The Anaheim Ducks are hoping to lock up the Pacific Division crown with a win over the second-place San Jose Sharks in Wednesday night's showdown at Honda Center.
However, a loss could open things up for Todd McLellan's club.
Anaheim (51-20-8) had dropped back-to-back games in regulation before winning 3-0 at Vancouver on Monday. Twenty-year-old John Gibson become the youngest player to post a shutout in his NHL debut since Daren Puppa in 1985, and the Ducks moved three points ahead of the Sharks (49-21-9) with three games remaining.
"On paper, it sounds really good. But the fact we play San Jose the next game, L.A. the next game after that, and Colorado, it's not going to be an easy thing," coach Bruce Boudreau told the team's official website. "We've got to play a lot like we played tonight if we want to have success on Wednesday and beyond."
Anaheim's 110 points are tied with the 2006-07 team's total for the most in franchise history. The Ducks went on to win the Stanley Cup that season, but their tough remaining games could prove to be a big factor in the division race if the Sharks can pull within one or two points with a victory.
Anaheim has gone 1-4-1 during a six-game stretch against San Jose, but its lone win came by a 6-3 score at home Dec. 31 in the Sharks' only previous visit this season. Ryan Getzlaf notched a goal and two assists, giving him seven points in his last four home meetings in the series.
The Ducks have taken eight of the last 11 from the Sharks on their own ice.
"They're going to be ready for us," Sharks defenseman Jason Demers said. "It's big points."
San Jose hits the road looking to bounce back from Saturday's 3-0 loss to Nashville. The Sharks, who beat Los Angeles 2-1 two days earlier, allowed all three goals in the second period.
"After the game we put together against L.A. to give a showing like that is unacceptable," Demers said. "We didn't come out to work. We just sat back on our heels and let them take the game to us. It's disappointing and something we're going to have to obviously rectify as quick as possible.
"We just have to forget about it and worry about the next game coming up here."
San Jose had gone 8 for 20 on the power play in its previous five games while scoring at least once with the man advantage in every one, but came up empty on two chances against the Predators. Nashville cruised to a 5-2 victory at Anaheim on Friday.
"It's a missed opportunity," defenseman Dan Boyle said. 'Nashville went into (the Ducks') building and did their job. Unfortunately, we didn't do ours to take advantage of that. ... We'll see how this thing plays out."
Antti Niemi is 2-2-0 with a 3.02 goals-against average in his last four starts, up from his season mark of 2.37. The Sharks are 11-18-5 when giving up at least three goals compared to 38-3-4 when allowing two or fewer.
Niemi is 5-1-0 with a 2.43 GAA in his last six against the Ducks, but 1-3-0 with a 3.82 in his last four in Anaheim.
The Ducks' Jonas Hiller, who has compiled a 4.16 GAA during an 0-2-1 stretch, has gone 2-6-2 in his last 10 on home ice after opening 14-0-2. He is 5-1-0 with a 1.95 GAA and two shutouts in his last seven home games against San Jose.
Sharks captain Joe Thornton has one goal and five assists in four meetings with the Ducks this season. Logan Couture has recorded three and one, respectively, in the season series while Patrick Marleau has two and two.
The Associated Press News Service
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