It is do or die time for the San Jose Sharks who, after being shut out 2-0 Thursday by the Phoenix Coyotes, are ninth in the Western Conference with four games to go. San Jose entered the night tied with the Los Angeles Kings for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Sharks are now one spot behind L.A., who has a game in hand, looking from the outside in and fully aware of the urgency.
“The last two games we’ve put ourselves in a bit of a hole,” Ryane Clowe said. “We can’t afford to lose any, so if that means 4-0 then yeah.”
San Jose certainly had its share of chances, particularly in the first period as the Sharks out-shot Phoenix, 15-9. Coyotes goalie Mike Smith, who denied all 38 San Jose shots on the evening, stood tall midway through the opening frame and warded off a flurry of shots from the Sharks.
“We had a ton of opportunities, some really good looks at the net, and it (puck) didn’t go in for us,” Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said. “They capitalized on their chances, we didn’t and that’s the game.”
Radim Vrbata netted both Phoenix goals, including a power-play goal in the second period, for his 31st and 32nd tallies of the season. Ray Whitney assisted on each goal, bringing his assist total to 50.
It has been a tale of two seasons for San Jose, which has struggled to a 12-15-4 record since the all-star break. The Sharks’ remaining four games will make or break whether or not they make the playoffs, as they face the Kings and the Dallas Stars twice each.
“You’ve just got to bear down,” Clowe said. “Individually, you got to realize what’s on the line. Do you want to play, or do you want to go home?”
Dallas currently sits atop the Pacific Division with 89 points, one ahead of San Jose. Los Angeles has 88 points, as do the Sharks, but the Kings have a game in hand as mentioned earlier. Winning down the stretch could secure the Pacific Division championship for San Jose and land the Sharks in the playoffs by virtue of a division title. That notion is crystal clear in the teal locker room.
“We’ve got to win every game,” Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. “This four-game stuff… We’ve got to go 4-0.”
San Jose returns home to host the Stars on Saturday at HP Pavilion. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. with television coverage on Comcast Sports Net California HD. Radio coverage can be found on 98.5/102.1 KFOX.
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