<
>

Slumping Sharks see Stars for second time this week

DALLAS -- From a big-picture standpoint, the San Jose Sharks remain in good shape despite a four-game losing streak and a shrinking lead in the Pacific Division.

Of course the Sharks (42-24-7), who lost 3-2 at Minnesota on Tuesday night, would like to reverse that pendulum when they visit the Dallas Stars on Friday at American Airlines Center.

These former Pacific rivals met Monday night in the same building, with the Stars edging San Jose 1-0 for only their second shutout of the season. It was also the fifth time the Sharks were held scoreless in 2016-17.

San Jose, which is 19-14-3 on the road and 4-6-0 over its past 10 games, is 9-9-0 against the Central Division. It leads Anaheim and Edmonton by two points in the Pacific.

The Sharks were without forward Chris Tierney on Monday night due to illness and defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic was sick and missed Tuesday's loss to the Wild.

Tierney returned to the ice against Minnesota while Vlasic practiced Thursday in a Dallas suburb.

Sharks forward Jannik Hansen, out the past two games with an upper-body injury, also went through the off-day practice Thursday -- as did fellow forward Melker Karlsson, who missed the past six games (upper body).

San Jose coach Peter DeBoer was happy to see Hansen, acquired by the Sharks before the NHL trade deadline earlier this month, and Karlsson back on the ice with their teammates, but the coach wasn't about to say whether they will play Friday.

"I'm not prepared to say they're in (Friday), but it's a good sign they're on the ice and participated," DeBoer said.

Hansen has been out the past two games after taking a stick to the head during a 2-1 loss to Anaheim on Saturday in San Jose.

However, if his comments after practice Thursday are any indication, he could play Friday.

"It's not up to me," Hansen said. "Today was good. Skate again tomorrow and leave it up to the coaches."

Dallas (29-33-11) lost 3-2 in a shootout at Chicago on Thursday night, putting the Stars 16 points behind Nashville for the second and final wild-card spot in the Western Conference, with nine games remaining.

The Stars are 10-21-5 on the road, but a more respectable 19-12-6 at home. Dallas also has played well against Pacific foes, going 11-6-2.

"We just have to battle tomorrow night and play hard, play together," Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen said after Thursday's shootout loss. "I think the last couple games, we've played really solid. We just need to keep it going."