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National Hockey League

Sharks, Stars open big home-and-home series

(Sports Network) - San Jose captain Joe Thornton thinks his club has to win all four of its remaining regular-season games to make the playoffs. If that happens, Dallas could be left as one of the teams on the outside of the race.

The Sharks and Stars kick off their season-ending four-game stretches this evening with the opener of a home-and-home series tonight in San Jose.

A setback in Vancouver last night coupled with a Los Angeles victory in Edmonton knocked Dallas from atop the Pacific Division into the seventh seed in the Western Conference. With 89 points, the Stars are even with the Coyotes but own the tiebreaker due to three more non-shootout wins.

The Sharks, meanwhile, sit a point further back of the Stars and eighth-place Coyotes and all four contenders in the Pacific Division have four games to play. Los Angeles is visiting Minnesota tonight, while Phoenix is hosting Anaheim.

San Jose sits ninth overall in the West thanks in part to Thursday's 2-0 loss to Phoenix. Antti Niemi gave up both goals on 33 shots for the Sharks, who have lost two in a row -- both on the road -- on the heels of a three-game winning streak to set up their win-out mentality.

"That's how it is now. There's four games left, we have to go 4-0," Thornton said.

San Jose will certainly have a say in its own playoff destiny. The Sharks wrap their home-and-home with the Stars in Dallas on Tuesday and then play the division-leading Kings twice to close out the season. That set begins in Los Angeles on April 5.

The Sharks had won their first three meetings this season with the Stars to stretch their series winning streak to five straight before Dallas came through with a 4-3 shootout win at home in the last encounter on March 8.

The Stars now look to halt a three-game slide in San Jose one night after their 5-2 defeat in Vancouver. Steve Ott and Jake Dowell scored the goals and Kari Lehtonen allowed four goals on 30 shots before Richard Bachman took over for the game's final 10 minutes. He gave up a goal on four shots faced.

"We were focused tonight, we played well," Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan said. "We just didn't get anything to go in, we made a few mistakes that cost us and you can't do that against Vancouver."

Dallas continues to struggle with consistency, having lost two of three so far on a four-game road trip and five of its past eight overall.

The Stars played without Mark Fistric (abdominal), Radek Dvorak (ankle) and Eric Nystrom (leg) last night due to injury.

03/31 10:42:52 ET

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