for this game

Sharks host Pacific battle with Stars

Dec 13, 2010 - 4:20 PM (Sports Network) - The San Jose Sharks will try to make the logjam at the top of the Pacific Division a little tighter tonight as they host the co-leading Dallas Stars at HP Pavilion.

The Sharks, winners of the last three Pacific Division titles, have 34 points on the season, two back of the Stars and Ducks for first place in the standings. Anaheim does not play this evening, meaning San Jose can create a three-way tie with a regulation victory this evening.

Having won three of their last four, the Sharks are coming off Saturday's 2-1 overtime victory over the defending champion Blackhawks. Ryane Clowe scored in regulation and then added the game-winner with 1:08 left in overtime for his fourth straight multi-point game. He has three goals and five assists over that run.

Former Chicago netminder Antti Niemi made 28 saves for the Sharks, who improved to 8-4-2 at home this season.

"It was one of those nights where I don't know if both teams had the polish or I don't know if they were as sharp as they wanted to be," said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. "I know our team wasn't. The good sign is we found a way to fight through it."

Forward Devin Setoguchi missed his eighth straight game with an upper-body injury and blueliner Kent Huskins his seventh in a row with an upper-body aliment. Both players are close to returning to action though and are day-to- day.

The Stars are hoping to rebound tonight from Saturday's 5-2 setback to the Coyotes. The loss was Dallas' third in four outings since a six-game winning streak.

Loui Eriksson scored and James Neal lit the lamp for a third straight game, giving him five goals and four helpers over a career high-tying seven-game point streak.

Andrew Raycroft allowed five goals on 30 shots before being benched for the contest's final 9 1/2 minutes. With Kari Lehtonen out for a third straight game due to back spasms, Richard Bachman made his NHL debut and stopped all four shots faced.

"Tonight, it wasn't from a lack of effort and it wasn't from a lack of staying with it," said Stars head coach Marc Crawford. "I guess you need a little bit of puck luck."

Dallas lost its third straight road game and is just 6-7-1 as the guest this year. Its power-play unit has struggled away from Big D, going a league-worst 3-for-49 on the season.

Neal had two goals and an assist when the Stars hosted the Sharks on Nov. 18 in the first meeting of the season between the clubs. Mike Ribeiro also scored twice, including the game-winner in overtime for a 5-4 triumph, Dallas' fifth in its last seven against San Jose.

Lehtonen made 35 saves, but Raycroft will get the call tonight seeking his first ever victory against San Jose. He is 0-5-0 with a 3.72 goals-against average lifetime versus the Sharks.

Niemi made 36 saves to take the loss in Dallas, falling to 2-1-1 with a 2.93 GAA when facing the club. Antero Niittymaki has faced the Stars just once in his career and not since March 13, 2007 while with Philadelphia. He allowed three goals on 33 shots in a loss.

Dallas has won three of its last five in San Jose.