absence. Murray was injured in the first period against the Ducks and did not return. The Sharks did not update on his status at all during that game. San Jose is just one point ahead of the Coyotes in the standings.

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Sharks Vs. Coyotes: Pacific Division Totally Up For Grabs

Maybe the San Jose Sharks are still in control when it comes to the Pacific Division, and they just had to get something out of the way, first. Perhaps it's just the Anaheim Ducks who have their number, and since they're eliminated from contention for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and have now played all six of their games against San Jose, the Sharks can get back on track, win their final games and enter said playoffs with yet another Pacific Division title.

It's far easier to explain it that way, considering the fact that the Ducks beat the Sharks in five out of six games this season. The Ducks outscored the Sharks 16-12 over those six games, with the only San Jose win coming in January, a 3-1 Sharks win away from the HP Pavilion.

On Wednesday, the Sharks wrapped up that series with a 3-1 loss at the hands of Jonas Hiller ... er ... the Ducks. He's always been dominant against the Sharks, so it was no surprise when he outplayed Antti Niemi in a tight game, in which the Sharks actually out-shot the Ducks by two. That loss bumped the Sharks down the Pacific Division ladder, but just by a single point as the Dallas Stars won their game.

All five of the Sharks' remaining games are against division opponents, so they'll have every opportunity to make it up. At this point, they're only just in the playoffs, hanging on to that No. 8 spot, while they'd much rather be one of the top seeds. On Thursday, the Sharks will take on the Phoenix Coyotes, who have 87 points to San Jose's 88. They, along with the Stars and the Los Angeles Kings, have their sights set on the Pacific Division title, too.

San Jose bested the Coyotes in their last outing, on March 25 when the Sharks won 4-3 in the shootout. Phoenix has taken three of five in the series, so the Sharks are trying to even in out, and hopefully pick up two points. They know they can't rest, it's all coming down to the fire for what feels like the first time in ages. That game is set for 7:00 p.m. pacific.

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Sharks Gearing Up For Final Stretch, Currently On Top Of Pacific Division

The San Jose Sharks are leading the Pacific Division with six games to go - all against rivals. They lead by just a point as they head into a Wednesday matchup with the Anaheim Ducks. For more on the Sharks, go to Fear The Fin.

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