Late Nite NHL: Rivals Clash

The Anaheim Ducks are trying to win the first division title in franchise history, but the San Jose Sharks are sure making it difficult.

The Pacific Division rivals face off for the final time Wednesday at the Honda Center in a game that will go a long way toward deciding the division champion.

The Ducks (47-20-12) have 106 points - the most ever by a team from the West Coast - but are only four ahead of San Jose (49-26-4) and Dallas with three games left.

Oddsmakers have made Anaheim -140 money line (NHL Odds) favorites for todays game, the over/under has been set at 5.5 total goals (View NHL Sports Books). Our public betting information shows that 54% of bets for this game have been placed on San

Jose +120 (View NHL Bet Percentages).

All three teams are already headed to the postseason, but they are jockeying for position in the division and Western Conference.

Anaheim has set franchise records for wins and points in a season, but is seeking the first Pacific title in team history and ultimately, its first Stanley Cup. The Ducks are also in contention for the Presidents' Trophy, awarded to the team with the most points in the NHL.

Anaheim has won three straight games, including a 3-2 overtime victory over St. Louis on Saturday, but San Jose is the division's hottest team. Since capping a season-worst four-game skid with a 3-1 defeat to the Ducks on March 2, the Sharks have gone 11-1-2, outscoring opponents 55-21.

San Jose beat Los Angeles 6-2 on Sunday for its third consecutive win. The Sharks are two points away from tying their franchise-best total of 104 set in 2003-04, which is also the last time they won the Pacific.

"We still have a chance to catch Anaheim,'' said Sharks coach Ron Wilson, whose team hosts Calgary and Vancouver in its final two games. "We have to win on Wednesday night against the Ducks and then get a break or two to win the division. And, Dallas is still in the mix too.''

The Sharks haven't needed any breaks lately, as all 11 of their recent wins have come by at least two goals. They easily handled Los Angeles with a four-goal second period, including a hat trick from Jonathan Cheechoo.

The Sharks right wing has eight career three-goal games - including three against the Ducks.

"It's not really that big of a deal,'' Cheechoo said of his hat trick. "The whole team is going well and that's more important. You can't wait for the playoffs to start to play well. You want to be on a roll when they do.''

Two other key San Jose players are already rolling. Center Joe Thornton had four assists Sunday to give him 109 points on the season, and he has a six-game point streak against Anaheim. Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov is 9-0-2 with a 1.49 goals-against average in his last 12 starts, although he's struggled recently against the Ducks, going 1-5-1 with a 3.46 GAA in his last seven starts.

Anaheim has taken five of seven meetings with San Jose this season. The Ducks are coming off a 3-1 road trip, suffering their only loss to Detroit.

Andy McDonald scored his second goal of the game 25 seconds into the extra period Saturday, while Scott Niedermayer added a goal and an assist for Anaheim, which is 5-for-10 on the power play over the last two games.

"Everybody looked at the schedule and said we had the most difficult one, and you'd have to agree,'' said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle, whose team went 10-3-2 in March for its second 10-win month of the season. "We just found a way to get the points (Saturday) with not one of our better efforts.''

The Ducks have had no problem earning points at home, where they are 26-6-8 going into the finale there before concluding the season with visits to Dallas and Columbus.

Anaheim's Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who made 20 saves Saturday, is 3-1-0 with a 2.61 GAA in five starts against the Sharks this season.

by: Gary Roberts - - Email Us

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