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Sharks face Flames, look to end busy, brutal month on upbeat note

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			Sharks face Flames, look to end busy, brutal month on upbeat note

CALGARY, Alberta — Time is running out for the Sharks to get their game in peak form before the start of the postseason.

Right now, there’s also the matter of picking up enough points to avoid falling into one of the Western Conference’s two wild card spots.

The Sharks can solidify their spot among the top three in the Pacific Division and gain some ground on first place with a win Friday over the Calgary Flames at the Saddledome.

But nothing’s come easy in a stretch where the Sharks have scored two goals or less in seven of their last eight games, with all seven of those being losses.

The Sharks could draw a lot of positives from Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers, but it was still another frustrating night on what’s been a miserable second half of March.

“Well, you always debate that. Do you rather play like crap and win, or play good and lose?,” Sharks forward Jannik Hansen said after the game. “We are obviously getting closer to the playoffs here, we need to have our game in the right spot.

“Last two games were a whole lot better than the previous six. That being said, obviously we’d like to win the games, as well. Feel like you’re winning going into the playoffs on a positive not.”

Time’s not on their side. After Friday, the Sharks have just four games left, including their last road game of the regular season on Sunday in Vancouver against the Canucks.

The Sharks close the regular season a with a three-game homestand against the Canucks, Oilers and Flames.

“It’s there, but there’s more,” Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said when asked about how his team is playing. “Playoffs, if anything, the time of hockey it is right now, teams are showing up every night playing hard. There’s another level for us to get to.”

The Sharks enter Friday in third place in the Pacific with 93 points, three points back of first place Anaheim and two back of the Oilers.

Right behind those three are the Flames, who have gone 18-6-1 since the NHL all-star break to move into fourth place with 90 points. The 37 points the Flames have picked in that time is tied for fifth-most in the league, and they can clinch a playoff spot with a win Friday.

After 15 games in their busiest month of the season, the Sharks are 6-9.

“This league doesn’t let you feel sorry for yourself,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said. “We pick ourselves up, dust off and get ready for that game.”

After going 0-for-2 with the man advantage against the Oilers, the Sharks’ power play ranks 24th in the NHL at 17.1 percent. The Sharks are 3-for-11 on the power play in their last four games.

It won’t come close to the 22.6 percent clip it was at by the end of last season, but perhaps it can become more of a consistent weapon.

“It’s gotten better. It can hit another level,” Pavelski said. “We know that with this group in here. We believe it can hit another level, it can become more dangerous, more momentum, more of a weapon kind of like it was last year. That’s on us to get that going.

“Second unit can get going, definitely a little bit more. It was probably the difference tonight, and in the playoffs you might only get one or two. It’s got to count, it really does. If you get a game where you get four five or six, you’ve got to put teams away with it. At the end of the day, if it doesn’t come, our five on five game needs to be there and win games 2-1, 3-2, 1-0.”

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