Hawks can catch Sharks for top spot
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Now comes the biggest game yet for the Blackhawks. They visit the San Jose Sharks tonight in the last regularseason meeting of two of the teams vying for the Presidents’ Trophy, which goes to the club with the most regular-season points.
The Sharks lead the NHL with 78 points, and the Hawks are second with 76. Both have played 53 games. The Sharks, on a five-game winning streak, won the Presidents’ Trophy last season and are closing in on their third consecutive Pacific Division title. The Hawks, who lead the Central Division by 15 points, won the Presidents’ Trophy once, in 1991.
‘‘A big game,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘Up to this point, it’s the biggest game on the trip. It sets up first place. I know they’ll be ready to play us.’’
‘‘We’ve been pretty much headto-head with them every night,’’ Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. ‘‘We check the standings, and it’s been a bit of a rat race.’’
The Hawks, 4-2 on the eight-game trip, are coming off a 4-2 victory Tuesday against the Edmonton Oilers, though it left something to be desired.
‘‘A win’s a win, but we’ve got to play with a lot more energy [against the Sharks],’’ Toews said.
The last time the Hawks visited HP Pavilion, better known as the Shark Tank, they built a 7-0 lead en route to a 7-2 victory Nov. 25. That came in Marian Hossa’s first game as a Hawk (he scored two goals) and has been a source of embarrassment to the Sharks.
The teams split two meetings at the United Center. The Hawks won 4-3 on Nov. 15 on Brent Seabrook’s overtime goal, and the Sharks won 3-2 on Dec. 22 despite being
The facts: 9:30, CSN, 720-AM. outshot 47-14.
Tonight also provides a matchup of two contenders for the Norris Trophy, which goes to the league’s top defenseman. The Hawks’ Duncan Keith has stepped up his offense, already setting a career high with 48 points. After getting two assists at Edmonton, Keith has 23 points in his last 21 games. He has 11 goals and 37 assists for the season.
The Sharks’ Dan Boyle is expected to play tonight, but he’ll be coming off a two-game layoff because of an upper-body injury. He has 10 goals and 33 assists.