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Ducks host Sharks with chance to claim Pacific title
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Anaheim Ducks have a chance to wrap up their second straight Pacific Division title and set a new franchise record on Wednesday night when they host the rival San Jose Sharks.
The Ducks own a three-point lead over the Sharks for first place in the division with three games left to play for both clubs. Anaheim, though, can clinch the Pacific crown with a victory tonight as they own the current tiebreaker with 10 more non-shootout victories.
San Jose missed a chance to grab first place in the standings as it lost 3-0 to the Nashville Predators on Saturday. The setback didn't appear costly the following day as Anaheim lost a 4-2 decision in Edmonton, but the Ducks capitalized on their other game in hand by defeating the Vancouver Canucks 3-0 on Monday.
"On paper, it sounds really good," said Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau on Monday of clinching. "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. We've got to play a lot like we played tonight if we want to have success on Wednesday and beyond."
With starter Jonas Hiller having allowed 11 goals over a personal 0-2-1 skid and backup goaltender Frederik Andersen out with an upper-body injury, John Gibson made his NHL debut in net and posted an 18-save shutout.
At 20 years and 297 days old, Gibson became the youngest goaltender since Buffalo's Darren Puppa in 1985 to record a shutout in his NHL debut, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Gibson also became the first NHL goaltender of any age to notch a shutout in his debut since Al Montoya for Phoenix on April 1, 2009.
"The team played really well in front of me and made my job easier," said Gibson, a highly-touted prospect who was taken in the second round of the 2011 draft. "I only had to make regular saves and if there was any rebounds they cleared it out."
Daniel Winnik, Kyle Palmieri and Matt Beleskey all scored for the Ducks, who stopped a two-game losing streak and reached 110 points on the season to match the previous club single-season record set in 2006-07.
Anaheim also is one point behind the St. Louis Blues for the top seed in the Western Conference with three games to play.
The Sharks have been idle since suffering their fourth shutout loss of the season. Antti Niemi was beaten three times on 24 shots, with all three goals yielded in a span of less than 10 minutes of the second period.
San Jose had won the first two of a three-game homestand and host Colorado on Friday before ending the regular season the following day at Phoenix.
"It's the time of year where you can't have baggage," said Sharks coach Todd McLellan. "You can't carry things forward."
Still, the Sharks face an uphill battle to pass the Ducks, leaving them a likely first-round matchup with the third-place Los Angeles Kings.
The Sharks have won three of four versus the Ducks this season, but all three victories came at home and they lost a 6-3 decision in their lone previous trip to Anaheim on Dec. 31.
The Ducks have won eight of the last 11 meetings at home overall.
04/09 11:19:42 ET
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